This article will provide you with 10 awesome foolproof prewriting strategies and techniques to boost your creativity!
Here is a flow of our guide:
Writing any paper can turn into a challenge if you aren’t prepared enough. Once and for all, forget the idea that you’ll come up with a great A+ or at least B paper if you spend two or three hours working on it. In addition to writing a paper, you need to engage in prewriting strategies and techniques, which will considerably increase your chances for an excellent grade.
What is prewriting?
The definition of prewriting is as simple as it gets.
Prewriting is everything you do before you actually start writing your paper. Prewriting takes place after you’ve figured out the topic of your assignment and before writing.
Consider prewriting as preparing ingredients for a dish before starting to cook it: having the best ingredients is the most important recipe for success! Prewriting definition may seem easy and simple, while there is a lot more to it than just researching sources and cleaning your desk.
What does prewriting do for you? Here’s what:
- Sets the foundation for future writing
- Helps you develop understanding of the topic
- Helps you set out the structure of the paper
- Helps you understand the main idea of the paper
- Helps you learn how to quickly and effectively browse and process different sources
- Helps to get over the most difficult step in writing a paper — starting the actual work.
By all means, the benefits of prewriting are undeniable, so let’s find out how prewriting fits into your general writing strategy.
What is a writing strategy?
Prewriting is an essential element of your writing strategy. You might wonder: what is a writing strategy? Writing strategy is how you organize your writing process. Writing strategy includes your tools, techniques, attitude, and perception of the process of writing.
The importance of prewriting strategy for writing strategy is difficult to overestimate because prewriting is what transforms just writing into writing well. If you think that writing well is a talent and can’t be acquired, it may be true for Stephen King and J.K.Rowling, but for high school and college papers it is a skill that is developed.
After you’re done reading this article, you’ll be an ace in prewriting and get all its benefits. Without further ado, let’s get right into it!
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Prewriting strategies and techniques
Prewriting will require less effort than writing, however if you focus on prewriting well and dedicate enough time for it, you’ll save time and stress while writing the actual paper. So grab yourself a nice cup of coffee if you like and pick a prewriting strategy or type of prewriting that works for you!
Figuring out your writing style
This prewriting strategy is often skipped in prewriting guidelines, but it is a very important one, which is why it is the first in this list. Your writing style can make or break a great essay, which is why it is important and even critical to choose the right one.
How to choose writing style? Just answer the following questions:
- Is my topic sensitive? (e.g. abortion, racism, sexuality, domestic violence, etc)
- Who is my audience? (e.g. does your professor encourage expressing opinion or values in-depth research and analysis of already existing sources?)
- What other writers say about this topic? (i.e. pay attention to the writing style of articles on your topic)
Basically, all you need to do is determine how much of a sensitive topic your topic is and whether you are required to stick to the rubric or are able to reflect your own opinion on the matter. It is important to maintain writing style consistent and pay attention to the factors such as audience, because your grade depends on it.
Reviewing literature and making notes
Nothing will benefit you more during your writing process as knowing what you’re writing about. To tell the truth, it is pretty obvious for readers if a writer has little understanding of the topic because of increased risk of logical mistakes and wrong conclusions. To make sure that your knowledge of the topic you’re writing about is solid, do the following:
- Pick different sources and browse them. To know if a source is relevant, just read the first sentence or two in newspaper articles, abstract in the beginning of an academic article, or chapter summary for books.
- Save sources that are suitable or at least seem suitable. You can make a draft reference list to make it easier.
- Make notes. Found something especially interesting and valuable? It can be an idea, abstract, or definition. Make a note what it is and where to find it!
These simple steps will help you figure out your topic better and create some background for future writing. If other strategies below seem too difficult to even start for you as a prewriting beginner, this strategy is foolproof and must-try because it is so easy to do and extremely effective. This strategy will also do best if you are under time pressure and don’t have enough time to spare for other, more time-consuming prewriting techniques.
