Getting the Most out of Your Brainstorming Session by Carrieann Cahall

posted Oct 18, 2016, 3:31 PM by Writing Center
One common misconception about the Writing Center is that you have to come prepared with a complete draft of your written work. This simply isn’t true. The Writing Center is here to help with all aspects of your writing. One of the steps in the writing process that can often be overlooked is brainstorming. As we have discussed in a previous blog post, starting a paper is oftentimes one of the most difficult tasks we face as writers. So, we’ve walked you through methods of finding a topic and now you know what you want to write about, but what if the problem now is how to go about writing it?

When you come to the Writing Center for guidance in the brainstorming process, what often happens is a back-and-forth dialogue between you and your consultant. You know the prompt of your assignment, you’ve done the necessary reading and research, and you likely have quite a few ideas of where you want your writing to go. However, organizing all of that into a cohesive paper can be understandably intimidating. Here are a few key things to remember when utilizing the Writing Center as a resource in your brainstorming process.

1) Bring your assignment sheet

Keep in mind that consultants have not been in class with you all semester. They are not as familiar with the material as you, nor are they aware of any suggestions that your instructors and professors may have mentioned in class. By providing an assignment sheet and communicating any supplemental information about the prompt, your consultant will be better able to help you meet the requirements.

2) Read or research the necessary material(s) beforehand

If you need help narrowing down a tentative thesis or organizing all the viable body paragraph ideas in your head, it is not a productive use of your consultation time to focus on reading your sources. While your consultant can certainly help you breakdown a particularly dense section of reading, you will gain more out of the consultation when you have read and digested the necessary materials that will inform your paper.

3) Be ready to discuss your initial ideas and concerns

Ultimately, you are the sole author of your work. The role of the consultant during brainstorming is to help guide you towards what you need to be writing about, as directed by the prompt. This is your brainstorming session, which means that you will be doing a majority of the talking. Consider what you have to write about, what you want to write about regarding the topic, and how you think you might approach the writing. If you are entirely at a loss for words on where to even begin, consider reasons why that might be. Do you misunderstand the prompt? Is your topic too broad? What exactly about the assignment intimidates you?

4) Take notes

You may think that you will remember everything that was discussed during your consultation, but it is better to be certain by taking notes in the moment. You’ll reduce some of the stress of creating words and meaning on the blank page with helpful notes that you can refer back to when needed.

A brainstorming session at the Writing Center can produce a vast number of outcomes. You could leave with a draft of your introduction and a strong thesis, or even just a clear outline of your entire paper from beginning to conclusion. Either way, with the right amount of preparation, you can make the most of your time with a consultant and overcome writer’s block.

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