Brainstorming can help you prepare to start writing a paper and
overcome the intimidating nature of the blank page. You can turn to
brainstorming to help select a topic, arrive at a thesis, or
develop an outline for a paper. Try any one of the following to end
your writer's block:
- Freewriting - Consider your assignment and topic and start
jotting down ideas without worrying about whether they belong in
your paper or not. Try setting a time or page limit for yourself
before you allow your stream-of-consciousness to take over. When
you're finished freewriting, read what you have, collect your best
insights, and attempt to expand on these ideas.
- Listing - Make a list based on your topic or thesis. Don't
worry about using full sentences or going into detail. You'll fill
in the rest later. Turn these lists into tables, charts, and graphs
if you're a visual learner.
- Perspectives - Look at your topic from different perspectives
to make sure that you're seeing the possibilities from every angle.
- Try describing the subject
- Attempt to trace its history
- Map out its influences and how others have approached it in the
- Consider your purpose and audience.
- Cubing - Respond to the following six prompts about your
- Argue for and against
- Simile - Choose one of the central concepts of your paper and
set up a simile: my subject
is/was like ______________. Fill in the blank with whatever comes
to mind and attempt to explain the relationship.
- Clustering - Make a word web that you can use to develop an
idea for your thesis or to outline your paper once you've decided
on your topic. Start by writing one of your main subjects in the
center of a blank sheet of paper. Circle the word or phase and
extend lines from the center. Connect these lines to other words
and ideas that you associate with the central theme. From here draw
more lines out from the secondary level of the word web and connect
these words to other terms that you feel are related. Continue the
process until your paper is full of clusters.
- Asking questions - Before journalists start a story, they set
out to answer the
"big six" questions. Try doing the same with your topic, asking
who?, what?, when?, where?, why?, and how?
- References - Visit the library or the World Wide Web for more
information on your topic that might lead you down a new path for
your paper. Make sure you're consulting a reputable source, such as
an encyclopedia, guidebook, or critical essay.