Sie sind auf Seite 1von 8

What Is Prewriting?

Prewriting is the first stage of the writing process and the point at which we discover and explore
our initial ideas about a subject. Prewriting helps us to get our ideas on paper, though not usually
in an organized form, and brainstorm thoughts that might eventually make their way into our
writing. Listed below are some of the most common types of prewriting techniques. You should
become familiar with all of these and figure out the one that works best for you. The different
types of prewriting that we will explore here are freewriting, brainstorming, clustering,
tagmemics, and journalistic technique.

Some Useful Prewriting Strategies

Freewriting
Freewriting involves jotting down on paper all of the ideas you have on a particular topic before
you even begin to read about it or do research. You are not worried about complete sentences,
proper spelling, or correct punctuation and grammar. Instead, you are interested in dumping all
of the information you have on paper. You should write everything that comes into your head
even if it doesnt necessarily make sense yet. Give your self a set amount of time (maybe five to
ten minutes), and write down everything that comes to mind about your topic.

Example: I have to write a paper about the environment. I have no idea where to start! I know
there are many problems with the environment, but I dont know much about this topic. Maybe I
could take a look at my biology book to come up with some ideas. I know my biology professor
is also really into the environment, so maybe I could ask for his help. I remember he was talking
about hybrid cars in class the other day and how much better those are for the environment. What
is a hybrid car? I know it uses some sort of alternative fuel and they are becoming very popular.
Maybe that is something I could write about

Brainstorming
Much like freewriting, brainstorming involves capturing all of the thoughts, ideas, and fragments
in your head and writing them down on paper. Often, brainstorming looks more like a list while
freewriting may look more like a paragraph. With either strategy, your goal is to get as many
ideas down on paper as you can.

Example:

Environment
Problems
Future
Cars
Alternative fuels
Hybrid cars
Costs
Benefits?

Clustering
With this technique, you start with a circle in the middle that contains your main idea and then
you draw lines to other, smaller circles that contain sub-ideas or issues related to the main idea.
Try to group like ideas together so as to organize yourself.

Example: About the value of a college education

Particle, Wave, Field (Tagmemics)


The basic idea underlying tagmemics can be easily stated: an object, experience, or idea can be
viewed as a particle (a static unit), a wave (a dynamic unit changing over time), or a field (a unit
seen in the context of a larger network of relationships). Each of these perspectives encourages
you to ask different kinds of questions about your subject (represented here as X).

Particle perspective:

What is X?

Wave perspective:

How has X changed over time?

Field perspective:

How does X relate to Y or Z?

Example:
If you view something as a particle, you focus on it as a static (still) entity. For example, if you
were exploring ideas for a sociology paper on the transformation of the American nuclear family,
you could use a particle perspective to ask questions like the following:

What does the term nuclear family mean?

Who formulated the term nuclear family?

What features characterize the nuclear family?

If you look at a subject from the wave perspective, you view it as dynamic or changing over
time. The wave perspective would encourage you to ask the following questions:

How long has the nuclear family characterized family structure in America?

When did the nuclear family begin to change?

What factors have caused the nuclear family to change?

How might these factors affect the American family in the future?

Finally, if you look at a subject from a field perspective, you ask questions about the way that the
subject functions as a part of a larger network of relationships. This perspective would encourage
you to ask questions like these:

How are changes in the structure of the American family related to other changes, such as
those in the work force, organized religion, the educational system, and divorce rates?

What are the consequences of changes in the nuclear family for American life in general?
For politics? For social services? For education?

Journalistic Technique
As you may know, journalists have six important questions they need to answer about any story
they report: who, what, when, where, why, and how. By answering these questions, journalists
can be certain that they have provided the most important information about an event, issue, or
problem to their readers.

These questions are also useful to you as writers when you are describing and event or writing an
informative essay. As with the exploded moment, this technique allows you to make sure you
have provided all of the important and specific details of a situation.

Example:
Suppose that your government professor has asked to write about the political conflict in the
Middle East. Using the journalistic technique, you could begin working on the paper by asking
yourself the following questions:

Who is involved in the conflict?

What issues most clearly divide those engaged in this dispute?

When did the troubles in the Middle East begin, and how have they developed over time?

Where does the conflict seem most heated or violent?

Why have those living in this area found it so difficult to resolve the situation?

How might this conflict be resolved?

Using the journalistic technique helps you make sure you have answered all of the important
questions.

Other Useful Strategies

Aside from the strategies listed on these pages, it is also sometimes useful to discuss your ideas
with a classmate, friend, or professor. Often, brainstorming aloud and hearing your ideas in
auditory fashion can help you think about ways to start your paper. A great resource is the
Writing Lab. You do not have to have a rough draft to go the lab; often, it is useful to go there
and brainstorm ideas with one of the tutors. Finally, before you begin your prewriting techniques,
make sure you thoroughly understand the purpose and audience for the assignment. Ask
questions if you are unsure what you are supposed to do. It is difficult to prewrite if you do not
understand the assignment.

Why Use these Techniques?


Though you have already used brainstorming, clustering, or any of a number of other prewriting
techniques, the particle, wave, field and journalistic techniques are slightly more formal. Try
these new ways of prewriting and compare them to the previous strategies you used. The key to
any prewriting is finding something that works for you and also finding a technique that is
comprehensive enough. Jotting down a word or sentence or two for prewriting is usually not
enough; the more ideas you can get on paper in the early stages of writing, the stronger your final
paper will be.

Parting Words
Remember to save all of your prewriting! You will have to turn in this step with the rest of your
writing, so make sure you put is somewhere safe until the paper is due. Also, your prewriting will
often look very different from the final draft. Thats okremember that this is just the first step
to get you started writing. Your writing will evolve in each step you take it through.

Works Cited

Ede, Lisa. Work in Progress: A Guide to Academic Writing and Revising. 5th ed. Boston:

Bedford/St. Martins, 2001.

Dawson, Melanie, and Joe Essid. Pre-Writing: Clustering. University of Richmond

Writing Center. 31 August 2005.

<http://writing2.richmond.edu/writing/wweb/cluster.html.>