Invention Techniques

Topic Exploration Methods

Oftentimes, the most difficult part of writing a paper is just getting started. Listed below are several techniques that may help you discover new ideas or articulate / organize the ones you already have.

o an inventory of ideas
o once you make your list of ideas, play with them – arrange them together and rearrange them until a pattern begins to emerge

o similar to brainstorming except that ideas are “webbed” together in order to perceive possible connections

Freewriting – an “information dump”
o take ten minutes and just write everything you know, think, or feel about a topic
o once you have narrowed your topic, you might find a second more focused freewrite helpful
o Please note: freewriting is for exploration; your finished essay should look quite different from a freewrite

The Five W’s
o sometimes these have to be forced a bit but can generally be used for every topic
o Who / What / Where / When / Why / (and sometimes How)

Aristotle’s Topoi
o any topic can be explored in terms of modes of thought (topoi)
o Definition: what kind of thing is my subject? To what categories does it belong?
o Comparison: How is my subject similar to others in its group? How is it different?
o Causal Relationships: What does the subject cause or bring about? What are the effects of this subject?
o Authority: What doe experts have to say about my subject?

Create a character with a strong opinion about the topic
o give your character a name and describe their appearance
o then create a statement of what the character might say about the topic
o this method is particularly helpful for exploring counterargument

Create a dialogue about the topic
o the same as above but with two or more players with different viewpoints