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Writing Center: Getting Started

A guide to information to help you research and write more effectively.


Brainstorming, also called Listing, is a process where you produce a great deal of information in a small amount of time by building on terms that you have already written down.

The Process

  • Write down all the possible terms that are associated with the topic you are considering on a piece of paper. The idea is to not censor yourself and not edit any of your ideas and just write down as many ideas or details as possible.
  • After you have finished generating the ideas, group the ideas or details you have written down into an arrangement that makes sense to you.
  • Next give each group a name or a label. Each of these groups consist of a possible topic with supporting details that can be developed into an essay.
  • From there, write a sentence  summarizing each group. This sentence is to be a possible thesis statement.


Looping builds off of the idea of Free Writing. In Free Writing, you have a specific topic that you are freely writing about. While with th strategy of Looping, there is not a specific topic already designated. The idea is to free write  several ideas while growing narrower in topic each time.

The Process:

  • Start by free writing on the assignment for five to ten minutes. Again, the same rules apply as in Free Writing. Do not censor yourself or edit yourself.
  • When time is up, go back and read over the free writing. Pick out the important or interesting ideas.
  • Start another another free writing session on the ideas you have picked out.
  • Keep going through this process until you have generated a topic that is very specific.

If we take the results from the Free Writing Section above, we can see how Looping builds off of Free Writing. In the Free Writing Section, I narrowed my ideas down to Introduction, Main Points, and Revision/Editing. For each of these topics, I would free write again.


  • Starts out with a quote, anecdote, or catchy line
  • Should go from a general line of thinking to narrow
  • Can include definitions
  • Should tell my readers what my essay is about
  • Has a thesis statement that can come at the end of the Introduction

Main points:

  • Should be points that back up my argument
  • Should have a great deal of evidence to support each
  • Topic sentences should act as main ideas
  • Should spend a great deal fleshing them out


  • Is a process
  • Should always start by revising the contenct and argument
  • Make sure the argument is backed by evidence
  • Should look to see that the argument flows from one point to the next
  • Next, revise for format
  • MLA, APA?
  • Margins
  • Paragraphs are aligned
  • Citing is in correct format
  • Save Grammar for last always

For each of my groupings, I took it a step further by giving supporting details that way I have main points with details to back them.


The Prewriting phase is the starting point for any piece of writing. It is designed to help gather ideas as well as decide on a topic. There are many different form of Prewriting. You can start the Prewriting process by bouncing ideas around with a fellow student or friend. Some even prefer to do this process alone and write down all the ideas that they can come up with on a piece of paper. The important idea is not to to not censor yourself. Write down or say all of your ideas no matter how irrelevant or ridiculous they may seem. Some of the most popular methods of Prewriting include: Brainstorming, Clustering, Free Writing, Looping, and The Jounalist's Questions.


Clustering is also known as concept or idea mapping. It is a form of Prewriting that allows you to see the connection between ideas.

The Process

  • Put the subject or main idea in the middle of the page, and circle the subject.
  • Write down as many ideas that are related to your circled subject and circle those ideas. As you think of ideas that relate to the the newer ideas, link them back to their source.
  • The result of Clustering will look like a giant spider web. Clustering helps you to see the many directions you essay can take and help you decide which direction you like to take in you essay.

Free Writing

Free Writing is a way to generate a great deal of information by writing non-stop about a certain topic. It forces you to focus all your energy on a specific topic while giving you freedom to write whatever comes to mind.

The Process:

  • Give yourself an allotted time to write, whether it is two hours or fifteen minutes.
  • Start writing. Do not stop to correct grammar or spelling just write till time is up. The writing does not have to be fluid. The important thing is to get all your ideas onto paper without stopping.
  • When the allotted time is up, go back over your work and highlight the points that seem significant. This way you can narrow your topic to specific points.


Say that the given topic is how to write an essay. For five minutes I will continually write about how to write an essay.

  • Introdution
  • Start out with a quote, anecdote, or catchy first line
  • Start with general and narrow to the thesis statement
  • List out main points in thesis statement
  • Alot three or so paragraphs to each
  • Conclusion should be a summary of all major points
  • Provide vivid supporting details
  • Revise first for content
  • Revise again for format
  • Edit grammar

In five minutes, I generated these ideas. Now I need to highlight the major points that I wanted to talk about in my essay.

  • Introduction- I want this to be a main point becuase I have a supporting details already that could fall under this category. (Starting out with a quote, general to narrow format, thesis statement)
  • Main point/reasons- My next major point in my essay can be dedicated to the main poits because I have a supporting detail provided. (Alot three or so paragraphs to each and conclusion)
  • Revision/Editing- I should make this a major point because I give a bare bones plan about the revision process.

Free Writing can be a great tool as long as you understand how to write with censoring yourself and understand how to group your ideas.

The Journalist's Questions

When writing articles, Journalists normally ask themselves six questions: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. You can utilize these questions to explore and examine your topic. However, it is important to remain flexible when asking these questions, so that you can generate the information that you are looking for.

The Process:

  • Who? Who are the participants? Who is affected?
  • What? What is the topic? What is the significance of the topic?
  • Where? Where does the activity take place? Where does the issue have its source?
  • When? When did the issue first appear? When is the issue most apparent?
  • Why? Why did the problem arise? Why did the problem develop the way it did?
  • How? How is the problem significant? How does it affect the participant?

The Journalist's Questions are an easy way to generate specific details about a topic. However, it takes practice to know when and how to ask the right questions to generate the information you want.