Skip to Main Content

Research Process: Brainstorming

an introduction to the research process at a very basic level


It will take a lot of time to pick a topic. If you are preparing your master’s or PHD program, you must start thinking about potential topics as soon as your first course.

Start thinking about the type of research you would like to do by asking yourself the questions below. Remember, even silly ideas can lead you to relevant new ideas and research.

  • What is your Discipline? And what are its major interests?
  • What project did you take that you found most interesting?
  • What theories and concepts you found exciting?
  • Is there any idea you have studied and would like to explore more?
  • What are your objectives upon completion of your degree?
  • What are the main issues faced in your discipline area today?
  • Have you read any interesting books or articles related to your discipline?

The next step is identifying keywords related to your potential ideas. Try to divide your research question into 2 to 4 main ideas; these ideas will turn into simple keywords which “point the way” to research in that area.

Mind Mapping

Mind maps or concept maps are diagrams that establish relationships between concepts and ideas. Mind maps can be very helpful during the brainstorming process as they help you to expand your search.

The Credo Reference database has a Mind Map tool that displays the relationships between Credo Reference search terms in interactive and easy-to-use format.

The instructions to use Credo Reference are as follows:

  • Go to USEK Electronic Resources page and choose Credo Reference.
  • On the Credo Reference home page, type your keywords in the basic search box, or select keywords from the Research Popular Topics displayed. Note that Mind Maps exist for only broad-level topics, so it is important to keep your search terms broad.

alt="credo search box"

  • If your topic has a mind map, it will be displayed on you right-hand side. Click on the Expand Mind Map button in the upper corner to open it up.

alt="mind map display"

  • The map displays your queued term at the center of the map and related terms in the surrounding ring. The surrounding concepts are concepts that show up most frequently with the central concept, in Credo's content.
  • The bigger the font size, the more frequently the concepts arise together.


  • Click on any concept in the map to re-center the search around that node, with new terms populating the map in new direction.

alt="new concept"