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Brainstorming Techniques for Essay Writing

5 Mins read

When you write an essay, you always want it to contain the best ideas you can come up with, and brainstorming is a perfect technique to ensure good results. Many professional writers use this method not only when they’re stuck but also to get the most out of their thinking process. After all, there’s no better way to organize scattering thoughts than to jot them down and have everything right before your eyes. 

That’s why it’s important to know how to brainstorm, which way is the best for you, and why it can take more than one strategy to get it right. Below, you can read about free writing, mind mapping, six questions journalists commonly use, bulleted lists that go well with them, SWOT analysis, and word association. 

Free writing and mind mapping

These are perhaps the most popular among students and professors alike. That’s because they’re simple, reliable, and very likely to leave you with a good result. Why mention them together? Because using them side by side can help you build on the initial ideas faster and get more than just a couple of thoughts. Here’s how it works.

First, you need to sit down and freely write whatever is on your mind regarding the essay topic. You’ll have to do these things to make it productive.

  • Set a time frame of five to fifteen minutes. You can pour your thoughts on the blank sheet for hours, but this process gets you new ideas for a limited period, and it’s usually up to 15 minutes. Most people start to repeat themselves after a quarter of an hour passes, so it’s better to stop before that happens.
  • Alternatively, limit your word count. If deadlines stress you out, you don’t have to suffer under additional pressure. Replace those 15 minutes with around 700-1000 words, and you’re good to go. Since the principle is the same, your results won’t become worse.
  • Get into the right mood. Sometimes people dismiss free writing because they “have nothing to say.” That’s a legitimate problem, and it usually occurs because learners want all of their work to be worthwhile, which is entirely unnecessary during brainstorming. Don’t criticize yourself, just go for it!

After you’ve finished writing, look critically at what you’ve produced. It won’t all be good, and some phrases will be nothing but filler, but you’re sure to find several nice ideas there too. The question is, how to organize them? 

That’s exactly where mind mapping steps in. During that process, you write your custom topic in the center of a diagram and build a scheme showing how the ideas you’ve got relate to that topic. For example, the thought that cats and dogs are enemies will be introductory to the “cats and dogs” theme, while the explanations of why that’s true and what to do about it will stem from the theme, leading to a conclusion.

Six main questions and bulleted lists

These two supplement each other perfectly since you’re likely to need bullet points to answer the standard questions that journalists often use while generating ideas. You might have heard those somewhere. They’re all about who, what, where, when, why, and how things have happened. Such ready-made structures are especially useful when you need to produce many good ideas with minimum filler in a limited time. You start with simple answers and expand them until you’ve got nice points. 

For example, the answer to the “who” question is “cats and dogs.” You can look at this information and decide if your paper is going to explore the rule, the exceptions, the solutions, or all these things at once. Actually, that’s when you might want to utilize bulleted lists since they can help you see each point clearly. The next step will be condensing your outline to what you need to write according to the requirements of your task. Choosing might prove challenging, and sometimes you need to include all of your ideas in really large research essays. However, there are many difficulties alongside the benefits.

Brainstorming sounds easy, but it can make students frustrated since the outcomes aren’t always perfect. Learners might have several sessions using various techniques and end up with one or two arguments that won’t cover their assignment. Such failures are terrible, but it would be unwise to give up on brainstorming just because of them. Sometimes, it’s better to ask your friend, parent, or even teacher to help you begin the process. It doesn’t mean you’re going to claim their ideas, but they might set your cognitive processes in motion. If this option is unavailable, you can always refer to CustomWritings, which is a reliable and fast essay writing service providing students with quality examples to follow.

SWOT analysis and word association

That’s right, SWOT analysis isn’t for marketing specialists only! The abbreviation stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, and analyzing your topic with regard to these concepts will make your academic paper truly well-argued. Let’s see how it applies to our example about cats and dogs.

Strengths. The inherent clash between two species helped people define their separate roles in the households after domestication. 

Weaknesses. The fights between cats and dogs disrupt harmony in many homes and require additional efforts to resolve. Consultations with an animal psychologist are costly.

Opportunities. Following the right guidelines, people can prevent the issues altogether. For example, they need to train cats and dogs to live in peace from a young age.

Threats. Animals can become stressed or insecure if their owners do nothing to make them comfortable together. There are psychological and physical risks.

As you now understand, sometimes there’s only one strength or opportunity, and that’s fine. Moreover, some topics like discrimination against minorities have no strengths at all since those are issues to be addressed. Still, having a SWOT analysis can prove beneficial for further word association since that method will assist you in making your ideas specific and unique. 

You can start with one word or word combination, like “Consultations with an animal psychologist.” Next, you go for the next one that just pops into your head. For example, “unusual.” After doing this several times, you might end up with a question like “Consultations with an animal psychologist are unusual, so is there proof that they really work?” You might not use this formulation in your future essay, but you’ve discovered a necessity to research the effectiveness of such treatment, and that’s something!

It might be the case that you can’t get complex strategies right, no matter how hard you try. All ideas may seem completely senseless, and you wish for someone to show you how good structuring and its final results work. That’s where CustomWritings can also help you, giving you examples you can reuse with all similar essays, boosting your confidence through a hands-on approach.

Bottom line

So, these are some of the most popular and effective brainstorming techniques you can use while creating your essays. This article presents only some of the possible combinations, so don’t be shy and experiment if you feel that’s the best strategy you can think of! For example, it might be fun to apply mind mapping right after you answer those journalistic questions.

Still, if you struggle and can’t really figure it out, that’s alright too. We all have unique cognitive processes, and that means we can sometimes run into an unexpected hurdle where we expect none. In such cases, looking for help online is one of the best options since well-crafted essay samples can improve your skills with fewer additional efforts. 

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