an initial understanding
When determining which parts of evidence he should investigate and which parts he doubts and therefore chooses to ignore, a character makes an initial Appraisal of where the evidence seems to be leading. Although there is not enough evidence to really draw a conclusion, there is enough to indicate the direction evidence seems to be leading. That which is not in line is doubted, and the more out of line, the more doubt. That which is in line is investigated. Of course, since this Appraisal is based on insufficient evidence, the big picture can change dramatically over the course of investigation. Yet, like everyday people, a character is strongly influenced by first impressions and can become attached to an Appraisal and fail to see that the direction of evidence has changed.
syn. first impression, preliminary understanding, initial approach, initial assimilation