How to use this book

Vignettes are organized alphabetically by the name of the concept or term that the author addresses. While we originally considered a more curatorial approach to the book—for example, creating conceptual, methodological, or epistemic sections—we ultimately chose this more straightforward ordering. As a digital resource, and one that we imagine being used very differently by its different readers, we didn’t want to impose too much structure. That said, within given entries, we also link to other, related vignettes, where our editorial eye suggested such connection making.

Eventually, we hope to hear from our readers about different ways that they have organized the vignettes in their use of this book. We imagine that variable groupings will suggest themselves in ways that are relevant to their own learning needs. To this end, the Zotero-based search and filtering application on our website can help find the most pertinent entries. (Much thanks to University of Ottawa School of Information Studies master student, Swati Sood, for developing the Zotero library.)

Each vignette starts with a one-sentence description of the term or concept that is presented. We interpret these not as ‘definitions’ (since to define a complex term in a single sentence is generally problematic), but as simpler renderings of what follows in the author’s text. While the vignette provides a grounded illustration of the concept, the one-sentence description is more generalized. (Later, discussion questions and exercises may also open the reader up to a more general understanding of the term.)

Similarly, we have foregrounded the authors’ biographies, interests, and positionality to encourage critical reading of each vignette: knowing who (and sometimes why) a contributor has chosen a particular term and illustration is, we believe, important for readers to know in advance of reading the ensuing text. Theory is, after all, always interpreted! This is a key element of helping new learners understand how social science terminology is meaning in pluralistic ways.

Some vignettes involve visuals, some are entirely textual. Some offer abstract interpretations of the term or concept, some dive directly into a straightforward example. In some cases, conducting an exercise is part of ‘reading’ the vignette; often exercises or discussion questions, which follow the main body, will lead to further, hands-on learning about the term or concept.

Several vignettes include links to other entries, showing connectivity among themes and a relational geneaology of terms. Overall, we have attempted to keep references and citations to a minimum, both to encourage authors to maintain an accessible, generalized writing style and to help readers grasp key aspects of the text without extensive distraction. References and additional resources are nonetheless included with each vignette, to allow teachers and learners to explore the term further.

The Website

Our public-facing website,, is one possible entry point into this book, although if you are reading this text, you have already started using the book!

The website offers a useful “filtering” tool based on the Showing Theory Zotero library. Searching for any keyword or term will return all entries in the book that may be relevant to your needs. It also provides a useful way of seeing which vignettes address similar themes, such as race, frameworks of knowledge, or methods in the social sciences.

The website also offers links to the PDF and EPUB versions of the book, which can be downloaded and used in an offline context. The web-based, HTML version of the book not only offers the most dynamic reading experience, but it also requires internet access, which we recognize is not universally available and accessible.

Showing Theory is also available as a print-on-demand textbook, and copies can be purchased from Ingram Spark. While there is a price associated with printed copies, it is solely to cover the Ingram Spark cost; no profit is returned to the publishers, editors, or authors. Please contact us for more details.

What to do if you find an issue/typo/problem

As is increasingly standard for high-quality, openly accessible educational resources (and as required by our funding agreement), Showing Theory is machine-readable and compliant with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act of 2005. All content is designed based on current Universal Design Standards, including alt-text for all graphics and proper text-to-background color ratio.

If, however, you find an issue related to accessibility, or other content that is either in error or problematic in your view, we encourage you to get in touch with us to report the problem. This can also include such minor issues as typos, formatting problems, or broken links. While the book has been extensively reviewed and proofread, mistakes always happen!


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