Preparing for Research

11 Brainstorming


To start our presentation, we began with an activity. The activity entailed the passing of paper out to every student and a broad topic being named out to the class. Next, the students were instructed to write out any ideas or words that came to mind when they heard the topic that was named. The students then crumpled their papers into a ball and tossed them around the room. Then each student picked up a ball of paper off of the floor and read what a previous student had wrote down. They were then instructed to write ideas based off of what was already written on their piece of paper that they had. This rotation occurred three more times. At the end of the activity, we gathered the pieces of paper and read some of them aloud to the class. The idea behind the activity was to show the students that an extremely general topic can be given to you with no background knowledge and you can still think of ideas about the topic. The use of other students’ ideas helped to build new ideas off the previous ones which continued to build as the papers were passed around. It was interesting to see how students were able to make up their own ideas with little to no knowledge on the topic and were able to conclude that they can brainstorm about simply anything, even if they are only given a single word.

Steps of the Activity

  1. We are going to name a topic.
  2. Write down the first thing that comes to your mind.
  3. Crinkle up your paper into a ball.
  4. Throw it somewhere in the room.
  5. Grab someone else’s paper off of the floor.

Fears of Writing

Many students have fears when it comes to writing. The scariest part of writing is usually starting. Thinking of ideas and where to begin is the hardest part and the result of the most stress. Students routinely have thoughts that go through their minds such as, “What if I don’t know anything about the topic?”, and “What if I can’t think of enough to write about?”. These are all normal reactions. However, the mind is full of ideas. Some that students may be unaware that they even have. The idea is to think general. Take the topic assigned and think of broad ideas about it. Begin with that, and students can go in any direction the mind chooses to do so. Being able to start with a general idea makes it easier to connect other ideas and thoughts. Once a student has brainstormed as much as they can, they then continue on to doing research and analyzing information that they will then add to their drafts. Brainstorming isn’t scary, its the best part as there are no constraints and endless possibilities.

Formulating the Topic, Issue and Question

Greene and Lidinsky trace this whole process of defining a topic for argument as follows: identify a broad topic, refine the topic, explain interest in the topic, identify issue within the topic, formulate topic as a question addressing the issue, and acknowledge the audience.

Narrowing Memo

  1. Topic
  2. Issue
  3. Question
  4. Potential Audience
  5. Anticipated Publication type

Asking Questions

In chapter four of Starting with Inquiry, Greene and Lidinsky, there should be no yes or no answers to your question. After a writer has thoroughly explored the issue, he or she can begin refining the topic. This can occur by a series of questions such as “how?”, “why?”, and “should?” This can help identify the constraints of the response, such as “What audience will this writing affect most?”



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Writing @ Saint Leo by Chris Friend is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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