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do the spadework

Make the preliminary preparations or do the preliminary research for something. For example, The department head did all the spadework for this agreement. This expression transfers the heavy spading required to prepare for planting to other kinds of preparation. [ c. 1900 ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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