Brainstorming Power: Inventing Your Topic, Thesis
Transcript Brainstorming Power: Inventing Your Topic, Thesis
Brainstorming Power: Inventing
Your Topic, Thesis Statement,
Getting Something on the Page
Also called “prewriting” (also see: “verbal
vomit,” “info dump,” or “shutting off your
brain”) this useful strategy/tool enables
students to “discover” what they know by
loosening up the invention process.
To “free write” a writer will “dump” words
onto the page without concern for getting
the answer “right” or aptness of word
choice, grammar, punctuation, expression.
Once something is on the page the writer
can then add to, extend, erase, complicate,
correct, realign, etc.
Technique: Sit down at computer or
with pencil and paper and just start
writing down what you know, what
you want to know, or what you want
Allow any thought, any
word/sentence, etc slip from the
brain to the paper.
Getting words on paper is what counts.
Some helpful tips:
Natalie Goldberg’s recommendations:
Give yourself a time limit. Write for one or ten or twenty minutes,
and then stop.
Keep your hand moving until the time is up. Do not pause to
stare into space or to read what you've written. Write quickly but
not in a hurry.
Pay no attention to grammar, spelling, punctuation, neatness, or
style. Nobody else needs to read what you produce here. The
correctness and quality of what you write do not matter; the act
of writing does.
If you get off the topic or run out of ideas, keep writing anyway. If
necessary, write nonsense or whatever comes into your head, or
simply scribble: anything to keep the hand moving.
If you feel bored or uncomfortable as you're writing, ask yourself
what's bothering you and write about that.
When the time is up, look over what you've written, and underline
or circle the passages that contain ideas or phrases that might
be worth keeping or elaborating on in a subsequent free-writing
From: Writing Down the Bones
A “Mind Map” is a form of non-linear
diagramming that allows you to work with
ideas visually or build a framework when
you have a large amount of information.
Allows writer to draw on intuition and
Often begins with a central idea or image,
and builds out from there, making
connections, identifying or feeling out
relationships, ordering and narrowing
Can also help with problem solving and
An Example of Mind Mapping
Following Your Own lead
Definition: a preliminary draft or plan.
Often taught as a series of
statements ordered with letters and
Can simply be a series of sentence
fragments and bullet points.
This is your draft, it does not need to
be pretty, happy, perfect, or lovable.
Example of Recent Outline
Discourse communities—processes of acculturation—are students
helped by awareness of crossing between disciplinary
My writing—lot’s of struggle to become a professional writer—
always told was a good writer—some professors seem to mark
pet peeves instead of comments on content—what does that
teach a writer?
My film project—made me talk to people outside academia—could
not talk about theory or readings/books—no shared vocabulary—
made me learn to express very complex ideas in everyday
language—this in turn made me really think about my language
use—am I better writer now? Sometimes. Sometimes still want to
reach for theory-babble.—now difference is that I’m more aware
of myself as a writer.
From first draft (in place of “thesis” statement): “I have no idea
how I’m going to connect the relationship between the film
project and my experience as a writer. Is there a point of
realization I need to dig into—what is the story I want to tell?”
Breaking it Down
My film project: Bliadhna agus Lá
—made me talk to people outside academia
—I had no shared “theoretical” vocabulary with people
I was talking to
— made me change my approach because I could not
talk about theory or readings/books
—made me learn to express very complex ideas in
—this in turn made me really think about my language
—am I better writer now? Sometimes. Sometimes still
want to reach for theory-babble.
—now the difference is that I’m more aware of myself
as a writer.
Start with enough time that you can
produce a really “crappy” draft.
Let your draft “air.” That is, let it sit
for a few hours, a day, a week.
Revise! Rethink! Re-See!
Still stuck? Take a walk, jump up and
down, talk to a friend, come to the
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Writing
University of Richmond Writing Center: