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Generate and Refine Ideas

Talking with Others

Talking with others is another technique you can employ to help you generate and refine ideas for your research paper. You may wish to have conversations with friends, relatives, coworkers, librarians, and instructors or with experts in the field. Casual conversations will not need to be documented; however, formal interviews and in depth conversations with experts will need to be documented.


In the example below we can see a writer interested in public policy asking an instructor for assistance.


Writer: Hi, Professor Smith, I was thinking about writing my research paper on the relationship between public policy and government institutions.

Prof. Smith: That sounds very interesting. In class, we discussed the three characteristics that government institutions give public policy . . .

Writer: I remember- legitimacy, universality, and coercion . . .

Prof. Smith: Right, it’s the combination of these three characteristics that make the relationship between public policy and government institutions unique. After all, people may think of other policies—of their employer or church for example- as important, but government policies are legal obligations . . . .


Conversations with others can help you learn more about your topic, and may even work to help you understand your topic as you explain your ideas to others.


You also may want to consider going beyond face-to-face conversations with others- use email or join an Internet discussion group. Always remember to carefully evaluate what others say and cite when it’s appropriate.