Brainstorming before searching

Brainstorming Before Searching

Helping learners refine their research methods will benefit them now and in their future careers.

Difficulty: 3/5


15 – 20 mins. Varies depending
on the complexity of the topic.


1 Human (unless it’s a group project)

Core Competency Connection

Sketch of three wolves on a grey gradient background


  • Electronic device
  • Paper and pen
    (Required for note taking)



The Process

Step 1: Write down ideas

  • Write down what you plan to research—whether a thesis statement or something more informal. You want to have an idea what your main topic(s) is/are. Use your textbook, class notes, encyclopedias, or other sources to find names of important people, relevant dates, and basic facts.

Step 2: Major parts of your topic

  • Think about the major parts of your topic, including who it affects or which group(s) you plan to focus on, why your topic matters to the group you have chosen to study, whether it happened in the past or present (or may happen in the future), and the main points you plan to cover.

Step 3: Make a list

  • Make a list of possible search terms for each point in step 2.
  •   • E.g., gender, male, female, transgender, LGBTQIA+, etc.
  •   • E.g., salary expectations, wage gap, salary gap, gender pay gap, pay inequity, pay equity, etc.

Step 4: Search keywords

  • Once you’ve brainstormed lists of terms, choose those you want to
    begin searching with.
  •   • e.g., female, Canadian universities, wage gap.

Step 5: Refer to list

  • Keep the list you’ve made, as you may have to review the terms or mix and match terms differently once you begin searching databases for results.

Tips & Tricks

  • Don’t skip this step. It makes searching easier and more efficient.
  • Library staff members teach library users how to do this on a daily basis.

CTLI Staff

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