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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 yourself. Use these exercises to generate a number of different questions and ideas for you to choose from when formulating your topic.
Brainstorming can help you find where your true interests lie and what part of a topic you want to delve into further.
Freewriting helps you generate new ideas and questions about a topic by asking you to write nonstop without editing for a set time period.
Clustering (or concept mapping) helps you refine ideas and narrow the scope of a topic by making a map or diagram of different things you associate with a central topic.
A diagram showing concepts drawn in rectangular boxes, which are connected by arrows with labels—such as "is a," "gives rise to," "results in," "is required by," or "contributes to"—that denote the relationships between concepts.
Writing often feels demanding and difficult because it's asking us to do two apparently contradictory things at the same time: create and contain. 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 with the amount of information you include and selective with your word choices. A strongly flowing river is one that has banks to contain and direct the flow. Both freedom and structure are necessary.
When you have no idea what to write about, prewriting can help get ideas flowing. "Prewriting" essentially defines all the work you put in before you begin writing, whether that's making an outline, brainstorming, or making a concept map. 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—when you're writing the paper closer 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, decide which direction to take, and nurture creativity when you're feeling stuck.
Brainstorming, freewriting, and clustering are three forms of prewriting that help spark ideas and move us deeper toward the heart of what we 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're writing about something you care about. 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 list all of your ideas about a topic (even the bad ones) just to get started. This process is called brainstorming. Later, you can pick and choose the best of the ideas that you came up with in your rapid-fire list.
Freewriting will come in handy if you have a general topic but are not sure what you want to say about it. Get a pen and paper (or open a blank computer document) and set yourself a time limit. Then start writing about your general topic, recording thoughts as they come into your mind. Do not edit as you go, or even look back at what you have written. Just keep moving as thoughts occur to you. The purpose of freewriting is to develop ideas spontaneously and naturally.
Clustering, or concept mapping, is when you write down a very broad topic or idea and then make a concept map, in which you diagram smaller ideas or categories that go into the central topic. The goal of clustering, much like freewriting, is to come up with lots of different possibilities. Then you can choose which ones you think are best suited for your assignment.