Once students have a thesis, finding a direction and goals for a paper could be the most daunting task at hand. From a young age the words “brainstorming” and “developing” were used in the classroom when teachers describe how to start writing a paper. What differs from writing at a college level instead of high school is that papers can flow and change with the information that the author finds through research or that begins to redefine their overall focus for the paper.
The first thing that comes to mind after figuring out a topic or thesis statement is “how am I going to fill all of this blank space on the page?” That’s a question that writers of every level in the educational process face. As a master’s student, brainstorming is still a very important part of the writing process when I sit in front of the blank page.
In the essay from Tutoring Writing: A Practical Guide for Conferences called “Tutoring Is: Models and Strategies,” McAndrew and Reigstad present a multitude of strategies to help students move along the necessary steps of the writing process. One strategy that McAndrew and Reigstad mention is oral composing (46). This strategy is actually something that I used before starting to include anything within the text of this post.
Talking a paper over with a friend or teacher can be very helpful in figuring out what a student wants to be the main idea or focus of the body of that particular paper. While talking through the possibilities, McAndrew and Reigstad also mention taking notes while talking through the process as a helpful way for students to see where their thoughts for a paper might lead them (46).
Another helpful strategy that McAndrew and Reigstad suggest is mapping. Mapping is a more visual tool to help students figure out how to connect the main ideas that they want to make sure are present in a paper. Bubbling a pertinent word or phrase and using lines to connect each of them, can help a student get the feel for the flow of how they eventually want their paper to develop (47).
McAndrew and Reigstad’s essay brings to the table many more strategies than just mapping and talking through a paper. These strategies I’ve found to be very helpful in the early stages of brainstorming. Hopefully the helpful hints I’ve included within this post with leave students and other writers a like better prepared to turn that blank page staring them in the face, into a wonderful work.