Once you have decided on a topic and identified your purpose, begin to expand your ideas. Brainstorm to identify subtopics, issues and arguments within your topic area which are worthy of further research and development.
There are various techniques to brainstorm. You can always try more than one technique.
This is perhaps the simplest brainstorming technique. What you need is to set yourself a certain time limit, around two to five minutes is recommended. Prepare a pen and paper, or sit in front of your computer screen. Once you start your timer, begin to write everything and anything you know about your topic. Do not consider language, grammar, or spelling. Simply write and continue writing. Do not stop. If your mind is blank, then write down "now my mind is blank" and simply keep it flowing. This exercise is meant to articulate your stream of consciousness, so just let it flow. Once your time is up, stop writing, and reread the material you've produced. Identify key points which could be used to develop an essay.
Follow the same procedures as in free writing except the type of material that you will be writing will be different. In this case what you need to jot down are key words and short phrases. Start with broad topics and move to the sub-ideas. Main ideas should trigger more specific ones. Be as imaginative as you possibly can. Any idea is a good idea. If you are stuck, reread your list; this should trigger more ideas. Once you are done, begin to organize your ideas by grouping together certain topics that are related.
Clustering is another technique of brainstorming which is more visual. Begin with the central ideas in the middle of the page. Then through the use of branches and arrows, write down other sub-ideas that develop out of the main ones. The bubble ideas can then be further developed by more arrows and branches. Finally, the product should look like a web or a cluster, which visually shows you which ideas have dead ends and which ones can grow and develop.
This is a technique by which you use your own wealth of ideas. What you need to do is ask yourself various questions regarding the topic. The simplest questions include what, where, when, how and why. By answering these questions about your topic, you can begin to develop and enrich your ideas. You can ask yourself more specific questions about each subtopic to further specify and develop your ideas.
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