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E-LEARN: Brainstorming

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Some helpful hints for completing the first step of successful research -- defining the topic -- from the Evans Library.

Some helpful hints for completing the first step of successful research -- defining the topic -- from the Evans Library.

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  • 1. Brainstorming
    1. a sudden bright idea; 2. a harebrained idea
  • 2. Before you begin your research, write out a few detailed sentences about your topic.
    Underline the main words in these sentences.
    From the description that you wrote, create a list of related keywords and phrases.
  • 3. Once you have an initial list, think of other terms that also describe your topic.
    Write down any ideas you have, even the ones that seem harebrained; sometimes they end up being the most helpful.
  • 4. Come up with synonyms - other words or phrases that have the same meaning - for your terms. Don't forget to list alternative spellings, abbreviations, and acronyms for words on your list.
    You should also identify words that have broader or narrower meanings than your original terms.
  • 5. For example, consider using broader and narrower terms for “undergraduate.”
    Brainstorming helps you choose good search terms before you begin.
  • 6. For example, look at some keywords and phrases for this research paper topic:
    Installing Internet filtering in libraries is censorship.
    Keywords:
    Internet
    libraries
    censorship
    filtering/filters
    software
    Web
    Phrases:
    filtering software
    freedom of speech
    Internet filtering
    freedom of information
  • 7. Now it's your turn. We'll give you a sample topic so you can practice brainstorming for good keywords and phrases.
    Studies of Internet users have concluded that spending too much time online can adversely affect a person's psychological well-being. Some surveys found long hours on the Internet can lead to depression and loneliness.
  • 8. Write down all the terms you can think of and then click to the next slide for OUR list.
    Now, list all the main ideas related to the research paper topic above.
  • 9. Here's our complete list:
    studies
    study
    internet
    users
    online
    well-being
    addiction
    surveys
    survey
    effect
    effects
    depression
    loneliness
  • 10. For any topic you choose, the Thought Process will help you focus your research and select appropriate search terms.
    Once you have determined the keywords and phrases for your topic, where are you going to search? You need to think about SCOPE.