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A Guide To...Sociology

This guide is a starting point for research in Sociology. The guide includes recommended resources and tips for effective research

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PLEASE NOTE: If you are a SOCL 101 student, the definitions in the "Continuing Research" section of this guide may not be applicable to the kind of research that you are doing. Feel free to explore them, but you may find the research tips below more appropriate for your needs.


How To Search in CrossSearch and Databases

1. Our databases, as well as CrossSearch, work differently from Google. It might be helpful for you to come up with some keywords to refer to your topic. For example, if you are interested in asking the question, "What does aging look like in high-level politicians?" You might use keywords like this:

  • President
  • Health
  • Senator
  • Aging
  • Politicians

2. Use the following terms to separate your keywords:

  • AND (this term will ask the search engine to look for the terms you have typed together. This will WIDEN your search.)
  • NOT (this term will ask the search engine to exclude a certain term or terms. This will NARROW your search.)
  • OR (this term will ask the search engine to show you results containing either of the terms you have searched for. This is a great tool to use with synonyms, and will WIDEN your search.)
  • * (if you have a word that has a plural ending, you can use this symbol to ask the search engine to include the term you have searched and all its endings. This will WIDEN your search.)
  • " " (you can use quotes to search for groups of words or a phrase, instead of keywords by themselves.)
  • ( )  (parentheses also act as a grouping tool. Think of them like using the distributive property. You can use them to section off your search, especially if you'd like to exclude terms, or separate them.)

3. Examples:

  • president* AND health
  • (politicians OR presidents) AND (health OR aging)
  • (politicians OR presidents) AND "old age" 
  • (politicians OR presidents OR senators) AND "old age" NOT health


Research Pro Tip!: After selecting an article, you may find it useful to look at the abstract (or short, descriptive summary of the article) before reading it in full. An abstract is usually no more than 250 words in length, and can give you a good idea of whether or not a certain piece of literature may be useful to your research.  


When searching and choosing articles or books for your research, there are several questions you should consider. Think about:

- How is the data presented in the article you have chosen? 

  • Are you looking for empirical (observable) data?
  • Are you looking to read about the theories that other researchers have developed/are developing?

- How did the researcher approach their research? 

  • Did they use an inductive or deductive approach?

- What method did they use to collect data?

  • Existing Data Analysis
  • Survey
  • Qualitative Research
  • Experiment

Once you have answered these questions for yourself, you can more easily decide if the book or article is right for you. For example, if you are interested in writing/designing a survey, you might want to look for articles with similar topics to yours, and that contain examples of empirical research. This will enable you to build on, and support or refute the claims of previous researchers. 

You might find it useful to compare your methods to the methods of the researchers whose work you are examining. How will their approach inform yours? For example, if you are conducting existing data analysis, how might using a survey or qualitative research inform your own process? Additionally, you should always consider the limits of any method of research.


Important Terms

Here are some important terms you should know as you start your research process:

  • Existing Data Analysis: Analysis of data from existing sources of information that were not produced directly by the researcher who uses them.
  • Survey: Basic approach to social research that involves asking a relatively large sample of people direct questions through interviews or questionnaires.
  • Qualitative Research: Basic approach to social research that involves directly observing and often interviewing others to produce nonnumerical data.
  • Quantitative Research: Produces numerical data.
  • Experiment: Basic approach to social research that entails manipulating an aspect of the environment to observe behavior under different, controlled conditions. 
  • Empirical Data: Observable, often numerical, data.
  • Inductive Approach: Bottom-Up approach. Using specific data to develop a broad theory.
  • Deductive Approach: Top-Down approach. Using already existing theory to form a hypothesis and produce data. In using this approach, you will back up the existing theory with specific data.
  • Theory: An interconnected set of propositions that shows how or why something occurs.

Definitions taken from: Dixon, Jeffrey C., Royce A. Singleton, Jr. and Bruce Straits. 2019. The Process of Social Research, 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press.

Cross Search


Try exploring CrossSearch for books, articles, and other resources related to your topic. You can access the search bar depicted above on the HC Libraries Home Page. If Holy Cross does not have a book you need, you can use WorldCat to search for books from other libraries and then request these books through Interlibrary Loan.

Locating Books

Books at Holy Cross Libraries are arranged by Library of Congress Call Number.

At Dinand, call numbers A through G are on the upper (Mezzanine) level. Call numbers H through Z are on the lower (Ground) level, with a few exceptions. Call numbers beginning with "M" are located in the Music Library and “Q, R, S, T” are in the Science Library. 

For research in sociology, you'll find that many books have call numbers starting with H. However, you will find books in other parts of the library as well. 

For more information about Library of Congress Classification, please see the Library of Congress' Classification Outline and check out this tutorial.

Dinand Stacks Map