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Ideation (Brainstorming)

This guide covers the mechanics and techniques of the brainstorming process to generate ideas for your writing.


What is Brainstorming?

Brainstorming, or ideation, is the process of generating ideas about a topic.

The following image represents one example of the many options or generating ideas. Webbing/clustering can lead to large graphs, sometimes spanning several pages.*

In this case, the main topic is "key influences," and it is listed in the center of the web. The student divided what they believe to be their key influences into four categories- work life, friends, family, and media. From there, the student thought of different elements in each category. 

Image shows "key influences" in the center in a spiderweb design leading to four primary ideas: work life, family, friends, and media. Each of those four factors leads to another part of the web where additional sub-categories are listed.


*Librarian tip: Post-it notes on a flat surface (wall, table, poster board) can help you brainstorm and rearrange ideas easily without the need for an eraser!

Brainstorming is part of the planning phase of the writing process. To read more about the elements of the writing process, we recommend the following resource:


Benefits of brainstorming include:

  • Moving ideas "out of your head" so you don't forget about them. You never know when you might have to revisit the planning phase of the writing process!
  • Giving you multiple directions for your topic in case you hit a dead end.
  • Showing you "what's out there" on your topic. Using the brainstorming phase to see what kind of research resources are available early in the writing process can save you a lot of time later!