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A Guide To...The Research Process

This guide will walk through the stages of conducting college research with information about how library resources can help you in your research.

How To Use This Guide


Starting a research project can be an overwhelming task. You may be stressed about choosing a topic, knowing where to look for sources, remembering to cite your sources, or meeting your page requirement. There is a lot of information out there and it can be hard to sift through it to find what you need. The goal of this guide is to support you through that process and to help you develop skills to make research less stressful, more manageable, and even fun!

This guide is designed for first year students starting out with college level research, but it can be used by anyone who wants to strengthen their research skills. Each section details a different stage of the research process to help break down what can be a stressful process into different steps. You can use this guide however it is helpful to you - start at the beginning or jump around to areas you're having trouble with.

If you get stuck, feel free to use the Research Help tab to schedule an appointment with a Holy Cross Librarian for individualized support.


Table of Contents

  1. Choosing Your Topic
    • Develop Research Questions
    • Find Background Information
    • Identify Keywords/Search Terms
  2. Finding Sources
    • Where to Search
    • Search Strategies
    • Refine Your Topic
  3. Evaluating Sources
    • Types of Sources: Scholarly and Popular, Primary and Secondary
    • Evaluate Sources With the CRAAP Method
    • The Information Life Cycle
    • What is Peer Review?
  4. Putting It Together
    • ​​​​​​​Reading Scholarly Articles
    • Incorporating Sources
    • Campus Resources for Writing Support
  5. Citing Sources
    • ​​​​​​​Academic Honestly & Academic Integrity
    • Citation Styles and Style Guides
  6. Research Help
    • ​​​​​​​Personal Research Sessions
    • 24/7 Ask a Chatstaff Librarian

About Research

What is research?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines research as:

  1. studious inquiry or examination
    especially investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws
  2. the collecting of information about a particular subject
  3. careful or diligent search

Holy Cross strongly supports the research interests of students, faculty, and staff. Research is about asking questions, being curious, and looking for new ways of thinking. It is an exciting process where you can explore your passions and learn more about the world and yourself. Research is an opportunity to look at things differently, explore creative ways to solve problems, and to grow your knowledge and skills. Getting comfortable with the research process will help you in your college career and beyond.

This guide is structured around the typical research process. However, it's important to remember that research isn't always linear! You may find yourself going back and forth between different steps as you go. That is all part of the process.

College of the Holy Cross. (2023). Discovery and research.

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Research. In dictionary. Retrieved May 4, 2023, from