One of the biggest challenges for many investors is finding good investment ideas. This is particularly true for value investors, since we generally buy stocks only when we can pick them up for much less than they're actually worth. If we buy a stock at a 50% discount to its fair value and it returns to fair value, we've doubled our money. But then we need to find somewhere else to invest the profits. Such are the trials and tribulations of being a successful value investor.

So I use several techniques to identify promising stocks. First, I use stock screens. These screens allow an investor to find companies that meet particular criteria, such as certain price-to-earnings ratios or growth rates. Second, I steal ideas from great investors by scanning the holdings of certain mutual fund managers to see if they've bought any intriguing companies. My most recent purchase falls into this category -- a recommendation by Philip Durell in the Inside Value newsletter.

Finally, I read several discussion boards regularly, scanning for interesting ideas. While you can't believe everything you read, when used correctly, discussion boards can be a great tool for finding new investment ideas. The key is identifying high-quality boards with philosophies that are compatible with your own investment style.

The upside
One such discussion board is the IV Stocks That Interest You one, available to Inside Value subscribers. That board has tracked member picks since its inception, and, excluding bulletin-board penny stocks, has returned more than 150% of what the S&P 500 has returned over the equivalent time frame. That's an impressive record that beats most professional investors.

The stocks discussed on this board don't really fall into any particular category, except that they're cheap. Members of this board identified huge winners in lesser-known companies such as LCA-Vision (NASDAQ:LCAV) at $14 (it's now around $44), and Energy Conversion Devices (NASDAQ:ENER) when it was at $22 (it's now at $35). They've also picked out bargains among better known companies, such as Nokia (NYSE:NOK) at $11 (now at $16), and Altria (NYSE:MO) at $46 (now at $74).

But the impressive performance isn't the only reason to read the board. Its members share a value philosophy and a willingness to share their analysis. Consequently, almost every post contributes interesting information, and it's relatively easy to identify stocks that are worth a closer look. Furthermore, members of the Inside Value team, including lead analyst Philip Durell, prowl all the Inside Value message boards, sharing their thoughts and answering questions.

Stocks to bank on
Considering how volatile the market's been this month, it's not surprising that the board has come up with several picks that look interesting. Board member Undersin mentioned that both Citigroup (NYSE:C) and Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) seem relatively cheap right now. I think he's right.

Both financial companies are huge and have the clout to compete on a global scale. They both have strong brands and are firmly established in the U.S. And despite their size, these banks are growing their top lines at a double-digit pace. That growth isn't flowing through to bottom-line earnings as much as I'd like, but both businesses are still growing. And if two of the strongest companies in the world trading at P/Es of 10 isn't enough, both offer hefty dividends of more than 4%.

So why are these banks so cheap? I think it's fear -- fear of the poor yield curve, fear of the collapse of the housing bubble, and fear of a slowdown in the economy. To a certain extent, that fear is justified -- all these factors could affect these stocks. At the same time, these companies have not only survived rough times, but have grown to be the biggest banks in the nation. So these prices may overestimate the risks.

Fortune's Fool
Another interesting stock idea, raised by Crosstownit, is Fortune Brands (NYSE:FO). Fortune sells a bizarre combination of consumer products -- alcohol, home and hardware supplies, and golf equipment -- basically all the things you need to both believe it's a good idea to build a mini-golf course in your backyard and to actually do it. The company owns many well known brands, including Jim Beam, Moen, Titleist, and Pinnacle.

It has been a consistent grower for 25 years. Over that time period, before its nearly 2% dividend, it has returned 15% annually, quite respectable. The company boasts nearly a 10% return on assets, a 26% return on equity, and net profit margins of 11%. Thus, investors buying the stock at a trailing P/E of 14 are getting a superior company trading for less than the S&P 500 and most other major consumer products companies.

One potential challenge, which may explain the low multiple, is that roughly half of both sales and profits are from home and hardware, a business that would be affected by a housing slowdown. Even so, the company is worth a look.

Next steps
These are just a few of the interesting stocks discussed on this board recently -- there were more than 20 others. If you're interested in finding out more, take a free 30-day trial to Inside Value to gain instant access to dozens of great stock ideas, along with all of Philip's recommendations and research.

Fool contributor Richard Gibbons, a member of the Inside Value team, has been a discussion board junkie at various times in his life, but now keeps it to two hours or less a day. He does not own shares in any of the companies discussed in this article. The Fool has a disclosure policy.