After you have undergone the process of working through the expectations of the assignment and selecting a topic, it is time to brainstorm. generates the ideas that will eventually become your thesis and supporting points (for more on thesis statements, check out our page of tips). Developing a clear thesis will help you know what to write and how to organize it. If you have writer’s block or do not know where to begin, brainstorming can be especially helpful. Find out more in the Preparing to Write handout.
Try using the Socratic Method of Questioning to help you brainstorm. Although the Socratic method normally involves a dialogue, with one person asking questions and another responding, you could consider using the questions provided in the handout as a guide for developing your arguments. For example, you could go through each of the questions and write down possible answers. From there, you may notice that more information on a topic may be needed; perhaps there exists some controversy around a topic and you want to explore this further; or you may form your own opinion on a topic that you then want to persuade readers to share with you. These are good places to start focusing your argument.
You may also want to consider some common phrases in the Academic Phrasebank. Common phrases used to introduce arguments, critique writing, or write a conclusion, for example, may help prompt your own ideas.
After you have brainstormed, it is necessary to place your ideas into categories and to select an arrangement for these categories. As with every aspect of the writing process, the method of organizing and the type of outline vary depending on individual preferences as informed by the assignment and the discipline. Find out more in the Organizational Strategy handout. You could also use the Essay Organizer to organize the main topics in your paper.
1. What is the subject of your paper?
2. What background information, definitions, or context does the reader require in order to follow your paper?
3. What is the thesis (perspective), or what is your research question/hypothesis?
4. What organizational strategy most effectively conveys your points to the reader? List each point.
a. Create a topic sentence for each point.
b. Determine the evidence required to convince the reader of each point.
5. With what ideas do you want to leave your reader? What ideas should be reinforced? What are the implications of these ideas?