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Academic Research and Writing: Brainstorming & Outlining


Before you begin to conduct research, you need to know what to search for. You may know a lot about your topic already or you may know very little. Either way, a great way to gather your keywords is with a "concept map" or "concept cloud."

How to create a concept map/cloud:

  1. Write your topic in the middle. 
  2. Surround your topic with related key terms. These are likely to answer questions like who, what, when, where, and why. 
  3. Locate more terms using a web search, Wikipedia, or in the scholarly articles you find. Add them to your concept map as you conduct your research. 

The following video from the University of Houston Libraries explains how to develop keywords for your research. 

Creating an Outline

Developing an outline is a good way to organize the content of your paper. An outline is essentially an ordered list of your paper's main topics and their sub-topics. You can create your outline at any time during the research and writing process; however, because it is a great tool for visualizing the structure of your paper, you will get the most use out of yours if you create it before you begin writing. 

This video from the University of North Carolina Writing Center gives a brief overview of what an outline is and out to organize one.