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How To Do Research: Brainstorming

A guide on how to conduct academic research.


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 irrational 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 Techniques

Listed below are are brainstorming techniques you can use to expand your understanding of your topic and narrow it for research.

Idea List:

Mind Maps:

Mind maps are diagrams used to visually organize information. Main ideas are included in larger circles, and related ideas are listed within smaller circles. 

Blind Writing:

This is a useful technique for whenever you are drawing an absolute blank. Set aside a few minutes and begin writing. Even if you don't know what to write about, just write something down; it could even be unrelated to the topic. This technique forces you to put something on paper in hopes of triggering an idea.


This technique is a form of deduction that allows you to approach the topic in different directions. Consider your topic and respond to each category listed below.

  • Describe
  • Compare
  • Associate 
  • Analyze
  • Apply 

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 the link below for more information on how to create a mind map using Microsoft Word:

How to Create a Mind Map in Microsoft Word


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