Before you begin actually writing your essay, you may want to try one or more of the following prewriting strategies to help you develop and organize your ideas.

Cluster Diagram: To make a cluster diagram, start by writing down the central focus of the essay on a sheet of paper. As you come up with related ideas, write them down and link them to your central idea. No one else will see your cluster, so take this opportunity to free-associate and write down anything that comes to mind. The more you branch out, the more ideas you will generate for your paper.

List: Brainstorming a list of facts related to the topic of your paper is an effective means of assessing the value and relevance of the information that you have gathered. Also, lists of pros and cons can be useful in crafting a strong argument because they enable you to compare one side of an argument against the opposing argument point by point. Careful consideration of the opposing position can often help you to strengthen your own argument.

Outline: An outline starts with a thesis that effectively states the main idea that you are planning to express through the writing of your essay. A strong thesis is often made up of several subtopics that will form the topic sentences of the body paragraphs. There is no “correct” number of body paragraphs, so don’t limit yourself to a five paragraph format.

Above all, remember that prewriting is a necessary but informal part of your writing process, so feel free to use the technique or combination of techniques that works best for you.

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