Preliminary Research

Contributor: Jodi Powell. Lesson ID: 11706

Now that you have decided what to research, you need to explore how best to get that research. Grab your index cards and jump in!



English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • Have you ever tried baking a cake or cooking a meal?

To do so properly, follow the recipe step-by-step. If you do things out of order, the end product won't be as delicious as you were hoping.

The same is true for writing a research paper. It is a process that must be followed in order.

Conducting preliminary research is an essential part of the recipe!

To write well, it is common to be taught the writing process.

It's called a process because it is just that — several steps must be accomplished to have a well-written paper at the end.

In this lesson, learn how to conduct preliminary research and understand the importance of this step as well.

But before you go on, if you missed or need to review the previous Writing a Research Paper Related Lessons on research writing and topic selection, please go to the right-hand sidebar.

Now that you have determined your topic, it's time to gather information.

Using the skills you learned in this series' introduction lesson, visit your library to collect books, articles, and more. You can also search the internet for reliable articles. Also, feel free to conduct interviews if you know experts on the topic.

Keep in mind that not every resource you find will be beneficial to you in your research.

Be sure to keep your narrowed topic in mind.

For instance, if you have decided to write a paper about the attack on Pearl Harbor, not every book about World War II will provide information that will be helpful to you. So, as you select resources, browse them by skimming the Table of Contents, chapter titles, and section headings.

During this stage, you must also determine if the resources you have found are reliable and valid. Read A writing process: Preliminary research to learn a few more tips and strategies for conducting preliminary research.

While doing your preliminary research, you may decide to tweak your topic, which is okay! Based on the specific information you found in your resources, you may decide that it will be easier to change the focus of your topic.

For example, perhaps you had planned to write your paper on the Underground Railroad. Still, while doing preliminary research, you found a significant amount of information on Harriet Tubman. It is acceptable to decide to shift your focus.

At this stage, it's still early enough that this will not hinder your progress.

  • What does preliminary research entail?

It involves gathering resources, browsing through them, and determining if they will be useful in your research. Preliminary research will also help you determine the two or three main focuses of your paper.

It is also helpful to jot down some brief notes as you do this, so later on, you can remember what information you found where. These notes do not need to be formal in any way; they will serve as a guide to help you to create your thesis statement in the next step of the process.

After finding reliable resources, the next step is to create source cards to record the information, so continue to the Got It? section to learn how.

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