What is brainstorming?

In essay writing, it is a technique used to collect together ideas relating to a topic.

The exercise will inspire you to write original content for your essay, and thus make the essay writing process easier.

Whenever you get a great idea, you are most likely seeing the results of a subconscious brainstorming session.

On the subconscious level, it happens over a longer period of time, sometimes even years.

When you say, "Let me think about it, and I'll get back to you," you are beginning a subconscious brainstorming session.

To start, here are three new terms:

  • divergent thinking;
  • convergent thinking; and
  • recursive thinking.

These identify three areas to a brainstorming session.

Divergent brainstorming

In the context of this article, divergent means unassociated, which implies that the ideas presented do not have to be reasonable, rational, or serious, just applicable toward achieving the end result.

The rules for divergent thinking are as follows:

  • There are no dumb ideas
  • No filtering should be done at this stage
  • No evaluation should be done at this stage
  • Crazy ideas are okay; they may turn into something not so crazy

So undertaking a divergent brainstorming session means writing your issue in the centre of your board, or piece of paper, and adding in around it ANYTHING that comes to mind.

To facilitate your creative process, try first writing a list of keywords that relate to the topic.

Then use these keywords to search on Google and see if you can see any issues, topics or key points that appear in the search results.

Convergent brainstorming

Convergent means coming together.

By looking at the solutions we identified in our 'ideas' session, and comparing them to the goal of your essay, convergent thinking weeds out unreasonable ideas.

The rules for convergent thinking are as follows:

  • Identify which ideas will be useful to the object or purpose of your essay
  • Identify reasons NOT to include ideas you have written down
  • Eliminate the ideas that have no use or relevance to your subject.

Recursive brainstorming

Recursive means occurring again.

As you look into an issue, new twists arise.

Sometimes one solution doesn't work, but a twist of it will.

The rules for recursive thinking are as follows:

  • Look at any new issues that arose when considering the ideas you identified at stage 1
  • Look at the eliminated ideas to see if anything important was missed
  • Look at the end result - the goal or purpose of your essay - and see if your ideas now help towards this goal, or if anything is lacking

THE FIRST STEP IN THE ACTUAL BRAINSTORMING process is to identify the end result.

This means, identifying your purpose - writing a statement as to what you hope to achieve with your essay.

Decide whether you are going to brainstorm by yourself or with others, and then find a place with minimal interruptions to work.

A black or white board or a flip chart is useful, because being able to survey the ideas contributed is important to the process.

Write down the desired end result (i.e. the purpose of your essay) to focus your efforts.

Next, identify the objectives associated with the end result - what must you prove? What do you hope to show? What arguments must you reason against? Be sure to include any limitations as part of the objectives.

Now look at the end result and start throwing out ideas for accomplishing it.

When you aren't clear on how to proceed on a project, ask someone nearby to be your sounding board.

Use him or her to help you brainstorm the subject.

Describe the research issue you are interested in, and see what ideas you both have as to the relevant factors of that issue.

Adapted from an article by Lorna L.