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Prewriting can help you take a general topic and make it more specific.
Explain the different types of prewriting exercises
During prewriting exercises, it is important to record everything that comes to mind without editing as you write. You can use the various techniques to generate a number of different ideas to choose from to formulate your topic.
Brainstorming can help you find where your true interests lie and what part of a topic you might want to delve into further.
Freewriting can help you generate new ideas about a topic by writing nonstop, without editing, for a set amount of time.
Clustering, or concept mapping, can help you refine your thoughts and narrow the scope of a topic by making a map or diagram of different ideas you associate with a central topic.
A diagram that shows the relationships between concepts. Concepts are written in circles or rectangular boxes, which are connected by arrows that are labeled with phrases such as "is a," "gives rise to," "results in," "is required by," or "contributes to" that denote the relationships between concepts.
A prewriting technique consisting of writing a central idea in a circle on a sheet of paper, adding related ideas around the circle, and connecting them with lines to show how they related to each other.
Writing often feels demanding and difficult because you are doing two seemingly contradictory things at the same time: creating and containing. You want your ideas to flow like a river, swift and strong, but if you pour out your ideas indiscriminately, the river will overflow its banks. You have to be judicious about the amount of information you include and selective with your word choices. Both freedom and structure are necessary to contain and direct the flow.
When you have no idea what to write about, prewriting can help get ideas flowing. Prewriting refers to what you do before you begin writing, whether that's brainstorming, making a concept map, or making an outline. By prewriting, you can give organization and logical coherence to your ideas. You might be tempted to save time by skipping the prewriting stage, but, ultimately, putting a little extra work in at the beginning can save you time—and stress—especially when you're writing a paper close to your deadline. The tools used in the prewriting stage can be used at any point in the writing process to help you clarify your ideas, to help you decide what direction to take, and to nurture creativity when you're feeling stuck.
Brainstorming, freewriting, and clustering are three forms of prewriting that help spark ideas and can move you closer to the heart of what you think and feel about a topic. And, yes, even in an expository composition, heart matters! You're much more likely to write an interesting paper if you care about the topic. Let's explore how these three primary methods work.
You might have heard the phrase, "There are no bad ideas in brainstorming." This is another way of saying that it can be helpful to gather all of your ideas about a topic (even the bad ones) just to get started. This process is called brainstorming. You do this with another person or in a group, and each person contributes thoughts about the subject in a rapid-fire way. Afterwards, you can pick the best ideas and compile a list. Often, in the process of brainstorming, you will discover that many of your ideas are already connected to one another. Having these connected ideas already laid out will help you to form an outline more easily.
Freewriting can come in handy if you have a general topic but are not sure what you want to say about it. The purpose of freewriting is to help you develop ideas spontaneously and naturally. Set yourself a time limit, and then start writing about your topic, recording thoughts in full sentences as they come into your mind. Do not edit as you go or even look back at what you have written, and try to avoid any distractions. Just keep writing as thoughts occur to you.
The goal of clustering, or concept mapping, is to generate lots of ideas about a very broad topic, much like freewriting. You begin by writing down a key word in the middle of a blank page. You continue without pausing to jot down the words you associate with the key word, circling them, and drawing a line to connect them with the key word. As each word triggers new ideas, you write those down, circle them, and connect them with the word that inspired them, radiating out to create a concept map. You can then choose the ideas you think are best suited for your assignment and use the organization of the concept map to guide your writing.
After collecting your ideas, but before turning them into an essay, many people find it helpful to produce an outline. Outlining shows how particular ideas fit—or don't fit—into a cohesive whole. You designate your primary ideas and group subordinate or supporting ideas underneath them. This is the first stage in structuring the essay itself.
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