The brainstorming exercise aims at developing a precise research question with sub-questions relating to the different aspects of the research topic and its main dimensions. It should do this while including all available perspectives from the research group.
The brainstorming exercise involves all researchers–academics, experts, citizens, and co-researchers –who are interested in the planning and designing of the research approach.
Besides the following materials, a worksheet is attached below that can be used for your brainstorming exercise: Pinboard, large sheets of (flip chart) paper for the pinboards, cards / sticky notes of different size, forms and colors, pins, markers, and self-adhesive dots.
Step 1: Activating your creativity: Think about your research project from bottom-up (30 minutes)
General Idea: Collect as many ideas and concepts as possible that describe or are relevant to your research topic
- Take a large sheet of paper, cards of two different colors, and a marker.
- On the cards, write down all ideas, aspects, and concepts that are important to your research topic (one per card)
- Consider concepts and ideas in response to the question: What is important?
- Consider concepts and ideas in response to the question: What do I already know?
- Consider concepts and ideas in response to the question: What will I know at the end?
- Explain your ideas briefly (30 sec for each idea) in the workshop.
- Distribute self-adhesive dots equally in the group. These are used by the group to “vote” on the relevance of the ideas by placing one or more dots on each suggestion card.
Step 2: Cluster your ideas: Systemizing and structuring your project from top-down (20 minutes)
General Idea: Give the aspects and concepts of your research project structure by grouping and finding headings/categories
- Collect all cards and arrange them on a large piece of paper.
- Build clusters by grouping aspects and concepts around common points. Discuss your reasons for the proposed order. Are different arrangements possible? Restrict yourself to 3-7 clusters.
- Find general, more abstract headings/categories for the semantic clusters. Write them down on cards of different sizes and colors and attach them to the respective card cluster.
Step 3: Have a final look and formulate your research question (10 minutes)
General Idea: Give your project a focus by finding an umbrella that suits your research topic and your research interest
- Take a second look: are topics missing that could also be of interest?
- Formulate a research question as an umbrella to your research topic. Make the question as explicit as possible.
- Write down three versions of your research questions (My research question is: “…”)
- Combine the best formulations to form a single research question.
Consider sub-questions that cover the main dimensions of your research question.