Prewriting, Brainstorming and Outlining


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Now that you have done some research, how can you begin to make sense of it? Organizing your ideas and argument now will help you figure out how to fill in the gaps in your research as you move forward.

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Prewriting, Brainstorming and Outlining

  1. 1. Prewriting,Brainstorming, and Outlininghow to begin to make sense of the chaos of your research
  2. 2. Quiz: What works best foryou? a. "... ask a lot of questions to myself about my topic.""Before I startwriting a paper, I b. "... just get started bylike to..." freewriting whatever comes to mind." c. "... start with big ideas and categories." d. "... create visual brainstorms or mindmaps."and for the live poll:
  3. 3. Today You Have Options**The following options are partially inspired by "Pre-writing techniques" from Simpson College, http://www.simpson. edu/hawley/writing/prewriting.html
  4. 4. If you answered "a": TheQuestioner Image: Oberazzi on Flickr CCa. "... I like to ask a lot of questions tomyself about my topic."
  5. 5. The Questioner:Consider asking yourself questions to help you get thinking aboutorganizing your research. Here are a few ideas: ● What have I learned about my topic so far? Whats most compelling? ● What am I arguing? ● How will I prove what Im arguing? What evidence is most convincing? ● What are possible counter-arguments? ● How will I make my reader care?Now that you have your questions, start to answer them.Want more ideas? Go to the Purdue Online Writing Lab for Prewriting Ideas.
  6. 6. If you answered "b": The FreeSpirit Image: jjpacres on Flickr CCb. "... I like to just get startedby freewriting whatever comes to mind."
  7. 7. The Free SpiritFree your mind! Rules of freewriting:● There are no rules.● Dont judge your ideas or grammar--just write.● Try to write for as long as possible without stopping, ideally 10-15 minutes.● If you are lost, write for a while about whatever comes to mind ("open" freewrite) and then choose a specific idea from there to begin a "focused" freewrite.After you finish, reread and consider moving to a visual map orrough outline of your ideas.
  8. 8. If you answered "c": The BigIdea Person Image: bendeming on Flickr CC c. "... I like to start with big ideas and categories."
  9. 9. The Big Idea PersonFirst, state your topic and thesis.Next create a rough outline. Consider the following: ● What are the main sections of your argument? ● Within each section, what are the subsections or subpoints? ● What evidence will you use to support each section and subsection?Once you have your big ideas in outline form, go back to your notes anddecide how to fit in specific evidence and ideas.
  10. 10. If you answered "d": The VisualThinker Image: Austin Kleon on Flickr CC d. "... I like to create visual brainstorms or mindmaps."
  11. 11. The Visual ThinkerFirst, put your topic or thesisin the center of the page.You might consider the following: ● Draw pictures to represent your ideas. ● Circle, underline, color code, or use symbols to show the hierarchy of your ideas. ● If you want, use an online mindmapping tool like Mindomo.Want to see a Mindomo example? See my very lame example here,based on what I actually wrote about for a history paper in high schoolabout documentary photography during the Depression.
  12. 12. List of Prewriting Resources"Pre-writing techniques" from Simpson College,"Why and How to Outline" by Elyssa Tardiff and AllenBrizee, Purdue Online Writing Lab, online mindmapping software,, (first 3 maps free)
  13. 13. Questions? Contact me. sclark [at]