Ideas for a Scientific Paper

Soon I will have to write a short Scientific Paper for school, unfortunetly I wasn’t able to come up with an Idea which fits the criteria. Since I am a big fan of mnemonics I would like to write somthing on that topic, but all the ideas I have had so far aren’t fitting of the scientif method. Which is why I have come to ask you for Ideas.

If you had to write a paper on mnemonics what would it be about?

Personaly I would love to write on the history of mnemonics, especially about the techniques and guides of ancient figures such as Giordano Bruno or Cicero. Because there aren’t that many summarys online on how the ancient mnemonists used their techniques.


Not that I could write it, but something like:

A comparison of the use of real versus invented imagery for loci, the effectiveness of each, and their popularity throughout history.

This would then allow exploration of which practitioners preferred real over invented loci, how popular their methods were at the time and since (so research into the ancient figures you mentioned) and touching on the historic context (such as the religious opinion on invented imagery at the time).

You could finish with current trends, then maybe explore how easy it might be now to use virtual loci (in games, or perhaps from films) and whether they should be considered real or invented locations by this criterion.

It could be as short as a few definitions and tables, followed by a hypothesis based on recent trends, or a long in-depth thesis on history, neuroscience, and the psychology involved - making it something worth expanding on and remembering, potentially.

Just an idea, anyway. :slight_smile:


@Tay16, it would help to know more about your assignment.

  • What level of school are you in?
  • What type of class is asking for your paper?
  • You mention scientific method. Should this include data from an experiment?
  • You also talk of a historical approach. Is this a summary or a thesis paper?
  • What is your deadline?

I teach at the college/university level and have a substantial library of academic and practical books on mnemonics so I’ll try and give you some direction if I can.


The History of Mnemonics would not be a science paper. Science is based on data, on physical observations or measurements. A scientific paper usually reports quantitative data and draws inferences.


If I had time, I would get 20 students, and without much explanation, I would ask them to participate in an experiment. Some of them would be taught some “fake mnemonics”, some of them none at all, some of them certain very simple mnemonic methods, and some another method.
I would ask them the time they use studying, preparing exams, etc. And I would interview them every week, asking about their expectations, and the reality of their grades, etc., during one term or one year. I would include questions not related to the mnemonics, as to make it less clear what we are searching for.
Certainly, this method has some problems, because we might be interfering with the activity of studying, and might lack scientific rigor, but I think it is an interesting approach.
And… it requires a lot of time.

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I discovered today this paper, very suitable for this time of the year.
I post this as an example of a “scientific paper.”

Presentation Matters: The Effect of Wrapping Neatness on Gift Attitudes - Rixom - 2020 - Journal of Consumer Psychology - Wiley Online Library


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Well it’s a little difficult to explain since I am from Austria but I will do my best.

First of all im in 11th grade.
In Austria you have to write a mandatory essay/scientific Paper called VWA which would directly translate into “Pre Scientific Paper”.

It’s supposed to be a quasi Scientific Paper in which you try to answer a question such as “What effects does medicin have on the biomechanics of the eye?”.
You are allowed to write about whatever you like and I, as said before, have decided to write something on mnemonics.

Since we, as students, don’t really have the means to do a professional study yet (e.g. experiments, mass testing,…) we are allowed to chose between two different types of paper.

  1. A summary of the research that has already been done on the topic.

  2. Nearly the same as number one, but you shorten the summary and add an empirical part. This part can include real life interviews, experiments and more.

Finally, I have time until 14.1.2022 to find a fitting topic and after that I have until feburary of 2023 to write the paper ( so around a year).

I already brainstormed a few ideas, did research on the topic and even outlined the contents for some of the ideas, but they weren’t really fitting for this type of assignment which is why I have come to here for some help.

Thank you very much for offering your support!

P.S. I am allowed to write the paper in english.


OK. That gives a clearer definition of the assignment. Conducting your own research would be expensive and time consuming. @Liam will need to apply for a grant to run his project. But you can report and summarize existing research. There are indeed a few existing studies on the efficacy of mnemonics. Some have been discussed in this forum.

I could point you to some but this is a school project so I leave it to your nimble fingers and Google.

From Austria you say? Your English is excellent, both correct and idiomatic.

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Interesting proposal. What would constitute a useful control group for this purpose? No mnemonics or placebo mnemonics? Is there an ethical issue in teaching false mnemonics?

