Writing, The 5 W's, and Mapping Help (page 2)

Updated on Sep 7, 2011


Mapping is a graphic (visual) organizer that allows you to investigate the relationships between many diverse ideas. It's a simple process best used for exploring simple topics. To make a map, draw a circle and add spokes radiating from it. Put your central idea or subject in the middle, and add subtopics or related ideas around it in any order. Or, draw a box with your subject written in it and continue adding boxes, connected to each other by arrows, showing the development of your idea. As with other brainstorming techniques, don't judge yourself during this process. Write down any and every thought you have on your subject.


This student came up with four main branches of ideas—discipline, reading choices, personal philosophy, and strength in dealing with difficult issues. The map shows how one idea led to another and how ideas are related to one another. That's an advantage of this technique: You can see immediately where your ideas lie. Clearly, this student has much to say about discipline as it related to his teacher's influence on him.

For the next assignment, notice how the resulting map differs from the previous example.

Discuss how sports influence popular culture.


A Note about Outlining

Outlining is another important essay-planning tool, but it is not a brainstorming technique. Outlining is an organizational technique that helps in planning an essay after ideas have been generated through brainstorming. You'll learn more about outlining in Lesson 6.

In Short

To generate ideas for an essay, try asking questions using the 5 W's: who, what, where, when, and why. Or try a map: Put your topic in the middle of a page and see your ideas develop in relationship to one another.

Exercises for this concept can be found at Writing, The 5 W's, and Mapping Practice.

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