Pre-writing activities involve reading, experimenting, data collection and the formulation of a thesis. These activities differ depending on type of text and on discipline. Here, we list some so-called invention techniques, which can be useful to students embarking on essay assignments, for instance.
Invention techniques are strategies used to generate ideas for written assignments (or for oral presentations). Which technique(s) to use depends on the task at hand and also on the writer. For students who are required to come up with their own essay topic, as well as for writers struggling with how to approach a topic, these techniques can be of great use. It is important to remember, however, that all invention techniques do not suit all writers or all kinds of writing, and also that it may take some practice to master them.
A few common invention techniques are listed below. There are many websites, as well as YouTube clips devoted to such techniques.
Brainstorming can be done individually or, perhaps even better, in groups. During a brainstorming session, all ideas that come to mind are written down with no attention given to structure or relevance. After the brainstorming, useful ideas can be identified and structured.
Freewriting resembles brainstorming in the sense that no attention is given to structure or relevance. The freewriter writes for 10-15 minutes; after a few minutes words often start to flow and the writer is able to formulate some ideas from which the writing then can depart.
Clustering (or mapping)
As with other invention techniques, the idea of clustering (or mapping) is to generate ideas for essays or other projects. Writers usually start by writing a key word in the middle of the paper and then add other, related, words and concepts as they come to mind.
Keeping a journal
Many writers find it useful to keep a journal in which they record their thoughts on their work, such as reading, experiments, or field work.
Many researchers share their ideas on journal writing. Here are some texts that provide information and inspiration for prospective journal writers:
- Dunnavant, J. (2014) Journal Writing for Graduate Students. Inside Higher Ed.
- Walker, S. E. (2006). Journal Writing as a Teaching Technique to Promote Reflection. J Athl Train. 41(2): 216–221.
- Hiemstra, R. (2001). Uses and Benefits of Journal Writing. New Directions For Adult & Continuing Education, 2001(90), 19-26. Access via LUBSearch