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English 102: College Writing (Prof. Zunac): Brainstorm

Why Brainstorm?

Before you start searching, it's important that you take the time to write down your thesis, or research question, select keywords from it, and then brainstorm some alternate keywords for your search. Not all researchers, experts, and journalists are going to talk about your topic in the same way, so you want to have a variety of words and phrases on hand. This page includes some resources for helping you do this with your research topic.

Brainstorming Tools

Once you have your research essay topic in mind, put it in terms of a question you'd like to explore or an argument for a particular point-of-view you'd like to convey to your readers. A good topic is both manageable in the number of pages to be written and researchable.

Next, look at the key words/phrases in your topic and brainstorm a few synonyms or other terms related to those concepts. You can use these "keywords" to help you formulate a search to find articles, books, web sites and more on your topic. This pool of keywords is important because you may not know what terms are frequently used by researchers and other experts in the field, as well as non-professionals. You'll have options. 

One way to access thesauri to find synonyms and related terms is by searching Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, and other search engines. Here are two common methods. 

  • [your keyword] synonym
  • [your keyword] thesaurus

Instead of searching using a browser as explained above, you can also go directly to your thesaurus of choice. Here are a few examples:

If searching thesauri is isn't working well for you, try a graphic dictionary to find synonyms and related terms, such as one of these:

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