Generate Your Own Ideas
Regardless of whether or not you are required to conduct research, the heart of the essay should be your own ideas. Jot down your ideas before you actually begin writing the essay. In the course of researching and thinking about your topic, you will develop certain ideas and a sense of the major points you want to make.
These ideas, though, will still be in your head, where they are probably mixed together. In order to be a compelling, powerful essay, you need to organize the ideas in a logical manner. You need to get them out on paper (or a computer screen), so you can examine them and plan a strategic way to address them in the essay.
The writing process is like brainstorming; as you write about one particular idea or point, you’ll probably find yourself conceiving of many additional ones. You don’t need to worry about things like grammar, spelling, format, or structure when you write down your ideas; you don’t even have to write in complete sentences. Just write anything that comes to mind in relation to the topic. You can then refer to these notes—along with any notes from additional sources if this is a research paper—as you organize your essay.
When you are finished jotting down your ideas, read them over and transfer the major ones onto note cards. You can play around with how you organize them in this form, and also integrate them with the note cards from outside sources.
Sample Note Card of Original Ideas
My Idea for Essay
Cycles and Repetitions in LDJ.
There are lots of images that are repeated throughout
— family mealtimes
— cycle of time; one day after another (implied in the title)
— drinking from the bottle then filling with water
— men leaving Mary alone on-stage
Write a key word or phrase to describe each category on index cards to identify each group. If a card seems to belong in more than one group, place it in the one that seems most applicable; however, write a note on the card indicating other categories it relates to.
After going through your notes, you’ll have several piles of note cards made up of various categories and subcategories of notes. Each group represents a point you plan to make in the essay. You need to decide next on the order in which you will address these points.
The strategy of your essay is a personal decision. Different writers have their own favorite strategic devices and techniques. Additionally, each essay has its own specific strategy and logic. Before you start writing, consider the overall effect you want to create and conceive of a strategy that achieves it.