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Research 101: Step 1 - Brainstorm Topic/Construct Search Strategy

Provides resources to support students in conducting research and using APA style formatting.

Step 1 - Brainstorm!

The First Step in the Research Process - Brainstorming!

Many of us have an idea pop into our heads and we immediately sit down at the computer to search.  In other words...we don't put a lot of forethought into how we approach our search, setting ourselves up for frustration in the form of having to wade through hundreds or thousands of information resources that really aren't what we need.

In the library world, we call that 'settling' for information.  Planning your search strategy in advance doesn't take much time and it guarantees you'll be more efficient in your searching AND you'll retrieve better results.  What more could you ask for?  

In this step, you will explore your topic by brainstorming related terms, synonyms, anything that comes to mind when you think about your topic.  There is no right or wrong here – the idea is to get all the information floating around in your brain (related to your topic) out.  Use whatever form works for you – draw, circle, outline – it can be free form or linear. 

The Purdue OWL has a helpful guide to choosing a topic as well.

The video below provides an introduction to brainstorming keywords:

Don't want to brainstorm alone?

Here are some ideas for individuals to brainstorm with.  You can use these folks as a sounding board or ask them to tell you everything that comes to mind when they think about your topic!

  • Friends
  • Co-workers
  • Faculty
  • Library Staff
  • Family member

Seriously - ask any one of these individuals the 'who, what, when, where, why, and how' things related to your topic.  They will help you think of related topics that probably hadn't crossed your mind yet.  Then, you're more prepared than ever to do your searching, armed with a great solid list of search terms before you sit down at the computer to do your research.