A good writer analyzes many sources and includes different opinions. A great writer questions everything in every source. As a researcher, you shouldn’t take anything you read about for granted, especially if the topic you’re writing about is controversial to some extent. Every idea can be argued and disputed, while often you can find opposite views on the exact same issue. For instance, you could say that coffee is good because it increases productivity and focus, while someone else could argue that it is bad because it is addictive and negatively affects quality of sleep. Your task as an active reader and critical reader is to:
- Research every argument that is key to your research
- Search for evidence that support certain arguments
- Before forming the main idea, search for evidence that support it
- Compare and contrast different opinions in the topic
- Question everything
The questions you might want to ask while reading every specific source are as follows:
- Do I agree with the author’s opinion? Why or why not?
- Is there enough evidence to convince me that the author is right?
- Does this source provide quality evidence or just speculates?
- Is there a real-life situation that can illustrate author’s point of view?
- Does the author leave any question unanswered?
- Does the author’s point of view contradict the generally accepted belief?
- Relying on the evidence, can an alternative conclusion be made?
- Are provided evidence that author’s conclusion directly and logically connected?
- Are there other sources that prove author’s opinions and conclusions wrong?
- Does the author ignore some important issues that need to be addressed?
While doing critical reading, remember that nothing is written in stone and any idea can be somehow argued, while you need to critically evaluate every source.
Answering journalist’s questions (5W)
This prewriting strategy is for those of you who prefer things organized, yet creative. To set things straight, it is 5W+H rather than 5W that will give you the full picture. This prewriting strategy is a fun and effective one to do because it is so simple and implies sorting arguments in specific categories. All you need to do is find answers to the following questions (you’ve already probably guessed what they are):
- Who? Consider who is affected by the issue, who caused it, who contributed somehow, who will be affected in the future, who are the involved parties.
- What? Investigate what the problem is, what are its causes, why it is significant and worth researching.
- When? Research when the problem occured or first took place, what was its development over time, and when it is important to make steps to solve it.
- Where? Consider the place where the issue occurred, the area it affected somehow, and where it will develop in the future if certain steps are made or not made.
- Why? Investigate the underlying causes of the problem, prerequisites of why it occurred, why it is important to take action and research, and why it should concern the public.
- How? Research the ways the issue can be resolved, how can solutions be developed, and how can favorable circumstances be created for its successful solution.
While using this prewriting technique, you’ll find that preparing for writing an essay or research paper is much easier because all your arguments are now sorted 100% and easy to navigate. It’ll definitely help you see the full picture and make a basis for a great paper!
Brainstorming (aka listing)
Either you’ve done some preliminary research or reading on your topic or not, brainstorming will be a great choice for you if you find it difficult to clarify the subject. By all means, it is best to brainstorm right after you’ve done some research and your mind is full with different ideas and concepts that are asking to be documented!
To brainstorm as a part of your prewriting technique, follow these recommendations:
- Write down everything that comes to your mind about your topic
- Don’t set limitations for what can be written down and not — it will disrupt creative process and possibly you’ll risk leaving the best ideas out of the future writing
- Don’t bother about sequence of events
- Forget about grammar while brainstorming
- Draw pictures or schemes if that’s what you find convenient
- Trust your gut feeling while writing down ideas — you might come up with something brilliant letting your creativity go wild!
Brainstorming might be not for everyone, but it is certainly worth a shot! It is a simple method of prewriting that will actually help you understand how much you know about the topic and probably create a great idea for your paper.
This prewriting strategy is unfairly neglected by students who don’t know its true potential and see it as a useless part of additional work. The good news is that you will be able to effectively use outlining as a great prewriting technique because you’ll know its awesome advantages:
- Outlining will help you structure your paper — you won’t miss any point and include every single argument
- You’ll feel safe having an outline before starting to write the paper — the first step will be made and you’ll know exactly what to write about
- Outline will let you understand immediately what needs to be researched more in-depth — you will know exactly how much time you’ll need for additional research
- Outline can be whatever you need it to be — from a simple plan to complex plan with bullet points
- Outline can be created during literature review or afterwards — either way it won’t take more than 5min.
