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Prewriting (Invention) General Questions


This section explains the prewriting (invention) stage of the composing process. It includes processes, strategies, and questions to help you begin to write.

Contributors: Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2018-02-14 04:28:09

Beyond the strategies outlined in the previous section, these questions might help you begin writing.

Explore the problem — not the topic

  1. Who is your reader?
  2. What is your purpose?
  3. Who are you, the writer? (What image or persona do you want to project?)

Make your goals operational

  1. How can you achieve your purpose?
  2. Can you make a plan?

Generate some ideas


Talk to your reader

Ask yourself questions

Journalistic questions

Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? So What?

Stasis questions

Conjecture: what are the facts? Definition: what is the meaning or nature of the issue? Quality: what is the seriousness of the issue? Policy: what should we do about the issue? For more information on the stases, please go to the OWL resource on stasis theory.

Classical topics (patterns of argument)







Contrastive features



Cubing (considering a subject from six points of view)

  1. *Describe* it (colors, shapes, sizes, etc.)
  2. *Compare* it (What is it similar to?)
  3. *Associate* it (What does it make you think of?)
  4. *Analyze* it (Tell how it's made)
  5. *Apply* it (What can you do with it? How can it be used?)
  6. *Argue* for or against it

Make an analogy

Choose an activity from column A to explain it by describing it in terms of an activity from column B (or vice-versa).

playing cards writing essays
changing a tire making peace
selling growing up
walking growing old
sailing rising in the world
skiing studying
plowing meditating
launching rockets swindling
running for office teaching
hunting learning
Russian roulette failing
brushing teeth quarreling

Rest and incubate.

(Adapted from Linda Flower's Problem-Solving Strategies for Writing, Gregory and Elizabeth Cowan's Writing, and Gordon Rohman and Albert Wlecke's Prewriting.)



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