One of the hardest parts of writing is figuring out where to begin. After reading the assigned material and the paper prompt, if you are still not sure how to start, then you should consider a brainstorming activity. Brainstorming describes a number of techniques that you can use to gather your thoughts, to put your ideas onto paper, and to create some kind of order from the chaos of information floating around inside your head.
The Writing Center at UNC-Chapel Hill presents several methods to gather your ideas about a particular topic. Making lists can be one effective way to jot down information. You might start by writing a word or a phrase that relates to your topic, then listing in bullet-point fashion as many ideas or examples that come to mind. If you have already thought of a thesis statement or an argument for the paper, you might want to write down each element of the argument, then list all of the evidence that you can find from the readings or texts to support that part of the argument.
Clustering and mapping can also help you to jot down your ideas and begin to organize them. Write down words, phrases, examples, and ideas that relate to your topic. Then draw lines between items that share some sort of connection. By the end of the exercise, you should have a map or a web of various thoughts, with links drawn between them. This will help to group your ideas together and see different ways to approach the topic.
There is no one “right” way to brainstorm, but lists, clusters, and webs can serve as useful tools to get your ideas onto paper.
Planning is paramount,