1) Begin with a blank piece of paper or computer screen.
2) Write your paper's topic, such as "The Ethics of Cigarette Advertising," at the top.
3) Write down everything you can about the topic; omit nothing, no matter how bizarre, and don't stop until you are completely out of ideas. Don't worry about grammar or editing. Here's an example:
4) Look at the list above, and reconsider the paper's topic. Ideas (d) and (i) stray from the topic, so cut them.
5) Organize the remaining points. Idea (a) provides a decent place to start a draft, since it touches on a central truth about smoking.
6) Next, try to logically arrange the other points in the order that you would use in your essay. It helps to think about patterns into which ideas would fall, such as "Appeal of Ads," "Limits on Ads," "Future of Ads." You could write down these categories and then categorize your ideas from the brainstorming list. You'll end up with a working outline for the paper.
7) New ideas may occur to you as you organize the material. That's okay as long as these ideas relate to the topic.
8) You're almost ready to begin a draft, or at least an introductory paragraph. You still need to clearly state a thesis for assignments requiring one; you may want to read the Writer's Web page on the thesis statement.