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Freewriting and clustering are two forms of brainstorming; both can help you take a general topic and make it more specific.
Create a brainstorming session with a partner or book and record ideas generated from the session.
Define freewriting and explain how to use it to help you generate ideas about your topic
Develop your topic idea with clustering
During pre-writing exercises, it is important to record everything that comes to mind without editing yourself during the process. Use the tools to generate many 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 is an exercise that 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) is an exercise that 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 the relationships among concepts, with the concepts drawn in rectangular boxes, which are connected with labelled arrows that denote the relationships between concepts, such as "is a," "gives rise to," "results in," "is required by," or "contributes to. "
Writing often feels demanding and difficult because it's asking us to do two apparently contradictory things simultaneously: create and discern. You want your ideas to flow like rain pouring into a river, swift and strong, but if you jumble all those ideas into a paper, you'll lose your audience quickly. You have to be judicious with the amount of information and selective with both content and word choices. A strongly flowing river is one that has banks to contain and direct the deluge. Both are needed: freedom and structure.
Pre-writing exercises help get ideas flowing. The tools used in the pre-writing stage can be used at any point in the writing process to help you clarify your ideas, decide which direction to take, and infuse creativity when you're feeling stuck.
Brainstorming, free writing, and clustering are three forms of pre-writing 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.
Brainstorming is useful for finding your place of interest in a larger topic. The technique can take many forms, but perhaps its most effective is drawing on the power of interaction. We've all had those great conversations where what someone says sparks an idea or memory in someone else, which then sparks a further idea, and before you know it, everyone is feeling energized and uplifted. You can create one of those conversations about the topic of your paper. Just start a chat with a friend or a group about the topic and have your pen and notebook handy. Jot down notes as the conversation progresses and you hear ideas that spark your interest. For an essay on the women's movement of the 19070s, you might generate the following list by talking with friends or calling your mother:
Another way to do this would be to read an article or a book chapter on the topic and write down whatever occurs to you as you read, even if it has nothing to do with the text. You're interacting with the text like you might interact with a person, letting the author's ideas spark new thoughts in you.
Once you've generated a lot of ideas through brainstorming, you can choose a few of them to do further pre-writing exercises with to eventually create your thesis statement.
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 up a blank computer document) and set a timer for fifteen minutes. 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 your pen moving. If you don't know what to write, just write the topic name until something new comes to you.
Consider this example, a two-minute freewrite on the topic "Revenge in Hamlet:"
"People say Hamlet is a play about revenge, but is revenge successful if he dies at the end? Is killing Claudius enough to make Hamlet happy? Did he succeed at anything, or did he just destabilize Denmark further? Fortinbras seems like a better king - at least he is interested in government. But he isn't the rightful ruler, which is part of why Hamlet was upset with his uncle in the first place. Or was he? Is he more upset about the murder or the usurpation? Does he want to rule or just to get revenge? Is his quest for vengeance the act of a justice-seeking prince or are revenge and rulership at cross-purposes? "
There are a few good things to notice about this freewrite. First, the paragraph has many more questions than observations or answers. Freewriting is not a place to work out answers to questions, but rather to generate questions and ideas to choose from.
The other thing to notice is the general trajectory of the paragraph. The different questions in that paragraph are connected to each other, albeit very loosely. Freewriting does not need to be organized, but you may find that you end up touching on one line of thought again and again. There is a significant difference between the starting point of "Is Hamlet's revenge successful?" and the final questions of "Does Hamlet want to get revenge or become a ruler?" and "Can you seek revenge and be a ruler?" All three are different approaches to the same broader question, though.
You can then begin to refine your topic. "Hamlet does not successfully achieve his goal of vengeance," is one idea. Another might be, "Hamlet fulfills his stated goal of killing Claudius, but since he leaves Denmark without a king he ultimately fails at correcting the wrong he wanted to correct." Both ideas are far more focused than what you started with.
If you are having trouble breaking a big topic down into smaller ones, you might want to try clustering.
Clustering involves writing down a very broad topic or idea and then free associating with that topic, making a concept map in the process.
Say you are writing a paper that teaches some aspect on the topic of gardening. The question is, what aspect of gardening will you choose?
You write "Gardening" in the center of the paper and then draw a line and make a bubble in which you write the word "Planting." That's the first thing that came to mind. It occurs to you that you could either plant a plant or grow plants from seeds, so you draw a line from planting and write "plant starts" and another line to "seeds." The question comes to your mind, "Where do I get the seeds, or the starts?" So you draw another line from "Gardening" and write "Purchasing" with lines to bubbles saying "seeds" and "starts." You notice that the choice between seeds and starts comes up for both "Planting" and "Purchasing," so you draw a line between these areas and put a question mark over a bubble saying, "How to choose?"
In this way, you can break your general topic down from "explaining gardening" to something like "How to choose between starting a food garden from seed or from starts."
The goal of clustering, much like freewriting, is to come up with lots of different possibilities. Then you can choose which ones interest you most and are best suited for the assignment.
As your creativity is freed up, you may come up with new pre-writing exercises on your own. The important thing is that your mind is freed and you can get let yourself get deeply curious about the topic to find your preferred topic. If one way doesn't inspire, try another, until you find passion in your topic.
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Take a broad topic and make a concept map, which diagrams smaller ideas that go into the broad idea., Begin with a topic and write non-stop about that topic without looking back at what you've written., Write short descriptions of characters to clarify their motivations., or Write a thesis sentence, followed by bullet points with topics for each of the body paragraphs.
A style of academic writing that involves a slow, thoughtful composition of thoughts., An exercise that helps you refine your ideas by making a map., An exercise in which you write whatever comes to mind when you think of a text or topic., or An exercise in which you write a draft of your paper rapidly, from start to finish.