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  • Step 1: Generate Ideas


summary writing brainstorming

"It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to always be right by having no ideas at all." —Edward de Bono

Most people have been taught how to brainstorm, but review these instructions to make sure you understand all aspects of it.

summary writing brainstorming

  • Don't write in complete sentences, just words and phrases, and don't worry about grammar or even spelling;
  • Again, do NOT judge or skip any idea, no matter how silly or crazy it may initially seem; you can decide later which ones are useful and which are not, but if you judge now, you may miss a great idea or connection;
  • Do this for 15, 20, or (if you're on a roll) even 30 minutes--basically until you think you have enough material to start organizing or, if needed, doing research.

Below is a sample brainstorm for an argument/research paper on the need for a defense shield around the earth:

summary writing brainstorming

Photo: "Brainstorm" ©2007 Jonathan Aguila

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  • The Workstream
  • Project collaboration
  • Brainstorming best practices

Brainstorming: definition, ground rules, and techniques

Bring on your best ideas

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What is brainstorming.

It’s a common scenario: you need to come up with some creative ideas. Maybe you’re trying to find a solution to a complex problem, or perhaps you’re spitballing your team’s next big project.

Either way, you’re feeling the pressure to amp up your innovation and churn out some brilliant suggestions.

What happens now? Well, you might rely on a brainstorming session to get those creative juices flowing. 

Before we dig into the ins and outs of how to brainstorm effectively, it’s helpful to take a step back and actually define brainstorming. Merriam-Webster describes brainstorming as “the mulling over of ideas by one or more individuals in an attempt to devise or find a solution to a problem.” 

Sounds familiar, right? You can brainstorm on your own, but it’s a technique that’s frequently used in group settings to freely share ideas and build upon them.

Brainstorming is prevalent in today’s working world (you’ve likely been a part of a fair share of sessions yourself), but it has some serious historical roots. 

It was first introduced in 1948 by advertising executive Alex F. Osborn in his book "Your Creative Power." As the owner of his own advertising agency, he was looking for ways to pull better ideas out of his employees — something he referred to as “thinking up.” With that objective in mind, he established several principles and characteristics of brainstorming, which we’ll dig into in detail later.

Since that time, brainstorming has gained steam and become a common technique that businesses use to generate creative solutions to a variety of problems.

The importance of brainstorming

While it certainly isn’t without its criticisms and potential pitfalls, there’s a reason this technique has become so popular in the modern working world: it’s effective and is tied to numerous benefits.

Below are just a few of the many advantages of brainstorming that teams can expect to experience.

Brainstorming encourages more creative thinking.

The first benefit is obvious: brainstorming requires an individual or team to think more creatively and without boundaries, which can lead to improved ideas and suggestions. For example, did you know that the idea for the Amazon Echo was reportedly born out of a brainstorming strategy? 

Since brainstorming is often done in a group, it forces us to step away from our own biases and consider other perspectives and contributions without offering any upfront criticism. 

Beyond that, productive brainstorming exercises challenge us to not only consider other ideas but to build upon them — which leads to an even better end result. 

Brainstorming leads to better teamwork and greater group cohesiveness.

All of that working together does more than generate better ideas — it can actually improve our level of teamwork . There’s plenty of research out there that backs this up. 

“Groups that focus on both the quantity of ideas and building on the ideas of others significantly increase their cohesiveness,” said David Henningsen , a Northern Illinois University professor and researcher, who co-led a study on brainstorming . 

“Brainstorming can be used to help a team buy into and implement a plan of action, or it can be used to simply build cohesiveness, which in turn can lessen employee turnover and increase employee commitment.”

Brainstorming gives everybody a chance to be heard.

How to brainstorm: types, ground rules, and techniques.

When done right, brainstorming offers tons of perks. But that begs the question: how exactly do you do it right? 

There’s a bit of strategy involved in pulling off a successful brainstorming session. Here’s the information you need to get the very best ideas out of everyone on your team.

Brainstorming ground rules

Brainstorming techniques.

You have your brainstorming session scheduled and organized. what? Your team is all just staring at each other slack-jawed. How do you get the conversation rolling? 

Below are just a few of the many different tactics that teams can use to get things started and make their brainstorming discussions that much more productive: 

  • Brainwriting : With this technique, team members share ideas by writing them down independently rather than shouting them out together. It’s especially helpful if you know you have a number of introverts on your team.  
  • Starting with an embarrassing story : Beginning the conversation with something that’s potentially embarrassing immediately puts everybody in a more vulnerable and open state of mind — which makes them more willing to share ideas.  
  • Giving ideas time to marinate : Even though the excitement is strong, you might not want to jump into action on an idea right away. Research shows that even a brief break can give you time to strengthen that suggestion even further.  
  • Figuring storming : This tactic involves putting yourself in the shoes of someone else to think about how they might handle the situation. It can be effective because it challenges us to get away from our own biases and perceptions.

Flex your creative muscles

Brainstorming can be powerful, but it involves more than pulling your team into a room and asking them to share their two cents. It requires a basic understanding to figure out your strategy. 

So, the next time you’re trying to figure out how to brainstorm business ideas, return to this overview as your starting resource. It’ll help you lay the foundation for successful brainstorming sessions moving forward, and you’ll be well on your way to getting the very best ideas out of your team.

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Summary: Using it Wisely

What this handout is about.

Knowing how to summarize something you have read, seen, or heard is a valuable skill, one you have probably used in many writing assignments. It is important, though, to recognize when you must go beyond describing, explaining, and restating texts and offer a more complex analysis. This handout will help you distinguish between summary and analysis and avoid inappropriate summary in your academic writing.

Is summary a bad thing?

Not necessarily. But it’s important that your keep your assignment and your audience in mind as you write. If your assignment requires an argument with a thesis statement and supporting evidence—as many academic writing assignments do—then you should limit the amount of summary in your paper. You might use summary to provide background, set the stage, or illustrate supporting evidence, but keep it very brief: a few sentences should do the trick. Most of your paper should focus on your argument. (Our handout on argument will help you construct a good one.)

Writing a summary of what you know about your topic before you start drafting your actual paper can sometimes be helpful. If you are unfamiliar with the material you’re analyzing, you may need to summarize what you’ve read in order to understand your reading and get your thoughts in order. Once you figure out what you know about a subject, it’s easier to decide what you want to argue.

You may also want to try some other pre-writing activities that can help you develop your own analysis. Outlining, freewriting, and mapping make it easier to get your thoughts on the page. (Check out our handout on brainstorming for some suggested techniques.)

Why is it so tempting to stick with summary and skip analysis?

Many writers rely too heavily on summary because it is what they can most easily write. If you’re stalled by a difficult writing prompt, summarizing the plot of The Great Gatsby may be more appealing than staring at the computer for three hours and wondering what to say about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s use of color symbolism. After all, the plot is usually the easiest part of a work to understand. Something similar can happen even when what you are writing about has no plot: if you don’t really understand an author’s argument, it might seem easiest to just repeat what he or she said.

To write a more analytical paper, you may need to review the text or film you are writing about, with a focus on the elements that are relevant to your thesis. If possible, carefully consider your writing assignment before reading, viewing, or listening to the material about which you’ll be writing so that your encounter with the material will be more purposeful. (We offer a handout on reading towards writing .)

How do I know if I’m summarizing?

As you read through your essay, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I stating something that would be obvious to a reader or viewer?
  • Does my essay move through the plot, history, or author’s argument in chronological order, or in the exact same order the author used?
  • Am I simply describing what happens, where it happens, or whom it happens to?

A “yes” to any of these questions may be a sign that you are summarizing. If you answer yes to the questions below, though, it is a sign that your paper may have more analysis (which is usually a good thing):

  • Am I making an original argument about the text?
  • Have I arranged my evidence around my own points, rather than just following the author’s or plot’s order?
  • Am I explaining why or how an aspect of the text is significant?

