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Brainstorm

Once you have analyzed the assignment and know what is expected of you, you should try to do an initial brainstorm about the topic and your ideas on the topic.

Freewriting

Write down all of your ideas without worrying about the content or the organization of the writing. Afterwards, you can highlight the useful ideas that arose from the freewriting or perhaps start another round of freewriting to produce more ideas.

Focused-freewriting

This entails writing a first draft (with structure) to get all of the ideas down on paper. This is a good strategy as long as you are committed to largely restructuring and revising the essay later. This exercise is only used for the purpose of prewriting to generate ideas and is not considered a first draft.

Listing

Listing entails writing down as many keywords as possible about a topic on paper. This can help you to highlight useful ideas and draw connections between the keywords to spark ideas and to start thinking about an outline.

Mind mapping

Mind mapping involves charting out your ideas systematically in a web or flow chart. You should take a blank sheet of paper, write your topic at the centre of the page and then add ideas with lines showing the connection of each idea to one another or to the central topic. This is a helpful way to start grouping ideas in some kind of order at the outset.

Prewriting strategies

Preliminary research

Sometimes, it is essential to read up on an assignment topic to generate enough ideas, and this requires conducting some preliminary research. Each writer should use the initial ideas generated from the brainstorm step to help search and locate sources as well as read more efficiently.

It is important to take notes while reading sources, so writers should write down any ideas they discover and be sure to cite information that is not their own. If writers start to research before they develop their own ideas, the potential downfall is that the research could introduce too many and perhaps conflicting ideas, thus causing writers to lose the focus of their own argument or objective. Consequently, this could result in a weak thesis statement and written work.

The Ws

Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? When writers formulate questions that begin with the Ws, it becomes a great way to generate ideas from the answers to those questions. The Ws can also help to obtain the entire picture of a topic.

Discussion

Writers can benefit from talking over their ideas or research findings with friends. Sometimes, talking about the assignment can help to write it out better. Alternatively, writers can talk into an audio recorder and type out their ideas when they play it back to themselves.

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