Experiments with human beings as opposed to say, electrons, are difficult , expensive and fraught with ethical problems. Studies like this try to get around this by mining existing data or sampling experience that people already have. E.g. poll people for their use of mnemonics and compare that against their grades or something. This approach has serious weaknesses too but it’s feasible.

In so many ways, it’s just hard for us humans to see ourselves clearly.


Perhaps i can suggest some themes you might find interesting.

Learning given varying degrees of interference or information degradation.

Fastest rates of memorisation.

Impact of Hebbs rule on skill acquisition.

Effects of sleep on learning or skill acquisition.

Use of negative feedback in skill acquisition.

(Fyi, I am writing this upside down)

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Well, you have the sources, you have us.

I think I understand what you mean, as we have similar kinds of papers we have to write in the netherlands.

Just my two cents, but I hope you find them of use :slight_smile:

Personally, I would do a little personal study to turn into a paper. Start with some literature, maybe create a story around how Joshua Foer’s journey peaked your own interest or so. Read some O’Brien, Cooke, Dellis, Yates, etc.

Then move to psychology, maybe a bit about our brain. Draaisma, Scherder, Baddeley, Anderson, Pinker, Eagleman. Maybe take it broader, see what you can find on education and learning as well. Hattie, Nuthall, Brown. Depending on how broad you and your teachers want the literature study to be, you can add as much as you like. History of memory, influences of 21st century life on memory, dementia, amnesia. All to form a theoretic framework to place your newly aquired memory/mnemonic knowledge into.

You got your books, now to get your stories. Next on your list: question us, get a few questions ready and toss them our way. Not only do we have memory athletes and enthousiasts here, we have memory researchers, we have memory (grand)masters, and even memory champions. While I can’t speak for everyone, I think that a lot here are willing to answer a few questions you have! (I am at least one of them)

Third, it is time to do something with it. Make your systems, practice, train, join a competition, have fun. You can be your own test subject, and even if covid ruins any competition plans down the road, you will still end up with a lot of experiences and stories of your own.

Wishing you the best of luck :slight_smile:


@Tay16, thanks for all the information. You have an excellent sense of what you should do it seems. In general, American college students have no experience in research and outlining. I force my students to do it and they object resulting in a poor paper. I admire the European system of education from what I know, and would rather read Europeans than Americans on important subjects.

As @Mayarra said, we are a good source for both primary information and secondary information. She does offer excellent advice. Do the document survey first. Find out what interests you. Narrow the topic. Dig in.

A friend of mine from Eisenstadt took me to a pagan worship site near his house and the stones reminded me of the henges in England. @LynneKelly has done some exceptional research relating the stones to memory aids. You might find her books fascinating if you like history.

I’m more of a practical guy and like system classification and analysis. I’d defer to others like @Mayarra for more scientific subjects. If you would like a bibliography of memory books, I can provide you with one.

Have fun with the project. We all would like to see what you are going to do, so keep us posted! Good luck and Frohe Weihnachten !


I like all the ideas here. Having done a PhD on memory systems - mostly Indigenous memory methods - and then four books on memory systems - I am very happy to help. I like the ideas above about a bit of research and then testing on yourself because it is only by trying out memory palaces and other techniques that you understand enough to ask the right questions.

I really like the idea above about real versus virtual memory palaces. I am involved in research on this theme and I would suggest there is a third option, and that is using a physical palace when you encode. So I would make it a comparison of virtual, imagined real (people often suggest your first home or somewhere you have lived) and using a real house or street and encoding as you actually go there.

Our research is only the last two, because we are comparing the way Aboriginal people in Australia use the landscape as a massive memory palace, compared with the Greek rooms type palace.

I would also consider whether you want to memorise something at a single level - numbers, cards, names … or if you want to layer information. History, countries of the world, a topic in science, famous writers, foreign languages …

And whether you want to try some of the less well known methods, rather than memory palaces. There are a lot of alternatives.

I am involved in a number of scientific research projects on memory systems, so more than happy to help.

Have fun with it!



Is there actually a primary source that suggests that the Ancient Greek used “rooms” only?

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Thank you for bringing up such an important point, @bjoern.gumboldt.

