Prewriting Study Guide (page 2)

Updated on Aug 25, 2011


Freewriting, also called journaling, is an exercise to help you start writing and connecting ideas. There are no rules for this type of prewriting. Just grab a pen and a notebook and start writing. A paragraph might be enough to get your creativity flowing, but a few paragraphs or pages will give you more ideas to work with.

Every few minutes, look back at the original topic. Try to keep focused on the topic, but experiment with many ways of looking at it. Like brainstorming, there are no right or wrong ideas in freewriting. Don't worry about your spelling, grammar, or organization. Don't revise or correct your sentences. Just write!

When you have finished freewriting, read what you've written. Which sentences contain the most interesting ideas? Can you expand on any of the ideas with more details? Are any of the ideas boring or predictable? Use a highlighter or marker to highlight the ideas that seem the most promising. Copy your best ideas onto another piece of paper, where you can start more specific brainstorming or outlining.

Listing Ideas

A list, like the brainstorming example, is a very basic way to show information. Lists can be especially useful when you're ready to organize information in a certain order. You can use more than one list, or write two lists side by side to compare ideas. For example, this prewriting uses lists to compare and contrast two perspectives.

Topic: What are the advantages and disadvantages of year-round school?

Advantages Disadvantages
1. Several breaks evenly spaced 1. No extended vacation
2. Easier to remember information between semesters 2. No long break from studying
3. See friends year-round 3. Can't do summer camp

The list in this example is already pretty well organized. Each list has three ideas, and each advantage has a matching disadvantage. Writing these ideas down as a list can help you see where there are holes or weak spots in your plan. If you intend to do research about your topic, you can also make a list of things you want to know, as in this example:

Topic: NASA's newest spacecraft, Orion.

      Details to research
      In what year was it built?
      Has it been launched yet?
      What is the design based on?
      Is it manned or unmanned?
      Where will NASA send it?

Lists are a useful way to prepare for your writing because they can help you stay organized and focused on the topic. Lists are also easy to revise or reorganize when you are ready to select your best ideas for writing.

Using Graphic Organizers

A graphic organizer can take many different forms, but one common graphic organizer is the cluster diagram. A cluster diagram looks like a spider web. To make a cluster diagram, start by writing the topic in the center of your paper. Draw a circle around the topic. Then draw a short line from the circle toward each corner of the paper. At the end of each line, write a more specific topic or idea, and circle those. Continue to branch out from each idea until you can include specific details.

Using Graphic Organizers

Here's an example of a cluster diagram for the topic, "Why is it important to protect the environment?"

In this example, the writer has divided the topic into four smaller sections: land, water, air, and animals.

This helps the writer to brainstorm in a focused, organized way. He or she may eventually decide to write only about air and water, or just focus on animals. But by prewriting in a cluster diagram, the writer is able to arrange and rearrange ideas in a visual way.

The biggest advantage of using a graphic organizer for your prewriting is that you can create a picture, or a map for your writing. For people who like to learn from diagrams, graphic organizers are often the best way to brainstorm.

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