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Brainstorming techniques when coming up with interesting topics for term papers


Term papers can be daunting especially if you have no clue what you want to write about. It is very important that you choose something that you are interested in because you will be putting a lot of time into the paper. Between doing research and writing the hours can add up quickly. There are a myriad of ways that people come up with interesting topics, the process by which this is done is called brainstorming.

Getting the Ideas Flowing

Each person’s mind works a little differently so it can often be difficult to pinpoint the most effective way for you to brainstorm. In order to help you, I have listed a few methods to give you a head start. It is easiest to brainstorm with a friend or a group, though this isn’t necessary. Remember, brainstorming is a positive form of creative thought, so keep negative criticism to a minimum and focus on positive ideas, thoughts, and comments. Whether you are brainstorming with a group or by yourself it is a good idea to start bouncing some ideas around. If the essay’s parameters say you need a topic that has to do with food, you could offer topics such as “Restaurants,” “Cooking,” “Macaroni and Cheese,” “The Evolution of Ice Cream,” or “How to Peel a Banana.” When you’re making the list, I actually suggest writing them all over a piece of paper, anywhere, in any direction, and in any size. It will help you to get the ideas flowing and encourage creativity. After you have a good list of topics, broad, narrow, fun, silly, serious, boring, interesting, and slightly off topic even…. you should cross off the ones that you don’t enjoy. Narrow your topics down to things that you really want to research and spend some time learning about. You can add more if you would like or even combine ideas. For instance, I have decided for my “food” term paper I want to do “The Evolution of Macaroni and Cheese.”

Idea Web

Another method of brainstorming is to create an “Idea Web.” Put the topic in the center of a blank piece of paper, put a circle around it and start making branches out of that circle that offHer everything you know about that topic. Start out broad and get more and more detailed as you go out and make branches off of each subdivision until you have a pretty complete looking web. When you feel that you are done you will notice that you have a whole paper’s worth of ideas. Depending on how long your paper is you can see which subdivision you should use, and you will have some idea of how to turn the web into an outline as well since your subdivisions can be used for the main points of your paper.

Tips and Tricks

Here are a couple tips for brainstorming creative and interesting topics. When you are listing, creating webs, or talking to your group, try posing a question you have or something you want to have answered. This will get your mind on the right track to finding something that will interest you and be interesting to others. Even though the term paper is for a class, it should be written because you want to write it, and you want to learn about what it is you are writing about, not because you have to do it for a class. Next, try taking a break if you are stuck. Go do something else for a while and don’t think about your paper at all for an hour or two and do something you enjoy. Sometimes it can be really stressful to come up with a topic, and the best topics often come when you are relaxed. Finally, don’t wait until the last minute. Procrastinating on choosing a topic can be detrimental to your paper. You will be more likely to choose a topic you are not passionate about, have less time to write your paper, and be less motivated to do well. Try to come up with something as soon as you can. If you follow these tips and give the methods a shot, you should have no problem coming up with a creative and interesting topic for your term paper!


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