When they have to write an essay, many students do just this: they sit down and start writing something related to the topic their teacher or professor gave them. Some of them prepare some kind of plan or outline of their paper; very few go any further. This is a shame because most professional writers agree that what you do before you start writing the assignment is often more important than writing per se. This stage of work, sometimes called prewriting, plays a huge and often defining role in the overall success or failure of a paper. If you do not pay attention to it, we strongly suggest that you start doing it as soon as possible – it can help you significantly improve the quality of your writing.

But what exactly does the prewriting process involve? There are many different techniques and methods, so try them out and look which work best for you. Here are some of them.


Brainstorming involves trying to come up with as many ideas related to the topic as possible. The most important thing you should understand to ensure the efficiency of your brainstorming is that at this stage you should not care whether your ideas are good and feasible or poor and silly. Go for quantity rather than quality and shut down your internal critic. A useful technique here is to set yourself a task to come up with at least 10 (20, 30, depending on how ambitious you are) ideas and refuse to stop until you do it. Quite often, the ideas you invent at the end of the list when you tortuously wrack your brains to think of something new, turn out to be the best. For an added benefit, you may try brainstorming along with someone else – this way you will be able to bounce the ideas off each other.


Outlining is probably the most familiar prewriting method for most students. You can do it in different ways, but usually, it boils down to writing down the topic of your essay, formulating its thesis statement, and then singling out the main ideas of each paragraph along with the supporting details you are supposed to mention. When you start writing, you simply look at your outline and flesh out what you already wrote there. It prevents you from forgetting things and repeating the same points more than once.


Freewriting is akin to brainstorming in some ways, but it is less formulaic, which may turn out to be more attractive if you are averse to planning. When you free write, you set yourself a time limit (usually 10 to 15 minutes) and simply write down everything that comes into your mind concerning your chosen topic. You do not try to put your ideas in a list, like in the case of brainstorming or organize them in any other way. You simply write things down as they come into your head, without worrying about structure, grammar, or spelling. Freewriting is excellent for expressing your personal opinions about the subject matter to see how to arrange the internal logic of your arguments when it comes to writing properly.


Looping is a subtype of freewriting or, rather, a development of the same idea. You start in the same way, by picking a topic and writing about it for 10 to 15 minutes. Do not stop. Do not slow down. Do not criticize yourself for what you write or be particularly careful to write using proper grammar and spelling. Then you read what you have written, pick an interesting idea (or ideas), and start another freewriting session, this time focusing on this idea and narrowing down the scope of your writing. Rinse and repeat as many times as you need to come up with an interesting topic or an unusual take on an existing, well-known topic. It may sound like you waste a lot of time this way, but it is a small price to pay for an interesting and original essay that will get you an excellent grade.

Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is similar to brainstorming but is more suitable for visual learners. When you create a mind map, you do not write down your ideas in a list, but write down your thoughts on a sheet of paper and draw lines between them to signify connections and relations between them. For example, you start with the primary concept and write in big letters in the center of the page, then surround it with ideas that are related to it and add new ideas that are, in turn, connected to the ones that are already on your map. Eventually, you get a network of concepts you can use to draw unexpected conclusions and understand underlying interconnections between seemingly unrelated things. You can do it traditionally, on paper, use one of many websites that allow you to draw your mind maps online, or download a specialized app (most of them are free or cheap enough to buy).


Sometimes to analyze a topic, you simply have to ask yourself the right questions. For example, if you analyze a book by a particular writer, you can ask questions like these:

  • In what circumstances was it written?
  • How does it reflect the personality of the author?
  • How is it related to other works by the same writer?
  • What events in the life of the author could have led to the creation of this book?

These are just some examples. You can form any questions that can lead you to a better and deeper understanding of the subject matter.

If everything else fails, and no amount of prewriting gives you enough insight into the topic to write your own custom essay, you should probably look for an academic assistance service to lend you a hand. These days there are many such services, and you can have your pick of them. Usually, it is a good idea to hire a helper from a well-established company with a good reputation, like the essay writing service AdvancedWriters; but anyway, make sure you read some reviews by customers before you make a decision.