ENGL079 Week 2 Lecture

Ideation Strategies

When most people receive a writing task, they most often begin by writing a discovery draft. While such an approach seems to be a good use of time, the revision and editing requirements often make the writing task more time consuming. That is why most writing experts advise people to follow a particular writing process. The first step is ideation, which for writers is a creative process in which one generates ideas that could be included as part of the final writing task. The process is largely focused on the non-evaluative, non-judgmental development of general and specific thoughts that might eventually be included in the final draft of the writing task. Below is a list of common ideation strategies that help to create and/or develop ideas.

  • Responsive Reading
  • Observing
  • Active Listening
  • Discussing
  • Reflective and/or Critical Thinking
  • Exploratory and/or purposeful researching

Many of those included in the list above have probably been practiced by writers. However, there are some more specific techniques provided below that may be less familiar. For each of these techniques, it is important to mention that judgment/evaluation is NOT a part of the process. The writer puts down whatever thought enters his/her head. Selecting ideas to include in a draft come after the ideation process is complete.


The writer starts with a key word or phrase. He/she then builds a list of ideas that are generated based on thought/reflection on the key word/phrase. Here is an example:

o What is an important goal I have for the next few years?

  • finishing school
  • getting a better job
  • keeping in touch with my friends and family
  • learning a new language


The writer composes a focus sentence, then writes for a steady, predetermined length. The writer even writes, “I don’t know what to say next” until something comes to mind. It is essential that the writer not edit the text yet in terms of thoughts, language, or mechanics so that the creative process is not inhibited. Here is an example:

I hate going to the dentist. I'm always afraid that they're going to hurt me, and I'm not very good at pain, at tolerating pain, I mean. I remember the first time,w hen I was a kid, going to the dentists, it seemed I never went to the dentist when I was a kid until I had a toothache, that's my parents fault, isn't it, I guess. They should have taken better care of my teeth when I was little, and then I wouldn't have so much grief now with my teeth. But back then I would go to the dentists and he would have this godawful drill that would make this awful noise and it seemed like it always hurt. I remember there was this sign in his office that said PAINLESS DENTIST, UPSTAIRS, but there was no upstairs in his building. Some joke, huh? I can't think of anything to say, and I can't think of anything more to say. Oh, I wonder how come anyone in his right might mind would ever want to become a dentist, putting his fingers into other people's mouths all day, all that spit and blood and not there's the fear of getting AIDS from your clients that they have to wear those rubber gloves and I hate the feel of those things in my mouth, too, and the sound of that thing that draws the spit out of your mouth. I wonder why my folks didn't take me to the dentist BEFORE i had trouble. Probably because when they were growing up it was bad times and they didn't have any money for things like the dentist and it was just taken for granted that you were going to get cavities and lose a lot of teeth before you were even an adult. I can't think of anything more to say. I can't think of anything more to say. all I know is that when I have kids, they're going to the dentist every six months whether they want to or not and maybe by then they'll have invented some way to absolutely prevent cavities and maybe there won't even be any dentists or if there are it'll just be to clean your teeth and make sure they're straight and pearly white and we won't worry about cavities and stuff like that that causes pain anymore. DENTISTS, MY ATTITUDE HAS CHANGED AS I GOT OLDER.


In this technique, the writer uses a combination of words and/or images to help capture an idea. Here is an example:

Big image


The writer begins with a topic or key idea and uses a flowchart strategy to represent ideas and how they interconnect with each other. Here is a sample:

Big image

As you can see, each approach is different. Some focus only on words expressed in short statements (brainstorming) or full sentences (freewriting). Others use words and shapes to help students generate ideas (doodling and sketching). Still others use shapes to help organize and connect ideas to each other (clustering/mind-mapping). For each writer, some strategies work better than others. For still others, sometimes the best approach to use depends on the intended writing task that one needs to complete. For this lecture, the intention was to provide as many tools as possible. When you try each of these, you may even find that you wish to create your own by mixing some techniques together. Remember, the approach is not the most important thing; the ideas you generate that will help you map out your essay are what really count.

How about you practice each strategy for awhile? When you do so, be sure to record what about each approach you liked and disliked. Those reflections may be useful for other tasks in this week's discussion board and activities.