How do You Get to a Good Idea?
The progression works like this: I give you a broad subject (tell a story about yourself involving a social issue) and you narrow that down to a topic (working in higher education). That topic must then be narrowed down to something specific element within that topic (teaching with technology perhaps) and then to a specific instance (giving a presentation on the politics of technology that people didn't like). We'll work through this progression in and out of class. Look at the following general guidelines.
- Strive for the unusual and fresh--the first idea off the top of your head is likely to be trite and dull. Possible example of trite and dull: car crashes and learning how serious driving is.
- Use your senses.
- Look at topic from alternative (as in someone other than yourself) points of view.
- Break stereotypes, unquestioned ideas and slogans. In short, think beyond the obvious.
- Classify your topic--narrowing in the process.
- Make bug lists (what really bugs me about this is . . . )
Possible example of fresh: How your driving behavior and attitude towards others changed when you bought an new, late model car.
You'll find out which of these strategies works best for your by giving them all a try.
Jot down ideas whenever they come to you. Compile them for future use. Don't think that you'll remember them if you don't commit them to paper, because you rarely will. Once you jot down the idea, your mind is free to work on it at its own, subconscious leisure. In this way you can arrange your inspiration. Ideas will emerge misshapen and partially developed.
Talk with a friend or classmate about the assigned topic and what it is you think you need to do. If you have no one around willing to help with this, and you have a tape recorder, talk to the tape recorder for 15 minutes on the subject of your choice and see what kind of topic you come up with.
- In a word or a phrase, write the topic in the middle of the page and circle it.
- Also in a word or a phrase, write down the main parts or central ideas of the topic. Circle these and connect them to the topic in the center.
- Generate facts, details, examples, or ideas related in any way to these main parts. Cluster these around the main points.
Listing: works good alone and in groups
- Give the list a title that indicates your main idea or topic.
- Write as fast as you can, relying on short phrases.
- Include anything that seems at all useful. Withhold judgment at this point.
- Reflect on the list and organize it to suit your needs.
- Put an asterisk by the most promising items.
- Number key items in order of importance.
- Put items in related groups.
- Cross out items that do not seem promising.
- Add new items.
Outlining: ordering your lists or clustering topics is a way of outlining
- Scratch outline: rough list of main points and some sub-points as well:
- Topic Outlines (written in phrases for each topic):
- Sentence Outlines (written as complete sentences) follow lettered and numbered format. Sentence outlines are more detailed:
Sitting down and allowing/forcing yourself to write either on your topic or anything that comes to mind. Freewriting entails sitting down and writing anything about your topic, in the order that it comes out of your brain. You do not edit or censor as your write. Just write without stopping, no matter how silly or off-topic some of the material may seem. Freewriting is often called "forced writing" when done under time constraints. Also called quick drafting--something some students think is a final product. If you stick to your topic, you are Looping.
Writing informally in a journal
Keep a record of interesting impressions, observations, readings, reactions, descriptions, important events and other relevant (to you) experiences.
Do not make your journal a record of the day's events: "Dear diary, I got up at seven, had cornflakes for breakfast, and was late getting out the door as I spilled orange juice on the kitchen floor."
Instead, record your feelings, thoughts, and ideas: "The same weather beaten woman was standing at the intersection holding out her pandhandling sign. Oddly though, as tends to be the case with her, her clothes were spotless. I wonder how she keeps so clean while living on the street (I assume) and panhandling for a living.
The Pentad: Every human action is influenced by these five elements
- Act (what): Anything that happens or could happen or is the result of a completed activity.:
- Scene (where, when): The setting or background of the action;
- Agent (who): The person or force responsible for or influenced by the action;
- Agency (how): The method that makes a thing happen;
- Purpose (why): The reasons or motives for the action.
These elements are useful because they can be used to analyze events, arguments, characters, or audiences, which makes this a particularly effective strategy for narratives, arguments, and the like. They cannot, however, be applied to the analysis of things--such as computers, chairs, or cars.
Examining a subject from six perspectives (a cube has six sides). Works best with objects. Does not work as well with human action.
- Describe the subject. What is its content?
- Compare it. What is it similar to, different from?
- Associate it. What does it remind you of?
- Analyze it. Explain how it was made/came to be.
- Apply it. Explain how it can be used.
- Argue for or against it. Take a stand.