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Preparing Preliminary Bibliography Chicago


  • 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



Battle, Ken. "Child Poverty: The Evolution and Impact of Child Benefits." In A Question of Commitment:  Children's Rights in Canada, edited by Katherine Covell and Howe, R. Brian, 21-44. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2007.

            Ken Battle draws on a close study of government documents, as well as his own research as an extensively-published policy analyst, to explain Canadian child benefit programs.  He outlines some fundamental assumptions supporting the belief that all society members should contribute to the upbringing of children.  His comparison of child poverty rates in a number of countries is a useful wake-up to anyone assuming Canadian society is doing a good job of protecting children.  Battle pays particular attention to the National Child Benefit (NCB), arguing that it did not deserve to be criticized by politicians and journalists.  He outlines the NCB’s development, costs, and benefits, and laments that the Conservative government scaled it back in favour of the inferior Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB).  However, he relies too heavily on his own work; he is the sole or primary author of almost half the sources in his bibliography.  He could make this work stronger by drawing from others' perspectives and analyses.  However, Battle does offer avaluable source for this essay, because the chapter provides a concise overview of government-funded assistance currently available to parents.  This offers context for analyzing the scope and financial reality of child poverty in Canada.

Kerr, Don, and Roderic Beaujot. "Child Poverty and Family Structure in Canada, 1981-1997." Journal of  Comparative Family Studies 34, no. 3 (2003): 321-335.

            Sociology professors Kerr and Beaujot analyze the demographics of impoverished families.  Drawing on data from Canada’s annual Survey of Consumer Finances, the authors consider whether each family had one or two parents, the age of single parents, and the number of children in each household.  They analyze child poverty rates in light of both these demographic factors and larger economic issues.  Kerr and Beaujot use this data to argue that