In chapter four of her book, Linda Flowers lists the first three steps in creating an issue tree:
"1. Generate some ideas on the problem....
2. Find a key word or phrase for each idea.
3. Put the key words in a hierarchically organized
tree." (96 -97).
As tutors our first step is to go through the
draft with the writer, identifying the main ideas. Step two is the same
as stated above. Step three, when working with an already finish draft,
is organizing the ideas in a hierarchically organized tree, based on what
is written. When working with the writer on idea generating, step three
is putting the key words in a hierarchicallly organized tree as the writer
plans to organize his/her paper.
When creating an issue tree, connect ideas that are related to each other with a line. For example, if your main topic is Commentary and the ideas of editorial comments and facilitative comments are ideas present in your paper, "editorial comments" and "facilitative comments" will be placed underneath the word Commentary and connected to Commentary with a line.
Benefits of an issue tree
When dealing with a writer that is still in the planning, issue trees are very useful. "Issue trees have two main things to offer writers. First, they let you sketch or test out ideas and relationship as you write. At the same time they let you visualize the whole argument and see how all the parts might fit together," (Flower 95). For these reasons, the issue tree can really help a writer who is stuck or not sure of where to go from a certain point in their paper. In fact, "issue trees can also help you generate new ideas," (Flower 95).
When helping a student organize a paper, the issue tree is also very effective. Issue trees show holes in the writer's argument and other organizational problems better than the traditional outline. "A traditional outline, written before you start the paper, only arranges the facts and ideas you already know. An issue tree highlights missing links in your argument and helps you draw inferences and create new concepts," (Flower 95-96). An issue tree is also a good way to show the writer where his/her paper is leading; in other words, you can use an issue "to compare [the writer's] thought with what [the writer] actually wrote" (Flower 101) in their drafts. An issue tree will also reveal "the presence of a long, trailing branch" (Flower 104) or an idea with which the author became carried away. When a long, trailing branch is noticed, it may be a sign of a better topic for the writer to pursue, or, at the very least, a sign that the writer needs to revise and spend more time on his/her other ideas.