This article attends to comparative education scholars’ calls for more dialogue on the contribution of theory to comparative education research. It first presents the results of a review of a small sample of articles from comparative education related journals that elicited the purposes of their comparative research strategies in terms of exploration, explanation, argument, prediction, recommendation, and theory development. The article then discusses perspectives on the potential for the use of theory to contribute to richer explanations of educational phenomena. Finally, it demonstrates how a comparative study of political socialization in Hong Kong and Mainland China led to the development of explanatory concepts of critical thinking and the application and reconceptualization of the theory of resistance to explain the formation of students’ attitudes towards the nation. © 2005 Taylor & Francis Group Ltd.