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From Brainstorming Ideas to Organizing Ideas

Brainstorming is the process of generating and recording ideas to help you plan what to write about. Once you've brainstormed, the next step is organization.

Follow these four steps to move from brainstorming to organizing:

  1. Generate ideas.
  2. Analyze the ideas.
  3. Select ideas to write about.
  4. Sequence the ideas.

Be prepared to conduct research throughout this process.

Step 1: Generate Ideas

Depending on how much you already know about the topic, you may find you need start researching before you begin to brainstorm.

Here are four strategies you can use when you're ready to brainstorm:

Listing… Mind Mapping… Freewriting… Questioning…
  • is an inventory of ideas.
  • can be easily adapted to a specific type of writing (such as pro/con lists).

 

  • is a diagram used to visually represent words and ideas linked to a central key word or idea.
  • can help you see the connections among ideas.
  • is an unedited, uninterrupted period of writing.
  • can be useful if your thoughts tend to come from different directions.

 

  • encourages an investigative way thinking about a topic.
  • can help you think about your topic from different angles.

 

The goal of these strategies to get ideas out of your head and onto paper.  It doesn't matter how good they are or how neat it is – just write everything down.

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Step 2: Analyze the Ideas

Start thinking about which ideas can be grouped together. Use arrows or colour code to start grouping these related topics.

Next, expand on your ideas by clarifying or explaining further. As you're looking at the ideas, think about any examples you can use to support those ideas and jot them down. You may need to conduct some more research at this point to find additional sources to support your ideas. Be sure to track your sources so you can cite and reference later.

Step 3: Select Ideas to Write About

It's now time to decide which ideas best support your argument or purpose. Consider these questions:

  • Does the idea prove the point I am trying to make?
  • Is the idea necessary for my reader to understand the topic?

At this point, get rid of ideas that are vague or don't directly address your topic. Develop the remaining ideas with more detail and explanations. If you need more material, do more research.

Step 4: Sequence the Ideas

You can now start deciding the order of the information. There are various ways to sequence information. These sequencing methods can apply to paragraph order, but they can also be used to sequence the points within each paragraph.

Logically

First, consider whether there is a logical development of ideas. For example, if your audience needs to know about one of your points in order to understand another, then it is necessary to organize the information accordingly.

For a report, it is often logical to move from general information, such as background, to more specific information.

Chronologically

If your information is related to time (for example, historical analysis, the background of a company, etc.), then it makes sense to organize information chronologically. In other words, ideas move from past to present.

Strategically

If neither of the above two sequences apply, you can organize information strategically so that your strongest points stand out. There are two ways to do so:

  • weakest point(s), stronger point(s), strongest point(s)
  • stronger point(s), weakest point(s), strongest point(s)

Now that you have your ideas and know how to organize them, you can begin outlining. Once you have completed your outline, use our Moving from Outlining to Paragraph resource to help you form your paragraphs.