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Brainstorming and Writing Study Guide (page 2)

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Updated on Sep 30, 2011

Brainstorming on a Topic

Personal brainstorming can also be an effective idea-generating technique to use when you are given a specific topic or a choice of topics to write about. Instead of choosing and then jumping immediately into writing about a topic, it is always wise to take time to think (and plan) before you begin writing. If you have a choice of topics, take five minutes and brainstorm personally about each of the topics in turn. The topic that stimulates the most ideas immediately in your brainstorming session is probably the topic you will feel most comfortable choosing.

Let's assume you have been assigned a topic that is very general, such as global warming. Most large topics like this are completely open ended. The topic itself does not direct you to a way of writing about it.

First Steps in Brainstorming

Here are the essential first steps you might take to begin your brainstorming about the topic; jot down your thoughts about these first steps and keep them in front of you as reminders of decisions you've made.

  • Establish your audience clearly in your mind. Are you writing a school essay, an editorial for the school newspaper, a letter to your congress person? As you learned is the previous lesson, identifying your reader is the first step in any writing project.
  • Once you've identified your audience, it is usually possible to settle on a writing style. These two are usually fairly connected. You wouldn't want to joke around in a school assignment, but you might well want to crack some jokes in the school newspaper.
  • Identifying your point of view is definitely not possible at this point. Instead, you need to narrow the topic dramatically. Global warming is far too broad a topic to write about in general terms. You need to focus your thoughts.

How to Brainstorm Effectively

  • Establish a time limit for yourself. Depending on the amount of time you have to write (30 minutes of a timed assignment or one week for a school assignment, and so on), your brainstorming session might be as short as five minutes or as long as 30 minutes one day and another 30 minutes a day later, once you've had time for your ideas to simmer overnight.
  • Write down ideas, without editing or polishing them, as quickly as you can. Jot down whatever comes to you—individual words, phrases, questions—and don't worry about their making sense or appearing in order.
  • Once your time is up, take a deep breath, and try to clear your brain. If you have time, get up and jog in place for five minutes to activate your energy.
  • Now look over the ideas you've brainstormed and evaluate them. Cross out the ideas that strike you as unworkable; underline the ideas and/or words that strike a chord in your brain. Add to the brainstorming list if related or additional ideas come to you.
  • Somewhere within your jottings you have undoubtedly written something about the subject that appeals to you as a topic for your essay. Spend another few minutes brainstorming about the topic you've chosen. This further brainstorming will undoubtedly refine your topic further and reveal your point of view about the topic.
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