4: Perfecting your Pre-Sourcing Process

In this module, we'll be reviewing how to structure your pre-sourcing process to set you up for success from beginning to end.


1. Understanding the Client’s Request
2. Envision the Perfect Answer & Outline It!
3. Map out your Search Strategy


By the end of this you should have the tools and ideas you need to get off on the right foot when sourcing or researching. This module will take you through the step-by-step process of the pre-research process! 

Let's get started!

Step 1: Understanding the Client’s Request


It can be tempting to read hurriedly over the question details to then move quickly on to researching. 

However, if you take a moment to read carefully over the question, you can save yourself a lot of time later on. 

Always read through the client's request AT LEAST TWICE before continuing on.

Make sure you understand what the client is actually asking for so you can tailor your search strategies and structure your research!

Get yourself on the right path from the start, or avoid problems by accidentally overlooking an important detail. 

Look out for the following:

What information does my sourcing absolutely have to find?

What information would it be nice to find, to really give the client value?

What format should this information come in (statistics and percentages, media quotes, graphs, etc)

What limiting criteria is there? (is the client only after information from a certain country or time period?)

Are there terms you don't understand? 

Now's the time to Google those, and even get yourself a bit of context so you really have your head around the question. Be wary of getting lost in a never ending tunnel searching for even more context!

Creating a sourcing outline will help you stay on track and keep out of those never-ending rabbit holes!



  • ALWAYS read the client's request at least two times! 
  • Give yourself a solid five minutes to totally wrap your head around the question.
  • If you are source-writing, often writing your introduction at this point - putting the client's question into your own words - can help you with your own clarity and to focus on the key things the client is after.

Step 2: Envision the Perfect Answer & Outline It!


Imagining the end product is a great step to helping you focus on exactly what you need to do, and prevent you going off on only vaguely-relevant research paths. 

If you're just sourcing:

1. Imagine what the perfect sourcing package would look like for the writer. 

2. Now, note down a few key things that perfect response includes!

3. Map out the structure of your response, being sure that those key and ideal pieces of information the client needs have their own subheadings – or as appropriate to your question. 

In a way, what you're doing is creating a form for yourself to fill in as you go, and making sure from the get-go that you cover everything you need to.

Trust us, taking the time to do this work now will be worth it in the end!


Check out these examples of some basic pre-sourcing outlines and think about what you would add if you were working on these questions!


How are extremely high-end funerals organized? Is there such a thing as a "funeral coordinator" (analogous to a wedding coordinator for a high end wedding)? 

Please provide a case study for a high-end funeral (> 1 million USD) and a list of the top funeral coordinators, if they exist.


1. Search: Organization of high-end funerals

2. Search:Funeral coordinators - the position

3. Search for case studies Re: funerals & funeral coordinators

4. Search: List of funeral coordinators


Is the pre-packaged snack cake market growing? If yes, where are the opportunities in the pre-packaged snack cake industry in the US?


1. Growth and market strength of pre-packaged snack cakes

2. Opportunity 1 - explanation and significance

3. Opportunity 2- explanation and significance

4. Opportunity 3- explanation and significance

5. Opportunity 4- explanation and significance

Step 3: Map out your Search Strategy


Brainstorm all possible key words you could use in your search, as well as a range of tools you could use. 

Again, at this point it can be tempting to leap right into things, but these keywords will help you when you reach dead ends. 

A great search string can drastically reduce the amount of time you spend over all.

If you want to learn more about keyword searches and other advanced search options, check out the "Building Sourcing Speed" module!

The best way to learn about keyword search strategies is to see them in action, so check out the rest of this module for some examples!

Example 1


Say your question is about car trends in the US – some related keywords you might try include:

1. auto market

2. industry

3. drivers

4. United States

5. report

6. USA

7. vehicles

8. market events

9. automation

10. consumer preferences

11. evolving needs

Example 2


Top ten 'cooking with carrots' influencers


1) Use Wonder Resource List social media tools to find top influencers on sites like Instagram and Twitter

2) Do an x-ray search of Twitter and Instagram to find accounts of people who write or talk about cooking with carrots. Note down those with at least 10,000 followers

3) Do a news search for experts who have been quoted as talking about cooking with carrots, then find their Twitter and Instagram accounts and check how many followers they have.

Example 3


How are extremely high-end funerals organized? Is there such a thing as a "funeral coordinator" (analogous to a wedding coordinator for a high end wedding)? Please provide a case study for a high-end funeral (> 1 million USD) and a list of the top funeral coordinators, if they exist.


1) Research the positions and job types involved in making a funeral happen and work out what the equivalent of the funeral coordinator would be. With that term, find a list of “top” funeral coordinators

2) Research high-end funerals, funerals for wealthy people, luxury funerals, and the process behind those

3) Search for “most expensive funeral” since client wants it to cost over $1 million, describe it

Example 4


Is the pre-packaged snack cake market growing? If yes, where are the opportunities in the pre-packaged snack cake industry in the US?


1) Search for reports and on the pre-packaged snack cake market. If none available, find top ten companies, brands, or products in this market and their revenue, and note if that has grown over the last 5 years

2) Search for news on pre-packaged snack cakes, and for news on the leading brands, see where and why they are growing

3) Research those where and why in more detail, look for hard data

If creating search strategies is something you really enjoy, 

think about working to level up to become a Planner!


Now that you have your head around the question, key terms, and have a list of tools and search strings to try, you're probably already forming an idea of which ones are most likely to succeed and are most useful. 

Obviously, do those first, and if they don't turn up everything you need, modify them, or move on to your next search strategy priorities.

That's it!

Once you follow these steps, you're ready to head into the search portion of your Sourcing work!

You got this!



The Wonder Resource List is a great place start to get Sourcing inspiration.

Just check out the Wonder Resource List to get started!

Having three different search strategies stops your search process becoming a chaotic, stressful mess, and usually is enough to guarantee success.

For more information about keywords and search strings, check out the "Building Sourcing Speed" module!

Understanding the Client’s Request: Quiz


Consider this request:

What do pet owners (of cats and dogs) believe about kennel cough in Europe?

What would the perfect response look like for the above question? 

That is, what kind of sources would you ideally find? 

How would they be compiled? 

What subheadings would this response have?

Please create a pre-sourcing outline for this request in your answer.

What is the most important part of understanding the client's request?

  • The client's goal
  • What the client needs to get out of our research
  • Nailing the research criteria
  • Looking up terms
  • All of the above

Envision the Perfect Answer & Outline It: Quiz

Untitled open question

Consider this request:

How do Gen Z make career decisions?

What three search strategies would you use for the above question? Please list all 3 in your answer.

Within those strategies, include a range of keywords and tools you could try!

Which of these are true when planning out a search strategy?

  • A quick Google of the client's question is enough
  • It's useful to brainstorm various key words that can help the search
  • It's useful to check the Wonder Resource List for tools that can be used
  • I should just start Googling and see where it takes me
  • I should pick those strategies that are most likely to be successful and do those first
  • Usually two different search strategies is enough to guarantee I'll find all the information

One way to ensure I cover all the information the client is after is to:

  • One way to ensure I cover all the information the client is after is to:
  • Google the key words of the question and include any related information that comes up for those key words


Module Success Code: beginning