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From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:
Groundwork \Ground"work`\ (ground"w[^u]rk`), n. That which forms the foundation or support of anything; the basis; the essential or fundamental part; first principle; as, development of a convenient DNA sequencing technique layed the groundwork for many of the subsequent advances in molecular genetics. --Dryden. [1913 Webster +PJC]