How to Brainstorm New Topics for a Research Paper

Research papers can seem like an impossible challenge sometimes. After all, if you’re not someone who enjoys writing, it represents an insidious cross-section of two different demons, essay writing and research. Both of those alone can seem daunting and time consuming, but both together? That can feel like an utter nightmare. However, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Here are a few tips to help you brainstorm when thinking of new topics for a research paper.

Clear Your Mind

This may seem rather counter-intuitive, but try to understand—you’re not going to think up anything worth writing about by straining or stressing yourself out. To put it another way, imagine for a moment that you’re a pitcher on the mound. If you want to throw a fastball, you don’t put extra stress on your arm; that’s just going to lead to you injuring your arm (and, in the process, your career.) Instead, you relax a bit before whipping that ball towards the plate. Similarly, the pre-writing process is as important as the actual writing process itself. That’s hey brainstorming is important. Even so, sometimes the pre-pre writing process can have an impact on your final paper, so take the time to clear your mind. This can also help insofar as it may lead to your stumbling across an epiphany when it comes time to actually write your paper.

Write Down Anything—To Start With

Write it all down. All of it. Everything. Don’t worry if it makes sense, or if Point A and Point B go together. You don’t want to lose any idea that pops into your head, so write it all down. This is one of the essential parts of brainstorming. Michelangelo is reported to have said that the magnificent sculptures he made were already “there” before he started his artistic process—he just removed the “excess stone.” Writing’s a bit like that. As such…

Brainstorm Your Editing Process

Even in your pre-game, look ahead to your endgame, that is, look ahead to the editing process. How are you going to edit your paper? When are you going to do it? Are you going to do it with a pen and paper, or on the computer? Are you going to do it alone, or with a friend or teacher?

T.S. Eliot’s masterpiece poem “The Waste Land” was, in large part, a result of a fantastic editing job…if it can work for him, it can work for you, too. Brainstorming means thinking in the moment and gathering new paper ideas, but it also means thinking ahead as to how you’re going to refine those ideas into a grade A paper.

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