Most students, undergraduate and graduate alike, agree that one of the biggest challenges in writing a paper is how to get started. One of the best ways is to pre-write, that all-important step before writing where you find and finalize your topic, get your ideas in order, and determine your audience. Remember, it’s highly unlikely that you can type a lucid, quality paper with no preparation. Pre-writing can be as unique as your individual writing style! There is no right or wrong way to pre-write. The difficult part is finding which techniques work best for you.
The first step in freewriting is to clear your mind and space of distractions: no music, no television, no cellphone. Next, get a timer, a few blank sheets of paper, and a pen. Sitting at a desk, table, or any flat surface you can find, set the timer for ten minutes and start writing about your topic. Don’t worry about punctuation, grammar, complete sentences, or ideas, just get it all out.
The Bedford Guide for Writing Tutors gives some more specific examples of pre-writing: freewriting, brainstorming, and researching. Although these are not the only ways to pre-write, they are the most common:
- Freewriting will help you get your ideas out of your head and where you can address them and focus your thoughts.
- Brainstorming is similar to what you were taught in third grade, making bubble graphs or lists. You might think you are above this, but brainstorming can help you realize which ideas connect, which ideas may not make the cut, and how to organize them in ways that make sense.
- Researching is the tried and true way to pre-write for most college students, because it kills two birds with one stone. Although it is tempting to just do your research and start writing, listing all of your main arguments and evidence can aid organization.