Prewriting: Keeping a JournalWriter's Web
by Amy Addison
(printable version here)

Often the hardest part of developing a thesis and writing an effective paper is simply getting started. To help yourself formulate and organize ideas you may want to keep a writing journal. This journal may be as formal or informal as you wish; it is for you and should be written as if you are addressing yourself or a very close friend. The idea is to get things down on paper as you think of them.

When making an entry, write from beginning to end before rereading or editing. Even if you are writing for a class, your journal usually won't be graded for grammar, spelling, or punctuation; there will be plenty of time for that later in the writing process! The following are a few exercises you might want to try in your journal:

  • Freewriting - Simply write whatever comes to mind. There is no need to write in complete sentences, although you may. Try to write continuously for at least ten minutes. The purpose is to get you writing. Writing is like riding a bike; the more you write, the easier it will be and the better you will become!
  • Freewriting, Looping, Focused Freewriting - This process begins with at least ten minutes of free writing. Then reread what you have written and underline key phrases and ideas. Then begin to free write again, this time narrowing in on one of the ideas you underlined in your initial writing. This will help you develop your ideas.
  • Branching - To branch, put your main idea at the top of the page. Underneath it, list your subordinate ideas. Then, branching off to the right, list subordinate points to these ideas. For example, you are preparing to write a paper about the use of word processors:

Branching Example

For other pre-writing exercises, see the Writer's Web handouts that follow concerning brainstorming, cubing, clustering, and looping.

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