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Science is organized knowledge.
Wisdom is organized life.
Immanuel Kant, 1724 - 1804
German philosopher


Writing series

Organizing and pre-writing

Seven stages of writing assignments

Prewriting exercises provide key words, meaning, and structure
to your research before you write your first draft, and may help you overcome "writers block."

These exercises can help you

  • Focus intellectually
    and clear distractions while opening your mind to ideas within your subject
  • Narrow and define topics for your paper
    and begin the process of translating research into your own words.
  • Develop logical or architectural structure to topics you have identified.
    This provides a visual and verbal document for reaction, review, discussion, and/or further development in your rough draft. However, these exercises are dynamic or subject to change in the actual writing process as you understand, develop, and build your argument. Some topics will go, some will stay, some will be revised
  • Provide a context for "project management"
    to further define the topic, set timelines, identify gaps in information, etc.

Use one of these four processes,
free writing, mind mapping, brain storming, or listing and outlines to both develop your topic and get started. Better yet, try them all to see which suits your style and/or the topic.

(See the text versions below for more information.)

Four exercises in prewriting:

Focused Free writing

Listing and outlines

This is a more structured and sequential overview of your research to date. You may also outline to organize topics built from free writing, brainstorming, or mind mapping:


Mind mapping

Seven stages of writing assignments:

Index | Develop your topic (1) | Identify your audience (2) |
Research (3) | Research with notecards | Summarizing research
Prewrite (4) | Draft/write (5) | Revise (6) | Proofread (7)