How to Brainstorm for an Essay

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07.11.2022 in Tips for Students

Brainstorming for an essay is an essential stage of gathering ideas for an essay. It is one of the prerequisites how to make the paper well-organized and logically structured. If you are interested in getting some valuable tips for brainstorming essay ideas, read the article presented below.

Brainstorming and How to Do It Properly

Brainstorming is vital when you start writing your paper. It does not matter whether you feel that writing is not your passion or consider yourself a super writer, brainstorming helps in creating a brilliant paper. Generally speaking, brainstorming means generating certain ideas on a given subject in order to sort and choose the main concepts. The result of brainstorming is a number of phrases, words or even concepts that are related to the chosen subject or topic

The Process of Brainstorming for an Essay

  1. You have to get ready for it. Take a pen and a piece of paper or simply turn on your PC as you will have to write down all your ideas and thoughts. Pay attention to your workplace as it plays a crucial role for the process of brainstorming ideas. Thus it has to be comfortable and clean.   
  2. Setting a deadline is also important. At first, it may seem that if you spend more time on generating ideas, brainstorming will be more effective. However, 20 minutes are usually enough.   
  3. Focus on your topic or subject and try to write down every thought and idea that comes up in your head. Do not try to organize your ideas and thoughts at this stage. It will only have a negative impact on the process. Plain writing has to be done at this stage.
  4. After you feel that all your thoughts are written down, go through the list. Now you are free to reorganize all your written ideas and thoughts. Select the most important ideas that can help you write an informative essay. Then you have to structure the selected ideas according to their level of importance.  
  5. In case you are sure that the list of ideas and thoughts is sufficient for writing an A-grade essay, begin creating an outline of your future paper.

How to Brainstorm for an Essay?

Still do not know how to brainstorm ideas? We can help you with that as there is a number of techniques used for brainstorming. They help to make the writing process easier. Such techniques are usually divided into those used by a team who work on the same topic or by an individual writer who writes a paper on his/her own. The following are some of the popular brainstorming techniques:

  • Mapping the mind. The technique organizes your ideas through using pre-generated thoughts. In order to create a mind map, one has to write down the main idea in the center and circle it around. After that, ideas that refer to the main one should be written down in little circles and connected to the main circle. The same should be done with each smaller idea. Mapping the mind helps in framing all your ideas and identifying their connection. 
  • Techniques of free writing. While using this method, start writing all your ideas in a free and uncensored way. Stop thinking where your thoughts can lead you. The only task you have to do is to write down everything that comes to your mind. Free writing technique involves writer’s subconsciousness during the creative process.  
  • Start asking questions. Asking questions about the topic or subject instead of writing on the topic is another useful technique. Ideas for writing the paper will start generating when you answer all your questions.
  • The technique of role storming. Try to imagine that you are a different person. It will help you think about the required topic from a different point of view. Sometimes, such technique can be useful for brainstorming strong ideas.
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Even though this article mainly deals with team brainstorming, you may still find some effective strategies of brainstorming for an essay. For example, when gathering ideas for the paper, ask yourself what would make the paper appealing to the audience – and then write a list of ideas that might make the paper interesting. Afterwards, ask yourself where you are heading with the idea and try to collect further ideas for making the topic even more engaging. In this way, the brainstorming strategies work. When brainstorming, be sure not to rely merely on books, articles, and other scholarly sources but also on ideas of other people, so do not be afraid or shy to ask about others’ ideas or opinions. After you have gathered the necessary number of ideas, take a break and then switch over to the process of organizing them into a coherent paper.

Remember that brainstorming for an essay is not about perfection, so do not expect to provide an impeccable draft at first. You may just write the ideas into your notebook even when they seem to be illogical. Once you write them all down, you will be able to draw connections between them and find out how they match the paper topic. Some of them may initially seem silly to you but it does not mean that you should stop and wait for some perfect ideas. On the brainstorming stage, write down everything that comes to your mind.

Five Essay Brainstorming Strategies for Writers

Brainstorming writing is effective when you cannot gather enough ideas for your essay writing or, on the contrary, when you have too many ideas to fit them all and develop them in a paper. With the help of brainstorming, you can get a clear and vivid picture of all ideas you have, you can organize them properly, and also decide which of them are worth consideration and which are not. Still, you should remember one of the core brainstorming methods – not just to evaluate the ideas but also enumerate. Read more about the strategies of brainstorming for students:

1. Cubing

Just like the cube has six points, you have to explore the paper topic or central idea from six main perspectives or viewpoints. First, provide a description of the topic and define what it is like. Second, compare it with the other subject areas and pinpoint to the differences and similarities between them. Third, provide associations you have with the topic, i.e. what the topic makes you think of. Fourth, provide the topic analysis, for example, what the topic constitutes of. Fifth, pinpoint to the practical application of the topic. Sixth, provide an argument for or against it, i.e. whether you support the topic or oppose it.

Cubing technique for brainstorming is a kind of critical thinking analysis that was developed for students as a means of expressing their opinions in essays. Still, this strategy can also be adjusted to general writing.


