How to come up with intriguing ideas for a research paper

You’ve been given a general topic for a research paper, and now you have to come up with an intriguing idea for the paper. The only problem is that you’ve been staring at a blank sheet of paper or computer screen for the last hour and still have no idea where to start.

Brainstorming activities are essential to any type of writing. Coming up with good ideas takes work, and one style of brainstorming may not be good for everyone. Here are a few of the most popular brainstorming techniques out there today.


The idea of cubing is to take your general topic and look at it from six different angles (since a cube has 6 sides, it makes it easier to visualize). Take your general topic and think about it till you come up with 6 different ways to look at the problem, or 6 arguments against the topic. Either way, you will come up with 6 new starting points that you can use in your research paper.

Free Writing

This brainstorming exercise is a little more intense then cubing. Instead of coming up with 6 ways to look at the topic, you are just going to write down anything that comes into your head for 5-10 minutes. You can even set a timer if you like. The idea is to write the topic over and over again until other ideas start to pop into your head. Nothing you think of is wrong, so write it down. When you’re done, you should have at least one sheet of paper with a ton of ideas on it. Granted, some of the ideas won’t be worth exploring, but many of them will!


Most people think of researching as one of the steps that you complete after you already know what you are going to write about. This is a huge mistake. Often we cannot write about a subject we know nothing about. Take some time with your smartphone and start looking up information on the subject. This will enable you to see any relevant information on the topic and help you find areas that really interest you.

You may even end up surprising yourself with the ideas you come up with during the brainstorming process. Get to work, and see what you come up with.

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