Prewriting: Cubing


Cubing asks you to probe your topic from six different perspectives. First, select a topic (issue, person, idea, event, problem, person, object, scene) and write it at the top of your page to help you keep it firmly in mind. Then give yourself three to five minutes to write from each of the perspectives listed below. Start from what you know, but don't limit yourself: give yourself permission to identify those areas that will need further thought or research and speculate about where you will discover this information. Try not to sabotage yourself; that is, keep going until you have written about your topic from all six perspectives. As in freewriting, it is important to reread what you have written. Look for surprises, unexpected insight, momentum.

  1. Describing: Physically describe your topic. What does it look like? What color, shape, texture, size is it? Identify its parts.
  2. Comparing: How is your topic similar to other topics/things? How is it different?
  3. Associating: What other topic/thing does your topic make you think of? Can you compare it to anything else in your experience? Don't be afraid to be creative here: include everything that comes to mind.
  4. Analyzing: Look at your topic's components. How are these parts related? How is it put together? Where did it come from? Where is it going?
  5. Applying: What can you do with your topic? What uses does it have?
  6. Arguing: What arguments can you make for or against your topic?
  • Pros: Cubing is an excellent tool for rapidly exploring a topic. It reveals quickly what you know and what you don't know, and it may alert you to decide to narrow or expand your topic.

  • Cons: Cubing asks us to examine a topic in an unusual way and this may prove frustrating to some writers. It may at first feel awkward at first to describe something like abortion and this may cause a writer to abandon this technique or, worse, the topic itself.

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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: 08.20.07