Certain phrases are warning signs of summary. Keep an eye out for these:

  • “[This essay] is about…”
  • “[This book] is the story of…”
  • “[This author] writes about…”
  • “[This movie] is set in…”

Here’s an example of an introductory paragraph containing unnecessary summary. Sentences that summarize are in italics:

The Great Gatsby is the story of a mysterious millionaire, Jay Gatsby, who lives alone on an island in New York. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote the book, but the narrator is Nick Carraway. Nick is Gatsby’s neighbor, and he chronicles the story of Gatsby and his circle of friends, beginning with his introduction to the strange man and ending with Gatsby’s tragic death. In the story, Nick describes his environment through various colors, including green, white, and grey. Whereas white and grey symbolize false purity and decay respectively, the color green offers a symbol of hope.

Here’s how you might change the paragraph to make it a more effective introduction:

In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald provides readers with detailed descriptions of the area surrounding East Egg, New York. In fact, Nick Carraway’s narration describes the setting with as much detail as the characters in the book. Nick’s description of the colors in his environment presents the book’s themes, symbolizing significant aspects of the post-World War I era. Whereas white and grey symbolize the false purity and decay of the 1920s, the color green offers a symbol of hope.

This version of the paragraph mentions the book’s title, author, setting, and narrator so that the reader is reminded of the text. And that sounds a lot like summary—but the paragraph quickly moves on to the writer’s own main topic: the setting and its relationship to the main themes of the book. The paragraph then closes with the writer’s specific thesis about the symbolism of white, grey, and green.

How do I write more analytically?

Analysis requires breaking something—like a story, poem, play, theory, or argument—into parts so you can understand how those parts work together to make the whole. Ideally, you should begin to analyze a work as you read or view it instead of waiting until after you’re done—it may help you to jot down some notes as you read. Your notes can be about major themes or ideas you notice, as well as anything that intrigues, puzzles, excites, or irritates you. Remember, analytic writing goes beyond the obvious to discuss questions of how and why—so ask yourself those questions as you read.

The St. Martin’s Handbook (the bulleted material below is quoted from p. 38 of the fifth edition) encourages readers to take the following steps in order to analyze a text:

  • Identify evidence that supports or illustrates the main point or theme as well as anything that seems to contradict it.
  • Consider the relationship between the words and the visuals in the work. Are they well integrated, or are they sometimes at odds with one another? What functions do the visuals serve? To capture attention? To provide more detailed information or illustration? To appeal to readers’ emotions?
  • Decide whether the sources used are trustworthy.
  • Identify the work’s underlying assumptions about the subject, as well as any biases it reveals.

Once you have written a draft, some questions you might want to ask yourself about your writing are “What’s my point?” or “What am I arguing in this paper?” If you can’t answer these questions, then you haven’t gone beyond summarizing. You may also want to think about how much of your writing comes from your own ideas or arguments. If you’re only reporting someone else’s ideas, you probably aren’t offering an analysis.

What strategies can help me avoid excessive summary?

  • Read the assignment (the prompt) as soon as you get it. Make sure to reread it before you start writing. Go back to your assignment often while you write. (Check out our handout on reading assignments ).
  • Formulate an argument (including a good thesis) and be sure that your final draft is structured around it, including aspects of the plot, story, history, background, etc. only as evidence for your argument. (You can refer to our handout on constructing thesis statements ).
  • Read critically—imagine having a dialogue with the work you are discussing. What parts do you agree with? What parts do you disagree with? What questions do you have about the work? Does it remind you of other works you’ve seen?
  • Make sure you have clear topic sentences that make arguments in support of your thesis statement. (Read our handout on paragraph development if you want to work on writing strong paragraphs).
  • Use two different highlighters to mark your paper. With one color, highlight areas of summary or description. With the other, highlight areas of analysis. For many college papers, it’s a good idea to have lots of analysis and minimal summary/description.
  • Ask yourself: What part of the essay would be obvious to a reader/viewer of the work being discussed? What parts (words, sentences, paragraphs) of the essay could be deleted without loss? In most cases, your paper should focus on points that are essential and that will be interesting to people who have already read or seen the work you are writing about.

But I’m writing a review! Don’t I have to summarize?

That depends. If you’re writing a critique of a piece of literature, a film, or a dramatic performance, you don’t necessarily need to give away much of the plot. The point is to let readers decide whether they want to enjoy it for themselves. If you do summarize, keep your summary brief and to the point.

Instead of telling your readers that the play, book, or film was “boring,” “interesting,” or “really good,” tell them specifically what parts of the work you’re talking about. It’s also important that you go beyond adjectives and explain how the work achieved its effect (how was it interesting?) and why you think the author/director wanted the audience to react a certain way. (We have a special handout on writing reviews that offers more tips.)

If you’re writing a review of an academic book or article, it may be important for you to summarize the main ideas and give an overview of the organization so your readers can decide whether it is relevant to their specific research interests.

If you are unsure how much (if any) summary a particular assignment requires, ask your instructor for guidance.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Barnet, Sylvan. 2015. A Short Guide to Writing about Art , 11th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Corrigan, Timothy. 2014. A Short Guide to Writing About Film , 9th ed. New York: Pearson.

Lunsford, Andrea A. 2015. The St. Martin’s Handbook , 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s.

Zinsser, William. 2001. On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction , 6th ed. New York: Quill.

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Home / Guides / Writing Guides / Writing Tips / How to Brainstorm for an Essay

How to Brainstorm for an Essay

Once you get going on a paper, you can often get into a groove and churn out the bulk of it fairly quickly. But choosing or brainstorming a topic for a paper—especially one with an open-ended prompt—can often be a challenge.

You’ve probably been told to brainstorm ideas for papers since you were in elementary school. Even though you might feel like “brainstorming” is an ineffective method for actually figuring out what to write about, it really works. Everyone thinks through ideas differently, but here are some tips to help you brainstorm more effectively regardless of what learning style works best for you:

Tip #1: Set an end goal for yourself

Develop a goal for your brainstorm. Don’t worry—you can go into brainstorming without knowing exactly what you want to write about, but you should  have an idea of what you hope to gain from your brainstorming session. Do you want to develop a list of potential topics? Do you want to come up with ideas to support an argument? Have some idea about what you want to get out of brainstorming so that you can make more effective use of your time.

Tip #2: Write down all ideas

Sure, some of your ideas will be better than others, but you should write all of them down for you to look back on later. Starting with bad or infeasible ideas might seem counterintuitive, but one idea usually leads to another one. Make a list that includes all of your initial thoughts, and then you can go back through and pick out the best one later. Passing judgment on ideas in this first stage will just slow you down.

Tip #3: Think about what interests you most

Students usually write better essays when they’re exploring subjects that they have some personal interest in. If a professor gives you an open-ended prompt, take it as an opportunity to delve further into a topic you find more interesting. When trying to find a focus for your papers, think back on coursework that you found engaging or that raised further questions for you.

Tip #4: Consider what you want the reader to get from your paper

Do you want to write an engaging piece? A thought-provoking one? An informative one? Think about the end goal of your writing while you go through the initial brainstorming process. Although this might seem counterproductive, considering what you want readers to get out of your writing can help you come up with a focus that both satisfies your readers and satisfies you as a writer.

 Tip #5: Try freewriting

Write for five minutes on a topic of your choice that you think could  be worth pursuing—your idea doesn’t have to be fully fleshed out. This can help you figure out whether it’s worth putting more time into an idea or if it doesn’t really have any weight to it. If you find that you don’t have much to say about a particular topic, you can switch subjects halfway through writing, but this can be a good way to get your creative juices flowing.

Tip #6: Draw a map of your ideas

While some students might prefer the more traditional list methods, for more visual learners, sketching out a word map of ideas may be a useful method for brainstorming. Write the main idea in a circle in the center of your page. Then, write smaller, related ideas in bubbles further from the center of the page and connect them to your initial idea using lines. This is a good way to break down big ideas and to figure out whether they are worth writing about.

 Tip #7: Enlist the help of others

Sometimes it can be difficult coming up with paper topics on your own, and family and friends can prove to be valuable resources when developing ideas. Feel free to brainstorm with another person (or in a group). Many hands make light work—and some students work best when thinking through ideas out loud—so don’t be afraid to ask others for advice when trying to come up with a paper topic.