A similar technique to cubing is the one that explores only three perspectives:

  • description of the topic, its constituents, challenges, and features, as well as its comparison and contrast with the other topics;
  • exploration of the topic background or history (i.e. the topic evolution or development);
  • analysis of similar topics or the topics that closely relate to your essay topic.

2. Free writing

This is one of the brainstorming steps that is particularly effective when you do not know where to start or what to write about in general. You just need to write anything that comes to your mind even if you do not know how it sounds. When practicing free writing, make sure you have quantitative goals, for example, to write down ideas without stopping for 3 or 5 minutes or to write 300 or 500 words without a pause, etc. When free writing, do not intend to write everything in a flawless way – in other words, do not pay attention to grammar, punctuation or spelling mistakes – just write.

3. Provide lists

If you are working on an essay or a review, you may also use lists as means of gathering ideas. If you are working on creative writing, such as a story, provide a list of ideas or chapters you would like to include. Sometimes, it can be enough to provide a list of keywords and then return to them – they will serve as a notification for the idea you want to develop. If you are working on some creative fiction story, you may jot down names of people, places, ideas or emotions that will enable you to recall the necessary information in the process of writing.

4. Mapping

This brainstorming step is also known as webbing or clustering. Unlike the other brainstorming methods, this brainstorming for writing relates to graphic means of gathering ideas. So, take a board or a piece of paper and list the ideas separately. Afterwards, think of what connections they may have between one another. You may use different colors for grouping ideas, circles, underlining, etc.

The process of producing a map depends on your creativity, original thinking, and design skills. The visual representation of the map may differ but make sure that you list down all the possible ideas for your paper.

5. Researching

After you have got the topic for writing, you might as well gather ideas from researching or reviewing literature. Therefore, be sure to devote yourself sufficient time in order to browse through the online libraries and databases. Pay consideration to both primary and secondary sources. Be sure to outline the key points of the topic you plan to look up further.

If you plan to produce some kind of fiction writing, be sure to investigate more information about the place, where the story would take place, the culture, the country, traditions, etc. If it is a historical novel or story, pay specific attention to history, social structure, and general atmosphere. Pay attention to how people dressed, what transport they used, how they looked overall, etc.

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Thesis Brainstorming Techniques for Students

When brainstorming for an essay, it is essential to find out what part of brain is active – right or left.

1. Brainstorming for right brains

When it comes to right-brained thinkers, they find it easier to perceive creatively presented information. For example, they like patterns, shapes, diagrams, and tables more than plain text. So, the best brainstorming technique for right-brain thinkers is mind mapping. Therefore, to start the process, it is necessary to take different stickers, pieces of paper, tape, glue, colored pens, highlighters, etc. The process of brainstorming for right brains takes the shape of an artistic performance.

Start brainstorming ideas by putting the central idea in the center of the paper. Afterwards, write down ideas relating to the central issue or topic. Do not try to follow a specific pattern – just jot down the ideas. If it seems to you that there is nothing to write about, start asking yourself specific questions, such as “what,” “who,” “when,” “why,” and “how.” When you do so, it will be more likely to gather a few more ideas. When you gather ideas, do not worry that you may repeat them – just go on with jotting them down. Only when you feel that your brain is really empty for ideas, you may take a break from writing. It is advisable to take a break after brainstorming and return to the writing process later – you will be surprised how the ideas form in some regular patterns. When you notice that a few ideas are repetitive, highlight them in one color – you will definitely know that these ideas are worth considering for the topic sentences as subtopics. When you notice some other repetitive or related ideas, draw them in the other color. Be sure to come up with a specific pattern and use one color for one group of ideas.

In this way, you will form the basis for the paper. Now you can start crafting a well-organized paper from the bunch of disorganized ideas.

2. Brainstorming for left brains

If you have read the description of the brainstorming above and it made you sweat, then you are definitely not a right-brain thinker. Nothing to worry about – it is just that the above-mentioned brainstorming techniques do not work for you. If you are not comfortable with visuals and the chaos that is brought with them, you need to search for some other brainstorming techniques.

So, start with writing down the title of your paper at the top of a piece of paper. Now think of the three or four major topic constituents that can serve as the main arguments for this paper. These ideas can also be chosen as subtopics. If the ideas are to broad, think of the subtopics and the ways of breaking them into smaller sections.

Provide titles of the subtopics and leave space between them. When gathering ideas for each of subtopic or argument, be sure to list them in a numbered or bullet-pointed list. So far, do not worry about the logical connections and transitions between the ideas and paragraphs. Think of the coherence and logical connections within the paper only after you finish collecting the ideas and take a break from work. When you feel that you have written down all ideas, be sure to take a break and only afterward start working on the smooth and coherent essay. This is actually how you produce an outline for your paper.

3. Brainstorming strategy for everyone

Some students like to use the Venn diagram for organizing ideas and thoughts. To follow this brainstorming strategy, you have to draw two circles that intersect. Each circle should be entitled with the name of the topic/ subject that you would like to compare. Afterward, fill the circles (below the title) with the words relating to the ideas that each of the compared subjects possesses. In the intersecting field, please provide words that refer to the mutual characteristics.

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