Brainstorming to
Find Major Points

By the time you begin your paper, you have some idea of what the major points that support your thesis are. However, you may or may not know them off the top of your head. All writers, no matter how experienced, have times when the writing flows freely and times when it takes some coaxing. If you are someone who doesn’t like to plan your writing and who tends to begin before knowing what you want to say, try a freewriting exercise before you begin your outline. This allows you to experience writing spontaneously before you get to the structure of the outline.

The college experience should involve
more than studying at the library.

Yes, grades are important, but college life is a preparation for real life. Students should learn how to work in groups and collaborate without conflict. College is often the place where you will make contacts and friends for life. Being able to study abroad is important. Some schools offer organized trips at Spring Break, like to the beach, or skiing. Some schools offer summer trips to study archeology, art, or marine biology. Intermural sports are also important. You can play on a flag football or softball team. You can also study abroad to learn a foreign language. Groups give students an opportunity to learn about leadership. You can run for student government or start a group that explores local parks. Internships offer valuable work experience that will help you get a job after graduation. 

Write your thesis at the top of the page, and then write everything you can think of that pertains to that thesis. When you are finished, take different-colored highlighters and highlight related information the same color. Look at the freewrite example for this thesis: “The college experience should involve more than studying at the library.”

When you look at this paragraph, notice how much of the example is highlighted in pink. The topic that describes this pink highlighted text best is “prepare for real life.” The blue and yellow highlighted texts correspond to “study abroad” and “social activities.” One sentence even corresponds to two different topics. This is a good starting point for a paper. Not only are there three distinct topics, but notice that you seem to have more information about one topic than the others. This reveals the areas about which you will need to find more information. Listing is a similar way to brainstorm for your topics. To use this method, write your thesis at the top of the page then write a vertical list of everything you can think of about your thesis. Use highlighters to group similar elements of your list together. Each color will correspond to a major topic.

You can also do a concept web about your thesis. A concept web is a brainstorming tool that allows you to see connections among the concepts you are writing about in your paper. Let’s complete the concept web below about the thesis “Dogs make the best pets because they are smart and loyal companions.”

Dogs make the best pets

Source: Graphic, IPSI

Using your notes, write six points that could support the thesis in the center circle. When you're finished, check your understanding to see my completed concept web.

Check Your Understanding

Sample Response:

Image of concept web: Thesis Statement: “Dogs make the best pets becuase they are smart and faithful companions. Secondary ideas: “Dogs are smart: They can be trained to be helper animals.”, “Will give their lives to protect their owners.”, “Dogs are loyal.”, “Dogs lick your face.”,“Will travel for miles to find their way home”.

Source: Graphic, IPSI


Let’s take a look at the concept web. Although you couldn’t do this here, the example shows arrows drawn between certain points that seem to be related to each other. It illustrates how you can identify which points support your thesis. Once you’ve done this, you are ready to begin your outline.