In considering how a new Handbook of Research in Social Studies Education might be organized, we looked not only to the previous Handbook of Research on Social Studies Teaching and Learning (1991), but also to National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) position statements, publications, and committee structures, to the arguments of critics and proponents of the fi eld, and to the work of scholars who identify themselves with the fi eld. We searched out defi nitions of social studies, statements of purpose, and themes that linked (or divided) theory, research, and practice. As the chapters that follow demonstrate, social studies is a complex, challenging, and largely under-researched fi eld. Given its many disciplinary roots, competing perspectives about appropriate goals, and ongoing confl ict over the content of the social studies curriculum, social studies will no doubt remain complex,challenging, and, one hopes, dynamic. It need not remain under-researched. We hope that this Handbook will not only outline the present state of things, but encourage the kind of new research needed to move the fi eld forward and foster the civic competence that advocates for the social studies have long claimed as a fundamental goal of the fi eld.