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How Do I Get Started? - Four Strategies for Collecting Ideas

As they begin writing, some students feel they have too many ideas; other students feel they don't have any good ideas. Now is the time to collect ideas, not judge them. The following strategies can help you discover what you already know and what you need to find out. Using either paper or a computer, try to collect ideas by:

  • Fastwriting, meaning rough writing for a few minutes, on a topic or even about possible topics.
  • Mapping, or clustering, is a way to visually represent relationships to your topic. Write the topic in the middle of a piece of paper. Then write related concepts around the topic until you have a map or cluster of ideas.
  • Brainstorming, or listing, is another way to quickly note the concepts related to your topic or essay question. Don't worry about editing or even sentences; just list ideas as fast as you can!
  • Question what you want to learn and/or what a reader needs to know. Asking questions can reveal the complexity of a topic and your level of interest in it.