How to Brainstorm for an Essay

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One of the most important elements of writing an essay involves the invention process, otherwise known as brainstorming. Brainstorming allows you to thoroughly develop ideas and outline the organization of your essay. Know your assignment first before you begin to brainstorm ideas.

Analyze the assignment. If you are assigned to write a persuasive essay, for example, brainstorm a topic that is debatable, not a topic that is purely informative.

Write down a list of topics relevant to the assignment. If your task is to write about horses, for example, make a list of traits related to horses, such as grooming, feeding and medical concerns.

Create a mind map using your list of topics. Begin by drawing a circle with one term, such as “horses” in the center. Then branch out and include circles with other words relevant to horses, such as feeding, grooming and medical care. Continue branching out from your subtopics to brainstorm additional details.

Narrow your topic. From the mind map, choose one branch as your essay topic and evaluate if it is narrow enough for the assignment. If the assignment is 10 pages, you’ll need a broad topic. If it is three to five pages, you’ll need something more narrow.

Write freely. Once you have decided on a narrow topic, such as medical concerns of horses, begin writing down everything you know about this topic. Set a timer for 10 minutes or more and write without worrying about typos or errors.

  • Keep your mind open to all possible topic ideas when brainstorming. You can cross out any ideas you end up choosing not to use.

Shannon Philpott has been a writer since 1999. She has experience as a newspaper reporter, magazine writer and online copywriter. Philpott has published articles in St. Louis metro newspapers, "Woman's World" magazine, "CollegeBound Teen" magazine and on e-commerce websites, and also teaches college journalism and English. She holds a Master of Arts in English from Southern Illinois University.