Text: Preliminary Research

Photo of a woman holding a laptop computer standing between library stacks shelves, taken with a fishbowl lensIn the preliminary research stage, the you’ll begin the process of finalizing your topic, continuing to refine your working thesis, and documenting the sources to be used for guidance and support.

Techniques and Strategies

  • use an online search engine (like Google) or print resources (like magazines and books) at the local media center or library to gain familiarity with a topic
  • read a text’s table of contents, index, and chapter headings in order to determine your primary interest for the assignment
  • examine sources to determine the availability of authentic, credible, current resources for your topic
  • select a final topic for a thesis that permits focused research and writing

Finding the Scope

The preliminary research stage serves as an important connection between pre-writing and formulating a thesis. This stage is characterized by many of the components of the pre-writing stage, such as gathering information from a variety of sources. But rather than thinking broadly, as in pre-writing, the goal in the preliminary research stage is to narrow things down and home in on a reasonable scope for the topic.

This stage enables you to understand which of your ideas can be documented by sources. Even an opinion piece needs to be validated through documented research. Preliminary research also permits you to change your mind about the intended topic before too much time and effort are committed to the process.