By Peter J. Francis, HGPublishing Editor
There are many different brainstorming techniques. I'm a linguistic type learner, which means I like to use words. So I usually write down ideas in the order I might want to talk about them. I usually end up moving them around. You can do this on your computer, which is helpful for your outline (see step 4), but I like to do it on a blank piece of paper with lots of arrows and other visual aids. If you are more of a visual learner, you can use a bubble format.
Here's how a bubble format works: You put your main idea in the middle of a circle and then put down the next level of ideas connected with a single line to the main bubble. Next you think about each of those ideas and see if you can get some other ideas that are connected to them. Each smaller bubble could become a paragraph in your essay. When the sheet is done you can list the ideas in the order you might want to put them in your essay. This will become the basis for your outline.
Below is a brainstorm sheet for an essay on Gun Control. Notice that I've included both a pro and anti topics. Each topic has two points. You would have to evaluate the pros and cons of each point in your essay to prove your thesis.
Another way to brainstorm is just to take a blank piece of paper and write down every idea you have, no matter how crazy. In a history essay, you might list ideas of different experts and try to find some points where they are the same or different. Your history essay could support one over the other. Once you know which one you support, you can go looking for more information to support that point of view. Your brainstorm can support your research in that way. Once you start to have an idea of what you want to say, your research efforts can be more directed. It's not much use doing a google search for "gun control"; you will receive millions of pages. But when you are ready to search for statistics on "deaths from handguns" you can find the information you need very quickly.
To outline a compare/contrast essay you would make two columns. One column would have points from one source. The other column would have points from the other source. You could make a grid with four boxes. The top two boxes would be points where the two sources disagreed. The bottom two boxes would be points where the two sources agreed.
All the material (ie: specific references to the text or to critics of the text) you wish to talk about and your ideas make up your outline.
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