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Writers' Center

Eastern Washington University

Writing Your Paper: Brainstorming


  • Brainstorming is helpful at any stage of the process, whether you're trying to come up with a general topic before you begin your research, narrowing your focus, or deciding on support for a certain paragraph.
  • Start researching before you outline or decide on your key argument and points! Your topic is flexible and should change and adapt as you find new information. Rather than making up your mind before you research, go into your research curious and ready to ask lots of questions.


Get comfortable, set a timer for a couple minutes if you want, and just start writing whatever comes to mind about your topic. You could make a list or write in sentences or fragments. Most important, DO NOT EDIT yourself or pause for too long. 

Ask Yourself Questions

To come up with a topic, ask yourself these questions:

What are some things I enjoy?
What have I read about lately or seen on TV?
Is there anything interesting in the news?
What's something I've always wanted to know more about?
What's something I disagree with?
What do I see going on around me daily?

Once you have a topic, try some of these questions to find a more specific direction within your topic:

Is there something controversial about the topic? What are the different perspectives? (hint: a good topic generally does not just have two sides)
Do I agree or disagree with the different perspectives?
What are the main characteristics of my topic?
What is my topic similar to?
What does my topic make me think of?
If my topic is a problem/issue, what is the potential cause of it?




Create a Web

Start with your general topic or argument and branch out from it into every sub-topic you can think of. This mapping method will help you organize your points once you start writing your draft.      

Talk to a Friend/Professor/Writers' Center

A conversation is often the best way to get ideas flowing.

(P.S. You can schedule an appointment at the Writers' Center specifically to have a conversation about your ideas--or lack of ideas!)

Contact Us

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Cheney Campus 
JFK Library Learning Commons

Spokane Campus
Catalyst Building C451 and C452

Stay Connected!

Online Tools A tool to create brainstorming webs

Realtimeboard: Brainstorm and collaborate

iBrainstorm: App for iPad and iPhone

Inspiring illustrated brainstorming tips