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ENGL 01A: Brainstorm for Ideas

English Composition and Reading

What is Brainstorming?

Brainstorming can help you develop an idea for a topic or thesis and identify questions and keywords. 

Brainstormingmindmaps and concepts maps are terms that are often used interchangeably. They all refer to a quick, simple technique for generating and focusing ideas and making connections between concepts. 

When brainstorming, don't worry about grammar, spelling, or formatting initially. Just jot down ideas until you can't think of anymore, then go back and make connections between the ideas. If an idea appeals to you, make it the center idea on a new piece of paper and brainstorm more details.

Brainstorming Tools

Popplet example

mindmapping flowchart


Subject listing inside Research Guide

Idea Generator

Mapping your Ideas

UCLA Library 2:52

Brainstorming on your own

Here's an example of a mindmap. The student used colors to organize her ideas: red is the idea she started with, green are broader concepts, black are subtopics.  She put a red star on the topic she decided to focus on.

example of brainstorming for global warming

Attribution: Clark College Brainstorming LibGuide located at

Scan Sources for Ideas

  • news
  • magazines
  • specialized encyclopedias
  • SIRS, Opposing Viewpoints, CQ Researcher, Issues & Controversies
  • websites

Brookings - Our Research The Brookings Institute is a public policy organization in Washington, DC. with over 300 contributors. Different viewpoints are represented for the following topics: foreign policy, economics, development, governance, and metropolitan policy. Policy recommendations may be included.

TED Talks - by Topic TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) is a nonprofit committed to spreading ideas on a variety of topics. TED Talks are usually 18 minutes or less.

Intelligence2 U.S. (IQ2US) A forum for balanced and intelligent debate. See overall debate topics and associated debates. A site owned by Britannica Group with the mission  to promote critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship by presenting the pro and con arguments to controversial issues in a straightforward, nonpartisan, freely accessible way.

Try it yourself!

Choose an idea. 

  • Write down all the words that you can think of.  
  • Don't be afraid to use Google to find more ideas
  • If you find there are way too many, cross out the ones that seem too distant
  • If you find there aren't enough, do a little preliminary research
  • This is the time to be creative!