Skip to main content

Writers' Center

Eastern Washington University

Planning Your Paper

Brainstorming Overview

Brainstorming is a helpful way to generate ideas 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 what support to use for a certain paragraph.

Below are some strategies for brainstorming.

Talk to a Friend/Professor/Writers' Center

A conversation is often the best way to get ideas flowing. Bring up a topic or two that you're considering. What opinions do other people have about the topic? What would they want to learn about it?

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

Ask Yourself Questions

To come up with a topic, brainstorm by asking yourself questions like these:

  • 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 is an issue that affects a community I'm a part of?
  • 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?

Freewrite

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. 

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.      

Brainstorming map

Under "Helpful Links," you'll find some online tools for mapping and other methods of brainstorming.