Preliminary Research Paper Example


  • Determine what kinds of sources you’ll need.
  • Determine how you will find those sources.
  • Get a sense for how much information is out there on your topic.

A bit of preliminary research will help you plan out, draft, and ultimately write your paper.

First, determine what kinds of sources you’ll need for your paper. The type of sources you need depend on the kind of paper you’re writing.

Primary sources

are first-hand accounts of something that happened. They include things like research studies, diaries, and letters.

Secondary sources

are commentary or analysis. They are normally written by an expert on the topic. Some examples of secondary sources are textbooks, magazines, and academic journals.

Your paper may contain a mixture of primary and secondary sources. Good papers typically have a variety:

  • If you’re writing about the transformation of Renaissance art over time, your sources will probably include paintings (primary) and articles written by art experts (secondary).
  • If you’re writing about differences in the military strategy between the Allied and Axis forces in World War II, your sources will probably be a mix of diaries (primary), newspapers (secondary), government documents (secondary), and expert commentary (secondary).

Once you have an idea of what kind of sources you need, think about the best way to find those sources.

SourceWay(s) of finding
General informationSearch engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo), Wikipedia
BooksGoogle Books
Scholarly articlesGoogle Scholar
Academic websitesSweet Search, Google

Perform a quick search to assess how much volume is available on your topic. Is there enough? Are you able to find credible sources? If not, you may have to refine your topic.

Tip: If you’re writing an English paper, you might just use a single text–the book, play, or poem you’re reading in class


For the remainder of the hour, students will use their outlines (or presentations in the case of some of my students!) to share their research project with their peers.  During these presentations, I want to see that students share their thesis, main claims and support, and counterclaims with rebuttals.  I will also ask students to share anything else that they discovered that really impressed them or surprised them.  While the Common Core does advocate formal and informal speeches, the Core isn't the only reason that I complete this activity!  I love to allow students the chance to share research and the product of all of their hard work, as it creates a better learning climate, fosters a sense of joy in learning, and gives peers the chance to interact around academic inquiry.

As discussed in the "Building Knowledge" section, all non-presenting students will also be required to ask at least 3 critical questions throughout the day.  This listener component is important for both the listener and speaker, as it requires listeners to actively pay attention and critically engage, and speakers need to be prepared and demonstrate flexibility to answer questions on the spot using their research.  Since I have relatively huge class sizes, these presentations will only be about 2-3 minutes a piece (which is a shame!), but they will still have the intended effect!  I've attached here presentations that students created for this activity, but students could have alternately just delivered their presentation from their written outline as well.

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