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How To Do Research: Brainstorming

An introductory guide on the research process for graduate students.


Begin thinking about the type of research you would like to do early in the research process. Ask yourself questions such as the ones listed below and record your answers. Do not evaluate ideas during this process; even seemingly irrelevant ideas can lead you to good research areas.

  • Consider your discipline--what are your main interests?
  • Have you had any significant or meaningful personal experiences related to your discipline?
  • Is there anything that you have studied in your coursework that you found particularly exciting?
  • Do any specific theories or concepts related to your discipline interest you?
  • What are your career goals upon graduation?
  • What major issues or problems are present in your industry today?
  • Have you read anything interesting related to your discipline?

Brainstorming Tools

Academic OneFile

This database provides peer-reviewed journals plus trade/professional publications, magazines, and other information sources that support a broad range of subjects and programs of study. Its content will be useful for students in most degree programs and courses.

The Academic OneFile Topic Finder is a tool you can use to find new topics or keywords and discovery connections between topics. You can find the Topic Finder near the top of the database's main advanced search screen:

Microsoft Word offers tools you can use to create mind maps. See How to Create a Mind Map in Microsoft Word for more information on how to create a mind map using Microsoft Word.

Several tools for mind mapping are available via an Internet search:

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Research Appointments

Click button to schedule a research appointment

The CSU librarians can support you during the research process with personalized reference services. We are happy to help you with the following tasks:

  • Accessing and using the CSU Library databases in order to create a peer-reviewed literature review with library resources
  • Using free personalized database folders within multiple database platforms to organize your research
  • Brainstorming keywords and recommending search limiters to use
  • Locating the dissertations and theses that may support and inform your research process