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Choosing a Topic Module: Laying a Foundation

4. Brainstorming a Topic Using Concept Mapping

'Concept mapping' is a technique you can use for any research assignment, and is a way to visually brainstorm what you know about a given topic. This technique also enables you to make connections between subtopics, and eventually make decisions about which subtopics to pursue in your research--remember, the purpose of your research project is to put forward a particular argument, not brain-dump everything you know about a topic.

Your concept map can be colorful and creative, or simple and geometric. Place your main topic in the middle, and draw outward branches for each subtopic. Ask yourself "what do I know about this topic?" and use your background research to fill in gaps. You can even have sub-sub topics, depending on how detailed you would like to make your map. See the example below as a representation of a geometric concept map, with multiple sub topics and sub-sub topics. 

5. Finding Background Information

For finding overviews and background information on your topic, try Credo, a library database designed for background research. Think of it as a highly credible Google search, but with added features like citation generators.

Credo can be found under the Databases A-Z list on the library's homepage, but here is a link:

6. Checking In

It's your turn! Draft a concept map of the research topic you are considering for this course. Your map needs to include the following:

  • One topic in the center of your map
  • At least three subtopics branching out from the center
  • Sub-sub topics are acceptable

How you choose to build your map is up to you. You can build it in a Word or Google Doc, use a concept map builder such as as, or even sketch it on paper.

Remember: Credo can help you find background information you need to fill out your map.