Tip #8: Find the perfect brainstorming spot

Believe it or not, location can make a BIG difference when you’re trying to come up with a paper topic. Working while watching TV is never a good idea, but you might want to listen to music while doing work, or you might prefer to sit in a quiet study location. Think about where you work best, and pick a spot where you feel that you can be productive.

Tip #9: Play word games to help generate ideas

Whether you hate playing word games or think they’re a ton of fun, you might want to try your hand at a quick round of Words With Friends or a game of Scrabble. These games can help get your brain working, and sometimes ideas can be triggered by words you see. Get a friend to play an old-fashioned board game with you, or try your hand at a mobile app if you’re in a time crunch.

Tip #10: Take a break to let ideas sink in

Brainstorming is a great way to get all of your initial thoughts out there, but sometimes you need a bit more time to process all of those ideas. Stand up and stretch—or even take a walk around the block—and then look back on your list of ideas to see if you have any new thoughts on them.

For many students, the most difficult process of paper writing is simply coming up with an idea about what to write on. Don’t be afraid to get all of your ideas out there through brainstorming, and remember that all ideas are valid. Take the time necessary to sort through all of your ideas, using whatever method works best for you, and then get to writing—but don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board if a new inspiration strikes.

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December 3, 2020

Academic Writing Tip: 8 Brainstorming Techniques

So, you’ve read and re-read the academic writing assignment that you received from your professor, and now you’re staring at a blank page.

Does your mind feel as blank as the page? Are you Frozen by fear? Rubbing your eyes with exhaustion?

Whether you’re writing an essay for a community college in Boston, Massachusetts or a university in New England, USA, you need to start somewhere. Brainstorming means you use your imagination and prior knowledge to collect thoughts. After gathering a great quantity of ideas, you select the highest quality ideas.

Filling that empty white document can feel like leaping into unknown icy water. Brainstorming is the way to warm up for a deep dive into the EAP topic.

Brainstorming begins with simple questions. What do you know about the topic? What do you want to learn about the topic?

As you brainstorm, you journey farther down the academic writing quest. How do you narrow down a topic into a thesis? How do you gather the examples and evidence necessary for an academic essay?

Brainstorming tip #1: Freewriting

Do you have no ideas? Or the opposite problem—too many ideas?

Freewriting means what it sounds like—you’re free to write whatever comes to mind. The point is not to make it perfect—not even necessarily to make it good—but just to put thoughts on paper—no rules, no revising. You can even write about how you don’t know what to write about.

The only limit you should set for yourself is that you write for a specific period of time—let’s say 30 minutes—or for a specific number of pages—let’s say 2 pages. Non-stop activity gets the juices flowing, and a concrete goal gives you satisfaction. Here’s an example of freewriting:

Freewriting stimulates your brain the same way physical exercise wakes up your mind.

Brainstorming tip #2: Making a Cube

Draw a cube in your notebook. Each of the six sides has a task:

summary writing brainstorming

Side 2: Compare the topic.

Side 3: Connect the topic.

Side 4: Classify the topic.

Side 5: Argue for or against the topic.

Side 6: Personalize the topic.

Instead of those 6 tasks, you could replace those verbs with other academic tasks: apply, analyze, question, connect, define, classify, associate, or explain cause and effect—whichever inspire ideas.

Imagine your topic is attending university in the U.S. Next to each point on the cube, you would write words and phrases inspired by the verb at hand:

Side 1: Describe: Exciting, difficult, expensive, growing opportunities, expensive, valuable.

Side 2: Compare: Different from my country. USA = more essay writing, dorms with roommates, critical thinking, fewer standardized exams and lectures, smaller classes.

Side 3: Connect: student visa policies, US immigration law, IELTS, TOEFL iBT, travel restrictions from covid-19, globalization means more English at work.

Side 4: Classify: community colleges (Holyoke, Greenfield), state universities (UMASS Boston), private ivy league (Harvard) graduate schools, MBA, BA, MFA programs.  

Side 5: Argue for : opens doors, better jobs, international workplace, investment in future, social networking, broadens horizons.

Side 6: Personalize: my cousin > engineering degree, MIT internship, campus resources help with culture shock (which worries me.) IELTS stresses me out!!!!  Way to avoid?

Brainstorming tip #3: Clustering

When you cluster, you draw bubbles and connect words and concepts associated with the topic—anything that comes to mind.

summary writing brainstorming

This visual method works when you have a lot of random thoughts and you are trying to “see” connections.

Brainstorming tip #4: Bulleting

With this technique, you make bulleted lists with concepts, terms, and ideas. This can help you narrow down from the first list to a second list. The list on the left contains general bullet points, while the list on the right expands on a single bullet to delve deeper.

summary writing brainstorming

This method works great if you’re an orderly person who likes making lists.

Brainstorming tip #5: Venn Diagram

  The famous Venn diagram technique works well for brainstorming differences and similarities between two topics. You draw two intersecting circles and write the qualities they share in the middle where the circles intersect and the qualities that are unique in the left and right spaces. For example, let’s say you’re brainstorming differences and similarities between two cities in Massachusetts, Boston and Northampton.

summary writing brainstorming

This famous brainstorming method is used in the academic and business worlds because it so clearly shows differences and similarities.

summary writing brainstorming

Brainstorming tip #6: Tree diagram

The tree diagram begins with a central idea that branches off into categories or supporting ideas.

Imagine you’re brainstorming different types of schools in US higher education.

summary writing brainstorming

Brainstorming tip #7: Journalist Dice

Dice aren’t just toys for games and gambling–they can be a tool for writing. Rolling journalist dice is a stimulating way to flesh out narrative essays. Each side of the die corresponds to one of the 6 question words. To make the game fun, roll a die, and write down one answer the question every time you roll. Roll at least a dozen times to write down a variety of details and ideas.

summary writing brainstorming

Brainstorming tip #8: T diagram

summary writing brainstorming

What’s next in the writing process?

After your fast and furious brainstorm, the next step is to create an outline. When you outline, you pick your best and brightest ideas. Then you begin organizing them into a coherent, linear argument. You select and sort supporting points, evidence, examples, and elaboration. To learn more about outlining, click here for the next article in our academic writing series. 

The best way to improve your writing is to join an academic or business English course. With guidance from an expert instructor and feedback from a community of peers, you can master the art of academic writing.


Gordon-Conwell Writing Center

  • Understanding Writing Expectations

Brainstorming and Writer's Block

  • Outlining for Successful Writing
  • Writing a Strong Introduction
  • Creating a Clear Thesis Statement
  • Developing Body Paragraphs
  • Connecting Ideas with Transitions
  • Choosing the Best Sources
  • Using Sources Effectively
  • Avoiding Plagiarism
  • Paraphrasing without Plagiarizing
  • Addressing Counterarguments
  • Ending with a Strong Conclusion
  • Using Words Wisely
  • Punctuating Correctly
  • Revising, Editing, & Proofreading
  • Applying Feedback
  • Formatting Correctly
  • Recorded Writing Workshops
  • Return to GCTS Library Home Page

Many people try to dive right in when faced with a writing project. However, before too long, they realize that they are drowning in ideas and are not sure how to make sense of them. Trying to write with insufficient preparation can lead to wasted time and frustration. Therefore, it is important to take time to brainstorm before beginning a writing project. Brainstorming can be a fun and creative experience as a writer dreams about the potential of a written text. Furthermore, writer’s block should be an expected part of the brainstorming process and, thus, should not be feared.

Summarized Explanation

  • Brainstorming is the first major step in the writing process.
  • Brainstorming can take many forms.
  • Brainstorming should not be rushed.
  • Writer’s block is a natural occurrence during the brainstorming stage.

summary writing brainstorming

Detailed Explanation

Brainstorming is the first major step in the writing process. However, before brainstorming can occur, a writer must understand the writing expectations; review the related writing guide called  Understanding Writing Expectations . Once a writer has a clear grasp on what is expected, brainstorming can commence. Brainstorming seeks to generate ideas and provide initial direction for a writing project, and it can take many forms. Regardless of the form, brainstorming should not be rushed. For that reason, writers should leave ample time to brainstorm for any writing project. There are countless ways to brainstorm. The method will depend on the writer and the writing prompt, and methods can be combined. Some brainstorming methods are briefly described below.