Now that you know all the benefits of outlining, give it a try the next time you’ll work on a paper — it will justify the little time you’ll spend creating it!
This prewriting technique is for those of you out there who are visual learners. If you learn best from diagrams, charts, and illustrations, then this prewriting strategy is for you. Сlustering will help you arrange your topic in a way that will allow you to see all the elements that will further be used to create your final paper. To give you a glimpse of what clustering can look like, here’s a sample diagram:
All you need is take your pen or pencil and a sheet of paper or create such diagram on your laptop. The only requirement to such diagram is that you are able to understand it, other than that it doesn’t matter how it looks like. While writing an essay or research paper, just check your diagram once in a while to see if you’ve covered all points.
If you find that other strategies aren’t suitable for you because you don’t see the full picture, try freewriting. This prewriting strategy is self-explanatory — you just write everything you want referring your topic, forming an abstract of text.
Freewriting is similar to brainstorming in sense that you should be able to express all your ideas in the abstract, which later will help you figure your paper out. Scroll up a bit and look through the recommendations for brainstorming — they all apply to freewriting as well!
Here’s an example of a short free writing paragraph written about coffee:
This paper is about health effects of drinking coffee. I was a huge coffee drinker myself, but quit it completely few months ago. I’ve read a lot about health benefits of drinking coffee, especially freshly ground coffee. In particular, coffee contains antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that are essential for our body to function. Coffee has also been found to lower the risk of developing gallstones, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, asthma attacks, cirrhosis of the liver, and heart rhythm issues. However, I’m used to questioning everything and huge coffee drinking trend seems like it is more and more people drink it not only because of benefits, but because it is a trend. Such companies as Starbucks promote drinking coffee as a ritual and something modern person can’t be without. It is easy to understand why so many people drink coffee as a part of their daily routine — coffee is a great stimulant. As for me, I’ve experienced that caffeine gradually stopped working. In addition, I also experienced such negative effects of drinking coffee as changes in sleep pattern, increased blood pressure, stains on teeth, heartburn, and restlessness. Despite that caffeine addiction is not scientifically proven, I experienced severe coffee dependence and withdrawal syndrome after quitting. I believe in this essay I need to find facts that suggest that drinking coffee isn’t as advantageous for humans as the media tells us. Besides, how did our ancestors and even our grandfathers and grandmothers lived without it, worked without the need for additional kick of caffeine, and were healthy?
Overall, freewriting is a great prewriting technique to organize your thoughts and understand what you want to write about and focus on.
Journaling is among more time-consuming prewriting techniques alongside freewriting and looping. In essence, journaling is a fancy word for making notes. The trick here is to write down ideas and facts immediately as you come across them. To journal, make sure to:
- Keep a notebook open and pen ready to write something down any time during your research.
- While researching and browsing, stop whenever you feel like you’ve found something valuable.
- Organize your notes as bullet points, preferably including the source you take the idea from or which inspired you.
- Don’t limit yourself to one or two sentences — write as much as you need to document the idea well enough to use in the future essay writing process.
Journaling will help you avoid missing any ideas and facts and will make a great foundation for future paper!
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Looping is a prewriting technique that will be very helpful if the topic of the essay or research paper is difficult for you to understand. Looping refers to prewriting strategy where after you’re done with your freewriting, you return to specific points in the text to further research them.
For instance, for the freewriting abstract above the points that can be further researched include:
- Health benefits of drinking coffee
- Social and cultural coffee drinking trends development
- The ways coffee companies influence coffee drinking trends
- Awareness about long-term health effects of drinking coffee
- History of drinking coffee
- The reasons why coffee is so popular
- Caffeine addiction debate
Looping will help you out if you’re struggling with connecting all your arguments in a logical way or miss a piece of information that would put everything together. This is why this prewriting strategy is worth trying!
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