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SCS 224 (Campus) - Social Science Research Methods

This guide serves as a research companion to the ON-CAMPUS course SCS-224 titled "Social Science Research Methods" taught by Professor Christine Clamp.

Brainstorming and Mind Mapping


Brainstorming is a way to come up with topics or ideas. It allows a person to casually consider multiple topics, ideas, theories, etc. without judgment and to take some ideas further into actual projects or as tools to consider more topics, ideas, theories, etc. MindTools' Brainstorming page has tools and more information about brainstorming.

Mind Mapping

A mind map is a visual representation of your issue or topic. It is a tool that is used to visualize ideas and opportunities for broadening or narrowing down search topics. MindTools' Mind Mapping page has tools and more information on mind mapping.

There are a number of free brainstorming and mind mapping tools available online like and Popplet. Alternatively, try the mind map available via Credo Reference (click "Mind Map" on the Credo Reference homepage):

Mind Map Screenshot

Lit Review Templates

Another way to "map" your literature review sources is to use a chart format. A two chart system would entail creating one chart that lists each source and highlights key descriptors, and a second chart where the overall topic is broken down into sub-topics derived from the "main ideas" from the first chart. Each one of these "sub-topics" or issues then has the specific sources (articles, book chapters, etc.) that explain/support that issue/idea listed next to them. You may relabel the columns in this template and include the number of pages you will devote to each sub-topic in your research paper as required for Homework #6 in this course SCS224.

Homework #4 - Concept Map

Assignment: Construct a concept map for your research

Read these sources about literature reviews and concept mapping:

  1. Research Methods Knowledge Base - Concept Mapping This link opens in a new window By William M.K. Trochim  
  2. Building a Conceptual Framework: Literature Review as Process & Product This link opens in a new window  By Judith Burton  

Concept Mapping Resources

Diagram flow chart with Concept Map and Mind Map in boxes at the top

CREDO Mind Maps

The CREDO Reference database is a compilation of "tertiary sources" meaning reference resources like specialized encyclopedias, dictionaries and informational resources that organize, categorize, collect and summarize information from primary and secondary sources. CREDO provides mind maps for various topics, with an accompanying list of sources. With each click on an item in the mind map, a new list of sources is shown as well as a further iteration of the map with concept at the center.

Credo Database Link

Sample Mind Map from CREDO for "Cooperative Housing"

Clicking on any of the outer points of the Mind Map will lead to a new mind map with that concept at the center and a new list of sources.

Mind Map diagram with Cooperative Housing at the center

Remember that the sources in CREDO help you to understand an overall picture of your topic and the issues embedded within it. You will need to research each of these issues to find scholarly sources for your research paper. The CREDO source can help provide ideas for search terms you might use as your pursue research on your topic.