During the brainstorming process, most writers experience writer’s block. Writer’s block is not to be feared; it is a natural part of writing, especially at the initial stage of brainstorming when creativity is most needed. Below are some common methods for resolving writer's block.

  • Experiment with a variety of brainstorming methods to see if one yields more results than another.
  • Take a break and maybe eat something to rest the mind and clear any brain fog.
  • Move to a different location; sometimes a change of scenery can get the creative juices flowing again.
  • Pause the process (maybe even for a day or two); it is surprising how ideas will come even when not consciously brainstorming.
  • Recorded Writing Workshops The writing workshops go into more detail regarding the topics presented in this writing guide.
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Prewriting Strategies

Five useful strategies.

Pre-writing strategies use writing to generate and clarify ideas. While many writers have traditionally created outlines before beginning writing, there are several other effective prewriting activities. We often call these prewriting strategies “brainstorming techniques.” Five useful strategies are listing, clustering, freewriting, looping, and asking the six journalists' questions. These strategies help you with both your invention and organization of ideas, and they can aid you in developing topics for your writing.

Listing is a process of producing a lot of information within a short time by generating some broad ideas and then building on those associations for more detail with a bullet point list. Listing is particularly useful if your starting topic is very broad, and you need to narrow it down.

  • Jot down all the possible terms that emerge from the general topic you are working on. This procedure works especially well if you work in a team. All team members can generate ideas, with one member acting as scribe. Do not worry about editing or throwing out what might not be a good idea. Simply write down as many possibilities as you can.
  • Group the items that you have listed according to arrangements that make sense to you. Are things thematically related?
  • Give each group a label. Now you have a narrower topic with possible points of development.
  • Write a sentence about the label you have given the group of ideas. Now you have a topic sentence or possibly a  thesis statement .

Listing example. Bullet point list of topic ideas: online education, gentrification, data privacy, vice taxes, and vaping.

Clustering, also called mind mapping or idea mapping, is a strategy that allows you to explore the relationships between ideas.

  • Put the subject in the center of a page. Circle or underline it.
  • As you think of other ideas, write them on the page surrounding the central idea. Link the new ideas to the central circle with lines.
  • As you think of ideas that relate to the new ideas, add to those in the same way.

The result will look like a web on your page. Locate clusters of interest to you, and use the terms you attached to the key ideas as departure points for your paper.

Clustering is especially useful in determining the relationship between ideas. You will be able to distinguish how the ideas fit together, especially where there is an abundance of ideas. Clustering your ideas lets you see them visually in a different way, so that you can more readily understand possible directions your paper may take.

Clustering example of a middle circle with several connected dialog boxes on the sides  June 22, 2022 at 12:59 AM


Freewriting is a process of generating a lot of information by writing non-stop in full sentences for a predetermined amount of time. It allows you to focus on a specific topic but forces you to write so quickly that you are unable to edit any of your ideas.

  • Freewrite on the assignment or general topic for five to ten minutes non-stop. Force yourself to continue writing even if nothing specific comes to mind (so you could end up writing “I don’t know what to write about” over and over until an idea pops into your head. This is okay; the important thing is that you do not stop writing). This freewriting will include many ideas; at this point, generating ideas is what is important, not the grammar or the spelling.
  • After you have finished freewriting, look back over what you have written and highlight the most prominent and interesting ideas; then you can begin all over again, with a tighter focus (see looping). You will narrow your topic and, in the process, you will generate several relevant points about the topic.

Freewriting example. Lined paper with text reading: The first thing that came to mind when we got this assignment was to write about basketball. I've always loved both playing and watching the sport. I don't know what aspect of it to focus on though. I don't know what to write here. I'm looking around the room now. Oh, the student next to me is wearing a Bulls t-shirt. That's my favorite team! Maybe I could write about the history of the Bulls for my essay.

Looping is a freewriting technique that allows you to focus your ideas continually while trying to discover a writing topic. After you freewrite for the first time, identify a key thought or idea in your writing, and begin to freewrite again, with that idea as your starting point. You will loop one 5-10 minute freewriting after another, so you have a sequence of freewritings, each more specific than the last. The same rules that apply to freewriting apply to looping: write quickly, do not edit, and do not stop.

Loop your freewriting as many times as necessary, circling another interesting topic, idea, phrase, or sentence each time. When you have finished four or five rounds of looping, you will begin to have specific information that indicates what you are thinking about a particular topic. You may even have the basis for a tentative thesis or an improved idea for an approach to your assignment when you have finished.

Looping example. On a first piece of lined paper, it has text reading: "The first thing that came to mind when we got this assignment was to write about basketball. I've always loved both playing and watching the sport. I don't know what aspect of it to focus on though. I don't know what to write here. I'm looking around the room now. Oh, the student next to me is wearing a Bulls t-shirt. That's my favorite team! Maybe I could write about the history of the Bulls for my essay." Bulls is circled. There is an arrow pointing towards a second piece of lined paper, which has text reading: "What I know about the history of the Bulls is..."

The Journalists' Questions

Journalists traditionally ask six questions when they are writing assignments that are broken down into five W's and one H:  Who? ,  What? ,  Where? ,  When? ,  Why? , and  How?  You can use these questions to explore the topic you are writing about for an assignment. A key to using the journalists' questions is to make them flexible enough to account for the specific details of your topic. For instance, if your topic is the rise and fall of the Puget Sound tides and its effect on salmon spawning, you may have very little to say about  Who  if your focus does not account for human involvement. On the other hand, some topics may be heavy on the  Who , especially if human involvement is a crucial part of the topic.

The journalists' questions are a powerful way to develop a great deal of information about a topic very quickly. Learning to ask the appropriate questions about a topic takes practice, however. At times during writing an assignment, you may wish to go back and ask the journalists' questions again to clarify important points that may be getting lost in your planning and drafting.

Possible generic questions you can ask using the six journalists' questions follow:

  • Who? Who are the participants? Who is affected? Who are the primary actors? Who are the secondary actors?
  • What? What is the topic? What is the significance of the topic? What is the basic problem? What are the issues related to that problem?
  • Where? Where does the activity take place? Where does the problem or issue have its source? At what place is the cause or effect of the problem most visible?
  • When? When is the issue most apparent? (in the past? present? future?) When did the issue or problem develop? What historical forces helped shape the problem or issue and at what point in time will the problem or issue culminate in a crisis? When is action needed to address the issue or problem?
  • Why? Why did the issue or problem arise? Why is it (your topic) an issue or problem at all? Why did the issue or problem develop in the way that it did?
  • How? How is the issue or problem significant? How can it be addressed? How does it affect the participants? How can the issue or problem be resolved?

The Journalists' Questions example: Has a black chalkboard with a question mark and the words who, what, when, where, why, and how written on it.


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Better Brainstorming

  • Hal Gregersen

summary writing brainstorming

Great innovators have long known that the secret to unlocking a better answer is to ask a better question. Applying that insight to brainstorming exercises can vastly improve the search for new ideas—especially when a team is feeling stuck. Brainstorming for questions, rather than answers, helps you avoid group dynamics that often stifle voices, and it lets you reframe problems in ways that spur breakthrough thinking.

After testing this approach with hundreds of organizations, MIT’s Hal Gregersen has developed it into a methodology: Start by selecting a problem that matters. Invite a small group to help you consider it, and in just two minutes describe it at a high level so that you don’t constrain the group’s thinking. Make it clear that people can contribute only questions and that no preambles or justifications are allowed. Then, set the clock for four minutes, and generate as many questions as you can in that time, aiming to produce at least 15. Afterward, study the questions generated, looking for those that challenge your assumptions and provide new angles on your problem. If you commit to actively pursuing at least one of these, chances are, you’ll break open a new pathway to unexpected solutions.