No - so why do we often refer to it as the ‘Roman room method’? Ooops Roman, not Greek. I think the Greeks/Romans used streets as much as buildings, but would love anything specific on that. But am I right that they used them from memory - memorised the street or building, or already knew it well, and then added the data to the memorised path without the need to revisit?

Or do you have any reference that says they went out into the street or into the building and used it for layering more and more data?

The same with Medieval use of churches and suchlike.

The difference I am looking at is adding the data to somewhere you know from memory and actually going out to memorise while looking at the location and finding details to attach to as you add more and more information - the way Aboriginal songlines mostly work. But my personal experience is biased on this point because I have aphantasia - no visual memory, so any memory palace is a vague list of locations with no detail about the place. Other people probably don’t need this as much as I do.

For my Chinese vocabulary, for example, I have a memory palace / songline based on the radicals, the part of each character used for indexing in a dictionary. Some locations already have lots of words and will have hundreds at least. I can do that by going there and finding something useful to add to the story and anchor the new word in something physical in the location.

So much to research and study.

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Thank you all for the great advice and for offering your help!

And If I need any questions answered for my paper I will definitely ask them here.

Merry Christmas to everyone!


Thanks for the advice and I would be very grateful if you could provide me with a bibliography of memory books.

Thank you very much and Frohe Weihnachten to you as well!

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Josh, who runs this forum, has a list:

I am a little biased, because he likes my books!

For straightforward practical methods, I’d suggest any of Dominic O’Brien’s books.


@Tay16, you can find my book list called Visual mnemonics resources v1.0 on my github site along with all the other resources that I’ve written.

You’ll see books divided into time periods for mnemonics and other topics such as psychology, music, and popular topics on this forum like maximizing learning. I also added some important journal references, journals, some background on people, podcasts, and sofware or web sites.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask. If you have additions, let me know and I’ll put them in my list. I included all of @josh’s books on memory improvement.


I don’t know… why do we call it a ‘butterfly’? It’s neither a fly made of butter nor a stick of butter that can fly. Maybe we can ask @Josh for a word count across the forum, but I think the terms “memory/mind palace” and “method of loci” are used more commonly (frequently) than ‘Roman room method’.

No worries… French fries are actually from Belgium (not France as the name would suggest). Seeing how the Romans used the ‘Greek method’ it’s neither here nor there… especially, when considering that it’s an English term only and you will not find a ‘römischen Raum’ in German or a ‘stanza romana’ in Italian.

Maybe we should have a separate thread under the title “Is Rom the capital of Italy” where we can discuss what is meant by “the Romans” and “the Greek,” because that would be a little off topic here, but the Holy Roman Empire existed until 1806 and that Julius Cesar place that most people probably think of when they hear Rom covered the entire Mediterranean Sea, including Greece.

Isn’t the burden of proof on you though, when you are trying make it more restrictive? :slight_smile:

Can I suggest you have your research assistant look up information about the “Peripatetic school” under Aristotle around the 4th century BC. I usually don’t like quoting Wikipedia but to save myself all the typing:

The term peripatetic is a transliteration of the ancient Greek word περιπατητικός (peripatētikós), which means “of walking” or “given to walking about”.[1] The Peripatetic school, founded by Aristotle,[2] was actually known simply as the Peripatos.[3] Aristotle’s school came to be so named because of the peripatoi (“walkways”, some covered or with colonnades) of the Lyceum where the members met.[4]

Source: Peripatetic school - Wikipedia

I’d probably rework that a little and compare to ‘memory athletes during competitions’ rather than the method of loci itself. The problem, I guess, is that a lot of literature about this topic over the past 30 years comes from memory competitors and thus the whole approach is a little biased towards that… you can’t really go out and walk through a physical memory palace when memorising a deck of cards… that’s rather impractical, not to mention the time constraints.

Of course if you do have time to walk around, you can even make a YouTube video about it… admittedly, without VR goggle and never having been to the place, you probably need to watch the video twice… and obviously, it’s best to just take it as a practical example and create your own palace with your own imagery afterwards.

However, I doubt that anybody will say that this is not a memory palace only because Alex (the person in the video) is actually walking through the physical space rather that just doing it ‘from memory’.

As I pointed out already in the other thread…

So, why did that group have to learn the method on a whiteboard rather than the way it’s done in this video? The childhood home is usually only used to show how strong spacial memory is; afterwards, you’d normally suggest the students use a route from their daily/weekly routine as a memory palace instead.

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