There are several approaches to brainstorming, but the primary goal when brainstorming is to generate lots of alternative issues, perspectives and aspects of a topic without censoring them or worrying about their organization.
For any theme and/or issue that you consider, note as many aspects or ideas as come to mind. At this point, don’t worry about whether they are suitable or well-organized. Think freely and broadly. You just want to develop a list of possible avenues for further consideration.
The libraries provide access to many encyclopedias and dictionaries that focus on, or specialize in, particular subject areas. In addition to defining terminology and providing the intellectual history or landscape of issues and subjects, they can also be useful for generating ideas since they often highlight ongoing controversies.
In addition, Wikipedia articles can be useful for generating ideas, particularly for popular culture topics and when you want to find recent developments on a current topic. Since Wikipedia entries are not necessarily written by people who are well informed on a particular topic, it is important to think critically about the information you find and to be sure to verify that information with other sources.
For relevant encyclopedias and/or dictionaries, link to York University Library’s Research Guide for your particular subject area. Click here to visit it now.
Scholarly journals are available both in print and online through the libraries. A quick scan of tables of contents and articles in journals relevant to your subject area can reveal issues that are currently being investigated.
Your searches in periodical indexes (see the Research Strategies module) will help identify relevant journals for your topic. York University Library’s Research Guides will lead you to appropriate periodical indexes for your field. Click here to visit it now.
A quick scan of relevant books can help generate ideas and provide context and background for a topic. A useful strategy is to identify one or two books relevant to your topic, find the call numbers, and then browse the library’s bookshelves around those books. See the Research Strategies module for more information on how to identify relevant books.
When browsing books, an effective and efficient way to generate ideas and get clarification on what the book will cover is to scan the tables of contents, skim the introductory chapters and check the indices for key terms that you are interested in investigating.
There are many different types of websites accessible to the general public. In addition to general searches of these using tools such as Google or Yahoo! Search, it can be useful to identify and consult specific types of websites relevant to your subject. For example:
- company (e.g., Apple Inc.)
- educational institution (e.g., York University)
- government (e.g., federal, provincial, municipal)
- personal, archive (e.g., Nelson Mandela Digital Archives)
- professional or scholarly associations (e.g., American Psychological Association)
- international body (e.g., United Nations)
Information found by more focused reading and navigation of these types of sites can be useful for generating ideas and can provide a good starting point for further exploration.