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Brainstorming: Advice from Tutors

Advice from tutors Hannah L. and Iman A

Interviewed by tutor Kaitlin G.

What style of brainstorming do you typically use before beginning an assignment?

Hannah: "I'll use my notebook and write down what points I want to include, research to include, my working thesis statement, the main ideas for each paragraph, that sort of thing."

Iman: "When it comes to beginning an assignment or essay I have found myself quickly brainstorming in my mind. And what I mean by that is once I read the prompt, I literally visualize in my head what the paper could look like. I see an essay like a puzzle and the parts of an essay are specific pieces that have to fit into place. So when I brainstorm, I think of possible directions the essay could go in that makes the most sense and have the most dept. "

Why is this your preferred method?

Hannah: "I preferred writing in a notebook because it helps me remember everything more easily. I don't want to commit anything to a computer document until it's in the final stages of editing. I usually have my outline/brainstorm with me to reference when writing, and it's easier to have it on paper next to me than to keep switching tabs on my laptop because I forgot something and need to go back and check it on my outline."

Iman: "This is my preferred method because it's how I've done it for years without realizing it. When I was younger, I would physically write down a rough outline when I was beginning an essay because that's what we were taught when we were younger and it helped me for years since I am a visual/kinesthetic learner. But as I got more skilled in writing and knew what worked best for me, I was able to actually visualize my paper."

How do you think your style of brainstorming affects the overall quality of your assignment?

Hannah: "I can be very forgetful, so it's nice to see what I wrote down and remember things that are essential for my projects. Some of my best essays have come from a really in-depth outline with information all over it, red marks all over the page, dozens of words crossed out, and eraser bits scattered everywhere."

Iman: "Sometimes my literal brain conjuring up the skeleton of an essay when first reading the prompt can affect me negatively because I know where I'm headed but once I begin typing, I start to realize that it's not the direction I wanted to go in. When this happens I stop and take a look at everything in the distance and reread everything to see which one doesn't fit into place. If you have the initial feeling that one section does not work, always follow that feeling. Of course, if you are still unsure, it's best to discuss it with someone who can help you decipher what to do. However, most times I do find my literal brainstorming to be successful. Every time I'm like 'No don't just picture the structure in your mind this time, write it down,' I still manage to never write it down. Doing this helps me get straight to typing up the essay and once I see it on the screen, I am able to tweak as much as I want to fit the structure that I created in my mind."

What brainstorming ideas would you like new students to know about that may be beneficial to them as they navigate through college?

Hannah: "I think the best advice I can give to students for brainstorming is to figure out what works for you. There's no one correct way to learn things or to brainstorm, and I think the sooner people understand that the easier their college experience will be."

Iman: "In all honesty, what I recommend to new college students is trying out every possible avenue of brainstorming until they find the one that workers best for them."

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