Focus on questions, not answers, for breakthrough insights.

The Problem

Great innovators have always known that the key to unlocking a better answer is to ask a better question—one that challenges deeply held assumptions. Yet most people don’t do that, even when brainstorming, because it doesn’t come naturally. As a result, they tend to feel stuck in their search for fresh ideas.

The Solution

By brainstorming for questions instead of answers, you can create a safe space for deeper exploration and more-powerful problem solving. This brief exercise in reframing—which helps you avoid destructive group dynamics and biases that can thwart breakthrough thinking—often reveals promising new angles and unexpected insights.

About 20 years ago I was leading a brainstorming session in one of my MBA classes, and it was like wading through oatmeal. We were talking about something that many organizations struggle with: how to build a culture of equality in a male-dominated environment. Though it was an issue the students cared about, they clearly felt uninspired by the ideas they were generating. After a lot of discussion, the energy level in the room was approaching nil. Glancing at the clock, I resolved to at least give us a starting point for the next session.

  • Hal Gregersen is a Senior Lecturer in Leadership and Innovation at the MIT Sloan School of Management , a globally recognized expert in navigating rapid change, and a Thinkers50 ranked management thinker. He is the author of Questions Are the Answer: A Breakthrough Approach to Your Most Vexing Problems at Work and in Life and the coauthor of The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators .

summary writing brainstorming

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Brainstorming is a strategy used to generate a number of ideas to help solve a particular problem. The technique has been around for over 70 years and is still used today to engage students in solving a range of problems.

Techniques vary but there is a general structure to follow when developing brainstorming sessions. After the problem or issue is presented, students are organized into groups to brainstorm all possible ideas which could solve the problem. Discussion of these ideas takes place after the brainstorming session ends, usually after a defined period of time. Each idea will be discussed and considered, some ideas will be eliminated, and a final list will be ranked for possible use as a solution toward solving the problem.

Brainstorming is a cooperative approach in which a number of people collectively agree upon a solution after all of their ideas are brought forth and discussed.

It is important to plan the brainstorming session before implementing it in the classroom. As outlined below, you will need to consider the strengths, challenges and barriers when designing the session.

Planning a Brainstorming Session

1. state the problem or issue..

  • Avoid preparing students by giving them the problem or issue—you don’t want them to think about the topic beforehand. Brainstorming sessions are meant to be spontaneous and creative. Provide students with the problem/topic that is new to them and one that challenges their current level of knowledge on the issue.
  • State the problem/topic as a question which is concise and to the point. State the problem/topic succinctly yet loose enough to encourage more idea generation. A stated problem which is too succinct may be difficult to understand and one which is too limiting may restrict creative ideas.
  • In what ways might we improve product X?
  • What are the characteristics of X?
  • What is it about X that sets it apart from other Xs?
  • How can we do A and B?

2. Identify the roles of all students in the group.

  • Often one student acts as the group facilitator who records all generated ideas, encourages participation, prevents negative remarks, and watches the time.
  • All other group members are to be collaborative, respectful, and cooperative.
Provide students with the problem/topic that is new to them and one that challenges their current level of knowledge on the issue.

3. Explain the guidelines of the brainstorming session (the DOs and DON’Ts).

Stress that all ideas are welcome and even ideas which are perceived as “out there,” “funny or silly,” or “weird” can lead to creative solutions.
  • During the session there is to be no criticism or evaluation of ideas which could inhibit contributions.
  • Encourage the group to relax and be enthusiastic about the process.
  • Encourage use of items such as squish balls, pipe cleaners, and other gadgets to create a relaxed environment.
  • Everyone must participate, even those students who tend not to contribute in class discussions. All voices are to be heard and everyone must contribute ideas.
  • No one student can dominate the brainstorming session by shouting over the others or contributing meaningless solutions.
  • Encourage students to not delve on one idea for too long.

4. Keep the group number group manageable (8-12 people works well).

  • Generally, more people in a group can lead to more ideas being generated. However, it may be difficult manage large groups in a classroom setting. Experiment to see what works well in your own courses.
  • Too many people could intimidate those who tend not to participate from offering their ideas.

5. Create a relaxed environment which is supplied with adequate workspace and materials and free from distractions.

  • Provide necessary tables, chairs, paper and writing instruments, white board and markers, flip chart, or concept mapping software such as Inspiration® or SMART Ideas™.
  • Provide background music (unless students find it distracting).
  • Ask students to refrain from annoying mannerisms such as leg swinging, gum chewing, and pen twirling which can interfere with other students’ concentration.
  • Announce that all cell phones and electronic devices be turned off.
Ideally, more people in a group can lead to more ideas being generated.

6. Create heterogenic groups.

Groups should consist of students who vary in experiences, backgrounds, knowledge and academic disciplines.
  • A varied group of students will suggest more varied and unique ideas and suggestions.

7. Rank the generated ideas and suggestions.

  • After the designated time frame is over, students should begin to evaluate and rank all of the ideas generated during the brainstorming session. Suggest that students create a list of criteria used to evaluate the ideas. They should work toward a final list of three to five highly possible solutions to the problem.
  • Criteria should be given scores, with 5 being a perfect score to 0 which would indicate that the idea does not meet any of the criteria.
  • Sticky notes are helpful and can be moved when chunking and categorizing ideas.
  • Criteria also can be established before the actual brainstorming begins.

8. Review the brainstorming session.

  • It is important to provide some form of follow-up to the brainstorming session as a sort of follow-through to support student effort. Even if their suggested solutions are not used, it’s good practice to provide feedback. Thanking the students for their efforts will prove to them that their work is valued, and encourage them to participate in a future brainstorming activity.
  • Statement of the original problem or issue
  • Criteria and scale used to evaluate the brainstorming ideas
  • All ideas generated during the brainstorming session
  • Criteria and rating scales used to evaluate the generated ideas
  • Final rated items and their scores
  • Relevant comments and further ideas provided by students during the rating process
  • How final rated items are used (provide feedback with explanation if the final rated items are not used)
It is important to provide some form of follow-up to the brainstorming session as a sort of follow-through to support student effort.

Strengths of Brainstorming

  • Provides a quick and easy class activity. Brainstorming sessions can be effectively used in the classroom. However, they do require meaningful planning time for ultimate success.
  • Contributes to classroom collective power. Brainstorming sessions allow individual students’ voices to become one with the group’s voice. The final ideas are generally identified through consensus.
  • Creates a student-centered activity. Students direct the group in which they generate their own ideas, develop rating criteria, and are responsible for group dynamics.
  • Supports learning in a relaxed environment. Students are able to collaborate in a relaxed, informal learning environment.
  • Strengthens problem-based learning. Brainstorming is a problem-solving activity where students build on or develop higher order thinking skills.
  • Encourages creative thought. Brainstorming encourages students to think creatively (out of the box), encouraging all students to share their ideas, no matter how far “out there” they may seem.

Challenges of Brainstorming

  • Keeping the session from being just a chat session. The moderator should direct the session to keep students on task.
  • Ensuring students collaborate rather than compete with one another when generating ideas. Walk around the room and listen for inappropriate group behavior.
  • Encouraging students to build on each other’s ideas to help them build their critical thinking skills.
  • Getting “buy-in” or acceptance from those who have participated in brainstorming who have never seen their ideas brought forth and acted upon. Work forward from this point with any student who may be in this category and remark on their contribution both to them personally, their group and to the whole class.
  • Getting quiet or independent students to actively participate. Explain that as part of this course all students are expected to bend a little which may have them participating in activities which might make them uncomfortable. Never force someone who is adamant about a particular situation. Instead, coax those who are hesitant at first by creating a trusting and caring classroom environment from the beginning of the semester. This approach can help students be more accepting of change and those who tend to feel uncomfortable working with others.
  • Helping groups to move forward if they are “stuck” and not able to generate ideas. Reconvene the group to review the problem or issue or provide an example of a possible solution.
  • Reaching consensus. Getting students to reach consensus becomes less of a problem if all students are given equal time to provide input, feel comfortable as a valued member of the group and are respected for their points-of-view.

