Brainstorming Techniques

Brainstorming can be a very important tool for beginning a paper. It can help
you form a thesis or come up with ideas on how to elaborate on an existing
thesis. Though a lot of students know what brainstorming is, I’ve noticed many
do not know how to go about doing it. That is why I thought I would share some
of my favorite brainstorming strategies- hopefully there will be at least one
strategy that works for you.

Free Writing

Free writing is a pretty simple brainstorming technique. All you do is write
down (or type). Forget about spelling mistakes or trying to make it sound
perfect, just get the ideas out there. On a computer you can dim the screen so
you can’t see what you’re writing. This allows you to focus less on how it
sounds and looks and more on the actual ideas. Don’t think about what you’re
writing, even if it goes off topic, let your mind wander and your hand translate
that to the page. You might be surprised what sorts of helpful and interesting
ideas you come up with. Designate yourself a time limit, say 10 minutes, and
keep writing for that whole time, no matter if you’ve run out of things to
write, keep going!


Listing is something I use quite frequently when I’m not sure what topic I want
to write about. You start off by writing the main idea down then list all the
things you could say about the main idea. If you’re having a hard time deciding
between two topics, this might show you which one you have more information on.


Webbing is a good technique to use if you’re having trouble making connections.
Write your thesis/main idea in the center of a piece of paper. From there move
out from the center jotting down related words or ideas, and if you run out of
room just grab more paper. It is important not to think too much about what
you’re writing. It’s brainstorming, it doesn’t have to make sense or look
perfect! The idea is to not think too hard, but to just see what your brain
comes up with. From there circle terms and draw lines connecting them to other
terms you see relationships with until you’ve worked through them all. Even if
you end up with some terms with no connections, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t
use them. You can be creative with this technique using different colors,
different shapes, and different lines!

The 6Qs

I can remember using this technique all the way back in elementary school. I
learned about this in fourth grade, and still use it now – it is that
effective! I’m sure you all know what these six questions are: who?, what?,
when?, where?, why?, and how?. Asking yourself and answering these questions,
gives you a lot of ideas and information to write about. The reason this is such
a good strategy is because the questions can be customized to fit with whatever
you’re writing about. Writing about Pearl Harbor? You can ask: Who was involved?
What happened? When did this incident happen? Where did this incident happen?
Why did this happen? How about if you were writing about your favorite band? You
can ask: Who are they? What music do they play? When did they become a band?
Where are they from? Why do you like them so much? How did you hear about them?
You can also use your answers to see how much information you were able to
gather and use it to organize your paper.

There you have it, a few simple brainstorming techniques. The next time you’re
giving a writing assignment, and you feel clueless about what to say, give one
of these a try. You might be surprised how much you already know, and how much
you have to say.

Last Updated: 3/4/2015 4:26 PM