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Prewriting: Clustering


 


Clustering is a non-linear brainstorming technique whose results yield a visual representation of subject and organization. It asks that we be receptive to words and phrases and to trust our instincts. Start with a stimulus word—the word or phrase that represents your first, tentative idea of the whole—circled in the center of the page. Then, as each new word or idea strikes you, give it a new circle and draw a line from it to the preceding circle. When some new idea occurs, radiate it from the stimulus word or from any word/phrase that seemed to prompt the new idea or strand. Write quickly and be sensitive to any emerging structure. Keep clustering until that "aha!" moment, or the moment when a sense of the whole is achieved, that a structure has made itself known.

 

 

 

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  • Pros: Clustering is a generative tool (i.e. makes use of the unconscious in retrieving information) that helps us to connect thoughts, feelings, and ideas not connected before. It allows us to loosely structure ideas as they occur in a shape that allows for the further generation of ideas. It taps our associative powers in a self-organizing process, encouraging us to create personally meaningful patterns.
  • Cons: Clustering can frustrate more linear thinkers, those who need neatness and order to think clearly.

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Acknowledgements

Axelrod, Rise B., and Charles R. Cooper. The Concise Guide to Writing. NY: St. Martin's, 1993.

Meyer, Emily, and Louise Z. Smith. The Practical Tutor. NY: Oxford UP, 1987.

 


Updated: 08.16.07

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