Brainstorming sessions can be a useful strategy to encourage genuine collaboration and interaction in the classroom. Putting together a well-stated problem and careful planning strategies can lead to meaningful idea generation and idea building which can be used in solving problems or addressing specific course-related issues.

Baumgartner, J. (2005). Key factors to successful brainstorming.

Elkenberry, K. (2007). Brainstorming strategies: Seven questions that spur better solutions.

Selected Resources

Baumgartner, J. (n.d.). The complete guide to managing traditional brainstorming events.

Maricopa Community Colleges (2001). Brainstorming. 

Storm, J. (2004). 10 deadly brainstorming ruts that kill innovation.

Creative Commons License

Suggested citation

Northern Illinois University Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. (2012). Brainstorming. In Instructional guide for university faculty and teaching assistants. Retrieved from

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Rules for Brainstorming: A Guide to Effective Brainstorming

Diana Porumboiu

Brainstorming is one of those hyped terms that these days has a reputation of its own because of the controversy surrounding it. Is it just a shallow activity, organizations do when they are stuck in a rut? Or is there an efficient way to go about it without wasting time?

The debate still goes on, and both sides have valid arguments. The opposing sides of the debate are the experienced facilitators or managers who vouch for its value when done right, and the academic research that points out the flaws and the short-sightedness of the approach.

But we don’t live in a black and white world, and as is the case with most things, brainstorming is more nuanced than that. Since brainstorming first became a thing, in the ‘50s, the world has changed radically. In the past 70 years, we got the Internet, we went digital, and our working life looks completely different.

Even so, the basic rules of brainstorming haven’t really adapted to these new realities. So instead of asking ourselves if there is a point in brainstorming, and whether it’s good or bad, maybe we should update the old ways of brainstorming to make it more effective for modern organizations.

So, in this article, we’ll answer essential questions like what the value of brainstorming is, and provide practical steps and up-to-date rules of thumb that can lead to effective brainstorming sessions.

But without further ado, let’s get to it.

Table of contents

  • What is brainstorming?
  • The traditional rules and their benefits
  • Quantity first
  • Encourage crazy ideas
  • No criticism
  • Combine and improve

The improved rules of brainstorming

  • Create the right environment
  • Nurture creative abrasion
  • Build a process
  • How to setup a successful brainstorming session
  • Set the stage
  • Set up a board
  • Generate and collect
  • Priortize and follow-up

Brainstorming - guide and rules

What is brainstorming and what’s the hype around it?

To set the scene, let’s recap what brainstorming is and how it became such a key concept in creative thinking.  

In a nutshell, brainstorming refers to the group ideation technique where people get together for a session to generate and contribute ideas around a specific theme or problem.

Nowadays, brainstorming is the overarching term for a variety of methods, tools, and techniques that have been developed to facilitate creativity and encourage idea generation. But at its core, a brainstorming session is a face-to-face interaction that follows these steps:

You choose a problem that needs a solution, or a topic that could use improvements or fresh ideas.

Get together a small group of people to whom you communicate the goal of the session.

Prepare the setting: get flipcharts, or a whiteboard, post-its, pens, markers, etc

Introduce and write down the main topic to focus on (nowadays the topic is usually announced beforehand, and not on the spot).

Give people time to think and write their ideas down and as the ideas start flowing, shout them out or add them to the board. In this phase, there are different tools that can be used to help with the creative block and encourage creative thinking (mind mapping, five whys, six thinking hats SCAMPER , and so on).

Before wrapping up, ask questions or clarifications on ideas that need additional information.

The last step is a summary of the session with conclusions and next steps.

These are the main steps and depending on the brainstorming tools used during the workshop, these can look different and last for hours or even continue for several days in a row.

If you are interested in more ideation tools and techniques that go beyond brainstorming, you can check out our complete guide to ideation where we explained some of the most common ones.

idea generation toolkit_slim_banner_plain

As a short background story for those who are not familiar with the source of brainstorming, Alex Osborn is considered the father of this method. A creative theorist, and businessman he imagined the technique in the 50s, and was actively using it in his agency, BBDO. Reportedly, every day they were running a brainstorming session, in a bright yellow room where up to 12 people would gather to bounce around ideas. After 401 sessions, they had a total of 34000 ideas, which in the end resulted in 2000 good ideas.

If we do the math this translates to 5 decent ideas per session. 70 years ago, this might have looked like a good use of time, but considering today’s technologies and methods, those results could be achieved with far less effort and way faster. Current tools allow easier and faster idea collection, which leaves more time for actual development and implementation work.

Brainstorming caught the attention of researchers in the academic world, which made this one of the most researched creative thinking methods. This is also how the technique became very controversial.

The first ones to show interest in brainstorming were researchers at Yale, whose studies led to an unexpected outcome: individual ideation led to more ideas than group ideation. As academic settings are different from corporate ones, understandably the results were not deemed reliable.

The ball started rolling and leaders were now using brainstorming on a regular basis, but with their own twist.

One of the famous adopters of this method was Bill Gates who turned it into a “suggestion box”, by receiving ideas from employees that he would review on his own during his “think week”. This later turned into virtual idea challenges which allowed for a more systematic approach to brainstorming and a more structured evaluation method.

Steve Jobs also adopted brainstorming , but he brought his own style into the equation, breaking the no criticism, relaxed atmosphere rules.

And speaking of rules, the traditional brainstorming approach, as imagined by Osborn had a few ground rules that he considered essential for the success of a session.

So, let’s next have a look at these ground rules, their role, benefits but also shortcomings.

The traditional rules of brainstorming and their benefits

Osborn came up with the brainstorming technique as a tool to generate a large number of ideas for a specific problem. Brainstorming, which he initially called thinking up was grounded in a few basic rules that would govern each session.

1. Quantity first: come up with as many ideas as possible and the winning ideas will eventually come.

Ideas are the main purpose of a brainstorming session, so we couldn’t agree more, you want as many as possible. However, when it comes to traditional brainstorming sessions, you drastically reduce the number of ideas that could be generated.

The traditional approach suggests getting together 10 to 12 people who can work together. There’s an obvious limitation to this approach, as we saw in Osborn’s results, they needed over 400 sessions to get to 2000 decent ideas.

Limiting access to only a select few, is diminishing opportunities and the number and diversity of ideas that could be generated. It might have worked well in a small agency and in the 50s offices, but in today’s complex and global work environments, this approach is highly restrictive.

When people work remotely or from different corners of the world, it is highly inefficient to get them together for a brainstorming session. Let alone involve those who don’t happen to work in the figurative Ivory Tower at headquarters. Ideas should come from all employees in an organization , not just from top managers.

rules of braisntorming many ideas

2. Encourage bold, crazy ideas

Don’t rule out any ideas because you never know where a spark can come from. The risk with this rule is that people have the tendency to focus more on pointing out problems than solutions. But this doesn’t mean that there is no value in that. Even if the solution isn’t right, you might uncover something that was not obvious up to that point that helps you solve the right problem down the road.

Opening the door to wild ideas can come with the challenge of keeping people focused on the goal, especially since the next rule makes it even harder to get participants back on track when they veer away from the purpose of the session.

3. No evaluation or criticism of ideas

Understandably, the role of this rule is to not discourage or cut people off from churning out a flow of ideas. As the best ideas often build on top of other people’s ideas, this is as an important rule.

However, it also leads to some issues. Even though fostering a safe environment is essential in creative thinking, a brainstorming workshop won’t do the trick. Building a safe environment comes from the overall organizational culture and can’t be suddenly created when brainstorming if it was nonexistent before.

Even though on paper this is a good rule to balance the flow of ideas and give voice to everyone, in practice you will always have the most extrovert, open person in the room speak more and drown out others. Someone more opinionated or with a stronger personality could easily discourage the more reserved, introverted people. And this can happen even when enforcing this rule. Some people will always feel more comfortable speaking up than others. 

