August 7th, 2012

Seminal Authors and Their Works

Seminal authors in any given discipline are those people who contributed foundational theories and ideas to the research in that field. For instance, Jean Piaget is considered a seminal contributor to the understanding of cognitive development.

There is no magical way to find out who the seminal authors are in your field of study, but here are a couple of options that can help.

1. Look through your textbooks or other sources of background information. They will provide overviews about certain research areas or theories and they often discuss who the most important contributors to a field are. The library has several databases that carry background information in the form of subject-specific dictionaries, encyclopedias and handbooks. These databases include Credo Reference, Gale Virtual Reference Library, Sage Reference and a couple others.

Here’s an example of finding foundational contributors in cognitive development using the Credo Reference database:

Run a search for cognitive development:

Search for term "cognitive development" in Credo Reference database.

Click on the title of a matching result to read the full entry:

Image of top search result for "cognitive development"

In this encyclopedic dictionary entry, you will see that it discusses Jean Piaget as a major influence:

Section of encyclopedia entry about cognitive development

Further down, you’ll see that it discusses Lev Vygotsky as well. Now that you know the name of two seminal authors and some key words that describe their theories, you can start searching for works that are written by them or about their theories.

2. See the Seminal Literature page in the Finding Articles by Type library guide to learn additional strategies for finding seminal authors and their foundational works. Finding the seminal literature in a given field of study can take time and patience, but hopefully this guide will steer you in right direction!

Still need additional help? Ask A Librarian!

-Kim

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