Effective Prewriting Strategies

Prewriting can help you develop your ideas and generate new ones. Most writers write outlines before writing a paper itself. However, prewriting is the first thing you should do because it’s somewhat similar to brainstorming. Thanks to various prewriting techniques, you can approach an outline having a clear understanding of what ideas are most useful and how you can organize them in the best way possible. Writers-House.com collected these effective prewriting techniques so that you can develop topics and organize your thoughts more effectively.


Listing is a method that implies generating ideas within a short time and then elaborating on them, adding the necessary details. Your goal is to generate broad ideas and then narrow them down.

  • Write down all the terms related to the topic. It’s a great approach if you work with a team. All the members of the team can generate ideas, and somebody should write them down. There’s no need to edit or evaluate the ideas at this stage.
  • Organize the ideas in a logical order and divide them into groups. Make sure that the selected ideas are relevant to the topic.
  • Organize the groups of ideas and sort them by categories. This way, it will be easier for you to develop your points.
  • Write a sentence about each category. You’ll be able to use it as a basis for a topic sentence when writing.


This method is also often called mapping. This approach allows you to consider ideas in relation to each other.

  • Take a sheet of paper and write the subject in the center. Circle it.
  • When generating ideas, write them down and link them to the central circle.
  • When thinking about ideas related to other ideas, connect them, as well.

At the end of such a prewriting session, you’ll have a web of ideas that logically derive from each other. At the same time, you’ll remember how these ideas are related to the main subject.

Clustering is the most effective method if you need to focus on relationships between different ideas. It will help you understand how to connect them in writing, planning the direction your work will take.


Freewriting implies generating as much information as you can within a defined amount of time. This approach can help you focus on the topic, forcing you to generate ideas without editing them.

  • Freewrite on your topic for 5-10 minutes. Write and don’t stop to think of whether an idea is good or bad. Don’t stop writing even if you cannot come up with anything specific. Just write whatever you want until a relevant idea pops up in your mind.
  • Once you’ve done freewriting, look at your ideas and select the best ones. You may also repeat the whole process over and over again, focusing on different aspects of the topic.


This is another effective freewriting technique that requires you to focus on your ideas while discovering your topic. Define the key idea of your paper and spend some time freewriting on it, using this idea as the basis. After this, select another major idea related to your topic and freewrite on it. Do it again and again to consider your topic from different perspectives. Write quickly and try to generate as many ideas as you can.

This method is called looping because you repeat the same process for different aspects of your topic, making your ideas more specific and being able to address your topic in more detail. This method will help you better understand what your paper will look like and how you should develop your arguments.

Six Journalist’s Questions

Before writing an article, journalists often ask six questions that allow them to cover the topic properly: what, who, why, when, how, and where. These questions can help you navigate the topic, understanding what details you should include in your paper. Here is a general outline for students who use this method:

  • What?
    What is your topic? What makes it important? What is the main problem? What are the related issues?
  • Who?
    Who is affected? Who participate?
  • Why?
    Why did the problem appear? Why is it a problem at all? Why does the issue develop this way?
  • When?
    When did the problem occur? When do we need to take action?
  • How?
    How does the problem affect people? How can it be solved?
  • Where?
    Where is the source of the problem? Where does the process take place? Where is the issue most noticeable?

These questions can help you provide all the crucial information about a topic as briefly as possible. However, answering these questions properly requires practice. You may want to answer them before planning your paper and writing the first draft.

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