Also, if there is no instant reaction and no healthy debate, groupthink will settle in. The last rule of brainstorming is meant to combat this, but can it?

4. Combine and improve ideas

Osborn was not wrong to believe in the creative power of a group and in his circumstances, he made it work. When ideas are transparently shared, it’s easier for people to contribute, build upon those and get more creative together. 

At the same time, the proponents of brainstorming tend to blame the critics of the method for being inexperienced, unskilled, or simply ignorant. Basically, they don’t see any flaws in the method.

There might be a grain of truth there, but it’s just one side of the story. Even skilled facilitators have a hard time choosing and using the right tools to reach their goals. Sometimes you can expose yourself to others’ ideas at your own pace, when you can digest the information, not when your boss asks you to be creative.

To harness these ideas and moments, organizations should enable the transparent flow of ideas in an asynchronous approach. This will enable them to leverage the creative and collaborative power of hundreds and even thousands of people.

Luckily, modern technology and the myriad of tools available today allow for simultaneous interaction between thousands of people who can transparently collaborate and build on top of each other’s knowledge a snd ideas. 

It’s interesting to note that even though these ground rules were first introduced in the 50s, they are mostly valid, and can still be relevant in small agencies and working groups that need a fast fix to a specific issue.

rules of brainstorming cacti differences

When vouching for brainstorming, many supporters of the method bring up two important benefits:

Synergy , (which comes from the fourth rule of brainstorming) and

Social facilitation 

In essence, synergy refers to the results produced by collaborative work. When people get together, the overall result is greater than the impact they would have had individually.

So, when it comes to brainstorming the ideas generated by some can inspire and motivate others to come up with more ideas. It generates a chain reaction that enables people to build on top of each other’s ideas.

However, organizations are highly complex these days and information is spread across teams, departments and functions.

There are also many other things at play when it comes to team dynamics and human behavior when we interact in person.

For example, the more cohesive a group, the greater the risk of groupthink, conformity, and the tendency to want to reach unanimity. There is also the risk shift issue , which is the tendency of a group to make riskier decisions than they would have made individually.

The more cohesive a group, the greater the risk of groupthink, conformity, and the tendency to want to reach unanimity.

Then there is also the social loafing concept which refers to how people work less hard for ideas when in a group, rather than if they were doing it alone.

A study on group performance also brought to discussion another phenomenon: downward norm-setting , where a group performs at the level of the weakest person.

Teamwork and cohesive groups are essential for the well-functioning of an organization, but there is always the flip side of the coin. While all these things are not bad per se, they do inhibit the possibility of great, diverse, out-of-the-box ideas. The vacuum in which  brainstorming tends to operate, can favor such behaviors which can become bottlenecks for the idea-generation process.

Social facilitation

Again, this is a vast topic, but the main idea here is that people tend to behave differently when in the presence of others. Some research states that people perform better certain tasks when they are with other people than when they are alone.

These theories are hard to prove or explain even for social scientists, so in the context of brainstorming, it’s even more controversial to state that mere collaboration with others can improve one’s performance. There are just too many factors at play.

One of the most obvious is that each brainstorming brings together different personality types. Not everyone will feel energized by the chaos that some brainstorming sessions can turn into. From the personal experience of the introvert writing this piece, brainstorming sessions can be energy-draining, exhausting exercises, and not the most inspiring, motivating types of work meetings.

Most leaders who decide to run a brainstorming workshop do it for one or more of these reasons:

A fun activity to energize and motivate the team (as mentioned, it hardly applies to everyone, since you will never have completely homogeneous teams, something you shouldn’t even strive for)

fun work brainstorming

Improve communication and get people on the same page (indeed, when you bring people in the same room it’s easier to communicate the same thing to everyone and bring clarity).

They involve people in decision-making or at least give that illusion. In some cases, it can work, as people engage and feel motivated when they are listened to. But over time if their ideas are ignored, cynicism can creep in and people will stop believing and engaging in these workshops.

The main purpose of brainstorming, which is creative thinking and idea generation is mostly overlooked, but for these other benefits, it can still be a valuable exercise, especially in small teams and organizations.

That being said, for medium to large organizations who want to make the most of the basic idea of brainstorming, generate as many ideas as possible and get the best results, there are better ways to go about this. Some new, up to date rules, and tools, should be considered if you want to brainstorm in a 21st-century organization.

So, let’s see why and how you can revamp the traditional rules of brainstorming and bring them to modern working life. 

Before diving deeper into each of these rules, let’s start by setting the scene of brainstorming: when should you brainstorm, and what are the prerequisites that would make the effort worthwhile.

The most common criticism towards brainstorming is that it doesn’t build momentum and things come to a halt once the session has ended. The reasons could be:

There is no systematic process in place to manage ideas and to include ideation methods in these processes

The goals where not clearly defined before the brainstorming. Closely linked to the previous reason, there was no accountability for the outcome of the session and no one in charge of moving ideas further.

So, before jumping into a brainstorming session take a moment and reflect on the purpose. Are there other possibilities, tools, and solutions that might work better?

For example, in recent years a new concept has gained traction, painstorming . If we disregard the not so inspired choice of words, there’s actually something to it.

With painstorming the focus is shifted towards fixing customers’ pain points, so you work to uncover pain points and come up with better ideas around those. Of course, there is nothing new about it, but when you look at why you wanted to brainstorm in the first place, this might bring a new perspective, and with it, new methods and tools, like the Jobs To Be Done framework or How Might We statements.

JTBD slim

Of course, these tools aren’t mutually exclusive or replace the need or role of brainstorming. So, if you decide that brainstorming is still something you want to do, you might as well do it right. Here are some amendments to the traditional rules of brainstorming.  

1. Quantity: for more ideas, go virtual

As already mentioned, we stand by this rule: to get the best ideas you need a larger pool of ideas to choose from. And in the digital world we live in, you can’t rely just on pen and paper for that.

It’s simple: if you want more ideas, you need more input and more participants, which in an office setting is hard to achieve. We can’t imagine brainstorming with 30 people in the same space; how they would interact, take turns, suggest ideas, how long it would last, and what the outcome would be. Even finding a calendar slot that works for all 30 participants will likely take months. But we can imagine a hybrid workshop with 30 participants or even a completely virtual brainstorming session with hundreds of people.  


There are even studies that show how virtual brainstorming sessions are more productive because the environment can provide a better experience for the group members, balancing introverts and extroverts, optimists, and pessimists.

2. Encourage bold, crazy ideas: create the right environment

The crazy ideas come in the most unexpected moments, so don’t miss the opportunity of capturing those. Ideas should not be tied to a place or a moment and because you rarely have the wildest ideas on the spot in a brainstorming session, it’s best to provide the tools and create the processes that allow for idea generation and collection anywhere, and at any time.  That’s also why going virtual is essential. The standard approach is to squeeze some juicy ideas during brainstorming, or to dump them in a collaboration tool as a DM or in a group, where it will probably get lost among the hundreds of messages and conversations.  An idea management tool gives you the freedom and flexibility to come up with ideas at any moment. Then you can discuss them, build upon them, and develop even better ones before, during, or after your brainstorming session.

3. No evaluation, or criticism of ideas: for healthy debates, nurture creative abrasion

Another big topic that goes far beyond brainstorming is the culture in which these sessions take place. The premise is not wrong: you don’t want people to feel intimidated, so you don’t criticize or put their ideas down. The backbone of brainstorming is collaborative work, but to collaborate doesn’t mean to agree with others all the time. In fact, we get better ideas through debate and discourse.

To collaborate doesn’t mean to agree with others all the time. We get better ideas through debate and discourse.

While Steve Jobs is to this day labeled as a bad leader for his aggressive style and insensitive ways, we could see how his approach helped build a couple of the most innovative companies in the world. Between his style and today’s overly polite approach to conflicting ideas, there is a middle ground: creative abrasion , the ability to create a marketplace of ideas through debate and discourse. 

