Brainstorming Research Paper Topic Ideas

The biggest obstacle to writing a research paper isn’t doing research. It’s deciding what to write about.  Students sometimes start a research paper by gathering a lot of information about a general area of interest and only later choose a more specific topic. The result is a poorly organized paper and a lot of wasted time and effort in research. You can avoid this by using brainstorming to narrow your topic down to a specific idea early. Then the research stage will be more focused and take less time. Brainstorming is, in fact, the key to writing good essays of all kinds.

There is no one way to do brainstorming that will work for everyone. You have to try different strategies to see what works best for you, but here are some good general guidelines:

  • Start by writing down all of your ideas, no matter how vague, irrelevant, or even stupid they seem at first. It’s not important to have good ideas right away, but to get your brain working in a creative manner. Surprisingly, generating bad ideas is the way to coming up good ones. They can be complete sentences, phrases, or single words.
  • Try different methods of listing your ideas to see what works best for you. Some people create random lists, while others like a more organized method of making general categories with subsections. Some prefer to use a visual method of organization, using color coding or Venn diagrams.
  • If you’re having trouble generating good ideas, go to the library and look at the books published on the subject you’re writing about. Skim a large number of them to get a feel for what’s been published.  This is just for inspiration. Don’t copy someone else’s idea.
  • Once you have a good sized list, start to narrow it down to the best ideas. See if you can get it down to two or three.  Try combining ideas. Try to make vague ones more specific.  Remember the parameters of your assignment. The shorter the essay, the more specific you will want your idea.
  • You can start doing some research on a couple or a few different ideas to help you choose between them. Is there more or better information available on one than the other? Then choose that one.

If you have done adequate brainstorming, you’ll find researching is much easier.