BrainstormingWriter's Web
(printable version here)


Brainstorming provides a nearly guaranteed solution to writer's block. It's actually a very easy process.

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:

Paper Topic: The Ethics of Cigarette Advertising
a) Cigarettes & cancer
b) Cigarette ads not on TV
c) Teenagers & cigarettes
d) Government subsidizes tobacco farmers
e) Macho image of Marlboro Man
f) Camel "Hard Pack?"
g) Anti-smoking groups
h) Surgeon General's warnings
i) Why don't we see pipe and cigar ads?
j) Nicotine is addictive
k) Cigarettes still very popular

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 arrange the other pointsin the order in which they would logically appear in your essay. It helps to think about patterns into which ideas would fall, such as "Appeal of Ads," "Limits on Ads," and "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.

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