Brainstorming for Inquiry Project

Brainstorming for Inquiry Project

From time to time, I hear a student say that s/he “just can’t think of any topic to study.” The student says “Nothing interests me. I have nothing I want to research.” I don’t believe this. From 15 years of experience teaching research writing, I’ve found that these students often have the very BEST ideas, the most unique topics for inquiry. The problem is that many students believe that only certain topics are good for research–and that is simply not true.

Very few real researchers are studying the death penalty, stem cell research, global warming, abortion–or any other of these “common” topics that we often think of when we imagine writing a research paper. Please dismiss all these common topics from your mind.

For this course, your goal is to choose a topic about which you are REALLY interested. What do you want to find out? What have you always been curious about? What do you wonder?

This first inquiry brainstorming activity is intended to help you think of topics that you might not usually consider appropriate for academic research.

Assignment: Interest Inventory
On your blog, use the list of umbrella categories below to brainstorm a list of words or phrases that come to mind when you think about what you know and what you might want to know about the category.  For example, for trends, you might be aware of the use of magnets for healing sore muscles, or you might know a lot about extreme sports. Or maybe you think of trends in music–by genre or types of music videos or the way people wear their jeans–or perhaps your first thought is about how people are eating lots of kale or drinking lots of green tea.  Write it all down. Don’t censor yourself.  Just write down whatever comes to mind.  You’ll probably find that ideas come to you in waves.  You may jot down a few ideas and then draw a blank.  This is okay, just wait for the next wave to come or move on to the next word. 

You should add at least 2 new umbrella categories to the list below and brainstorm about these new categories just like you did for those that I assigned.

How long should each list be? I hate to set a minimum here, as the list should be long enough to really initiate your associative trails process. (Yes, that’s another connection!) I can’t imagine this exercise would be effective with less than 15 answers below each category, however.

Umbrella Categories  





Places or Spaces


Please title this “Brainstorming for Inquiry Project.”

Note: Parts of this assignment come from Bruce Ballenger’s, The Curious Researcher.


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UNIV 200: Inquiry and the Craft of Argument, 006

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