Writer's WebBrainstorming

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 blank computer screen.

2) Write the paper's topic, such as "The Ethics of Cigarette Advertising," at the top

3) Write down everything about the topic; omit nothing, no matter how bizarre, and don't stop until completely out of ideas. Don't worry about grammar or editing during this initial phase. Here is 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 points by the order in which they would logically appear in the essay. It helps to think about patterns into which ideas would fall, such as "Appeal of Ads," "Limits on Ads," and "Future of Ads." The writer could write down these categories and then categorize the ideas from the brainstorming list. This creates 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) The writer is almost ready to begin a draft, or at least an introductory paragraph. They still need to clearly state a thesis for assignments requiring one; they may want to read the Writer's Web page on the thesis statement.

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Checked & proofread, summer 2018, Griffin Myers, Writing Consultant