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Research Help 101: Picking a Topic & Brainstorming

Getting started with your research!

What do you want to write about?


Before you start writing, take some time to think about what you want to write about. What topic is interesting to you? Then do some research to learn more about the issue BEFORE you take a stance. 


The words you use to search for information on your topic are important! Databases look for the exact words that you put in, so you need to think about what words are used to describe your topic, including synonyms and related terms. 

Photo Credit: "#whyopen brainstorm" by Laila Le Guen CC BY 2.0


AnswerGarden is a minimalistic feedback tool. Use it as a tool for online brainstorming or embed it on your website or blog as a poll or guest book.

Cacoo is a user friendly online drawing tool that allows you to create a variety of diagrams such as site map, flowchart, mind map, wire frame, UML diagram and network diagram. Cacoo can be used free of charge for up to 6 free sheets.

Create professional-quality flowcharts, organizational charts, UML diagrams, network diagrams, wireframes, technical drawings and more. Gliffy works directly in your browser, no downloads necessary. Free account allows 5 public diagrams, no private ones.

Lucid charts redesigns the entire diagramming process to make it as easy as possible. Make flow charts, wireframes, mind maps, and organization charts.

Padlet gives you a blank wall. You and your students can put anything you want on it, anywhere. Simple, yet powerful.

Popplet is a tool for the iPad and web to capture and organize your ideas.

RealtimeBoard is your regular whiteboard, re-thought for the best online experience. It does require a sign up, but it's free.

MindMaps Options allows users to to create mind mapping and brainstorming diagrams online. 

Free account includes:
Up to 3 mind maps
Save to image or HTML
Share mind maps
Email support

Coggle is a freeware mind-mapping web application. Like other mind-mapping software, Coggle produces hierarchically structured documents, like a branching tree.

Unlimited public diagrams
Real-time collaboration
Unlimited image uploads
PDF & Image download
Export as .mm and text
Comments & Chat

FreeMind is a premier free mind-mapping software written in Java to be downloaded on your computer. The Java makes it really flexible to use.

Create, share and collaboratively work on mind maps with MindMeister. Includes apps for iPhone, iPad and Android. Free version includes up to 3 mind maps.

Millions of people use XMind to clarify thinking, manage complex information, run brainstorming and get work organized. XMind is an open source project, which means it's free to download and free to use forever. XMind Plus/Pro with more professional features are also available.

Free Version includes:
All kind of diagrams
New Themes and Fonts(NEW)
Mind Toolbox 
Save to Evernote
Share on Web

Topic Databases

These databases are organized by topic to help you find information on controversial issues. The articles represent the many sides of each issue. Remember, most debates are not simply pro and con. Not all the articles in these databases represent opinions. Some provide information that may help you support your argument, bring in another perspective, or help you refute an opposing argument.