Preliminary Research

Contributor: Jodi Powell. Lesson ID: 11706

Once you've researched what you want to research, you have to research what you are going to research, then put it on index cards. It will make more sense and be helpful when you finish this lesson!



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

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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

In order to do so properly, you must follow the recipe step-by-step. If you do things out of order, chances are 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!

In order to write well, it is very common to be taught the writing process.

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

In this lesson, you will 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 begin gathering 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 through them by skimming the Table of Contents, chapter titles, and section headings.

During this stage, you also have to determine if the resources you have found are both reliable and valid. Read this brief overview of preliminary research from the Learn NC website to learn a few more tips and strategies for conducting preliminary research: A writing process: Preliminary research, by Vinetta Bell.

As stated in the article, while doing your preliminary research, you may decide to tweak your topic, and that is okay! Based on the specific information you were able to find 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, but while doing preliminary research, you came across a significant amount of information on Harriet Tubman. It is acceptable to decide to shift your focus.

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

  • So, 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 what the two or three main focuses of your paper will be.

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 just 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 on to the Got It? section to learn how.

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