Creative abrasion is not about creating conflict, and irritating group members. It’s about creating cultural, disciplinary, and thinking style diversity, encouraging diversity of ideas, and managing the resulting abrasion for maximum creativity.   To have creative abrasion you need a work environment that provides psychological safety, where people feel safe to advocate for their point of view and disagree with their colleagues or even superiors. Ideas should be challenged, and so should people. If you are a facilitator, ask questions like “what happens if…”, “have you thought of…” or “how might we…”?

You can read more about the topic of psychological safety in our article on how to lead innovative teams.

4. Combine and improve ideas: turn the sessions into a process

A good rule that could also use some refinement to make it even better. In the traditional setting, once ideas are generated and collected, people are expected to react to the pool of ideas they have in front of them. Yet again, there is no such thing as a stroke of genius, the a-ha moment that comes spontaneously.

The key here is to give people the time to reflect on what they’ve learned, research and work on those ideas in order to come up with novel, updated versions of those ideas. In traditional brainstorming, all of that should happen in the same session. 

However, this is not something you can do in one session. It’s not just the conclusion of Yale researchers. Jake Knapp , inventor of the design sprint method, and author of Sprint, was using brainstorming workshops at Google for years, until he realized the outcome was not the expected one. Individual ideas that were thought through, of people who took the time to think and analyze, were better and more valuable than those that came out of the brainstorming workshops.

So, what you can do instead is to turn brainstorming into a primarily asynchronous collaborative process that includes a few joint sessions where people can come together to discuss, debate, and find alignment.

Turn brainstorming into a primarily asynchronous collaborative process that includes a few joint sessions where people can come together to discuss, debate, and find alignment.

If you want to rush brainstorming into a few hours session and expect great results from that, there might be no point in brainstorming at all. You might as well just ask some experts for their input on that specific issue or challenge. And you might still get better results than doing rushed brainstorming sessions.

With these new rules in place, let’s see how you can organize and run successful brainstorming sessions. For a practical approach, we’ll show you the steps using one of Viima’s board templates, specially created for those looking to get started with brainstorming.

How to setup a virtual or hybrid brainstorming session

The most exciting part is always getting our hands dirty. Before getting started you need to decide on a shared collaboration tool that is easy to take into use, flexible, and intuitive for everyone to contribute. Ideally, you will choose a tool that doesn’t allow just idea collection, but can support multiple simultaneous idea management processes, can be easily customized, and allows evaluation, transparency, and participation from different kinds of stakeholders, both inside and outside the organization.

The right tool will enable you to run both virtual and hybrid brainstorming sessions where you have some teams remote and others in-person.  

We might be biased, but Viima is ticking all these boxes, and it has been developed based on research findings, and with top innovation experts to streamline the idea management process. 

1. Set the stage

This first step takes us back to the last rule on the list. Start by defining the process(es) for the sessions you wish to organize.

What is the main goal and focus that will guide the session? Our customers usually start their workshops, brainstorming or idea challenges by setting on the process that best fits their situation.

For example, Banca Mediolanum is organizing an annual idea challenge, which they call Bonus Pool, to collect ideas from their employees to find solutions to specific problems. Their process involves different teams and departments, but for the idea generation and collection, they have assigned an Innovation Team to manage the ideas, connect the similar ones, identify needs, and evaluate their impact.

All these things were decided in advance, which helped them settle on how to set up their board, assign roles, choose participants, communicate the process, provide access to the tool, so on and so forth.

2. Set up a board to collect ideas

In Viima you can find various pre-defined board templates that have been created to meet different needs.

brainstorming board template

For this scenario we will use the brainstorming board template which has the right settings already in place. These can easily be edited and changed, or you can also create a new board from scratch.

At this stage, you should already know who will be responsible for monitoring the process, who will participate, and what channels of communication will be used.

To begin, you create a welcome message visible to everyone who will open the board. Here you should explain the why, what, and how . For easier monitoring and better organization, select the categories of ideas you are looking for. These can be around solutions, opportunities, challenges or problems you want to solve. 

For the purpose of this example we created four different categories for the ideas, but you can have as many or as little as you prefer. 

intro message for brainstorming board

3. Generate, collect, and organize ideas

If you’re running a hybrid or an in-person brainstorming, make sure to send the agenda beforehand . This will give people time to prepare, think about the topic and make research if necessary. If your brainstorming is part of a longer process, like an idea challenge and you run it asynchronously, you can set a deadline for submitting ideas.

Ask them to contribute in advance so that during the brainstorming session you can focus on discussing and refining those ideas. Here is an example of how you could set up a board and how it looks once ideas are generated.

You can filter ideas based on category (color-coded) or status. Define the development process of ideas through statuses that indicate where the idea is in the process. 

ideas brainstorming

Evaluating ideas is a great way to spot ideas with greater potential and select those that you will discuss during a real-time brainstorming session.

4. Evaluate 

In short, you need an idea evaluation process to get the information that will allow you to make the best possible decision. When evaluating ideas you need a set of criteria, or metrics to consider the various aspects of an idea. When you combine these metrics you get a numeric rating, the score, which can provide an estimate for the potential of the idea.

A systematic set of criteria for evaluating ideas will help you take better and more consistent decisions. However, these criteria vary greatly depending on the industry, type of ideas, strategic objectives, etc.

You can see in this example the evaluation criteria we chose for this brainstorming. This is a simple example, but the criteria can vary greatly depending on your business goals.

idea evaluation metrics

This is where many brainstorming sessions end. But in reality, this is just the beginning. Once you are done with the brainstorming, idea collection, and evaluation, you need to prioritize them and decide on the next steps. All these steps should be transparent, so people understand the reasons behind certain decisions, why some ideas might be left behind and why others are considered.

5. Prioritize and follow-up

This is the step where the magic of a good tool comes in play. Here you can see an example of the evaluation dashboard, which can help you prioritize and select the ideas that meet your criteria and get the highest score.

For a more in-depth analysis, you can also make use of the analytics dashboard which provides an overview of the effectiveness of your brainstorming/ idea challenge.

idea evaluation board overview

At this point, you can choose a few ideas to go forward with and prepare for the next session and invite people on an even more focused brainstorming around those ideas.

If you get to one idea with high potential, you can zoom in on that, move it to another board for validation, or maybe even create a new board around the development and refinement of that idea. Before you get to implementation, depending on the complexity of the ideas you’ll be working on, you can repeat the process. 


We’ve reached the end of this article, but not the end of the topic. As mentioned above, brainstorming should only be a starting point, a piece in the puzzle of the internal processes you’ve worked hard to develop.

To wrap up let’s recap some of the main points we believe you should take away from this.

First, don’t put the cart before the horses by looking for ideas before defining a clear problem or issue you want to brainstorm around. Narrow down the objective to provide focus and increase the effectiveness of the session.

Second, build the brainstorming and ideation process around specific questions. You can start with 15-20 questions that are tied to your business goals and will provide direction and inspire good ideas. Thought-provoking questions will help the session flow in the right direction. “how can we…?”, “if you had no constraints how would you…?”, “how can we put these pieced together in a new way?”, “what do these insights/ data reveal?” etc.

And last, when it comes to setting expectations, consider the existing limitations you have to work with . As much as everyone wants to come up with “outside the box” ideas, the counterintuitive truth is that constraints and limits are what often lead to the most original ideas. Plus, they help you focus on what matters, and remain grounded in reality.

Brainstorming is here to stay, and whether painstorming will be the new hyped term, it’s important to see it for what it is. A tool that if used right, can encourage creative thinking. Your ultimate goal shouldn’t be to simply generate ideas. Instead, you need to innovate. Even though ideas are the cornerstone of innovation, they are not enough to set the wheels in motion and start the innovation engine. 

You can start collecting ideas in minutes. Just create a brainstorming board in Viima and get creative. 

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What is brainstorming.

Brainstorming is a method design teams use to generate ideas to solve clearly defined design problems. In controlled conditions and a free-thinking environment, teams approach a problem by such means as “How Might We” questions. They produce a vast array of ideas and draw links between them to find potential solutions.

Watch how to get serious, and fun, results with Brainstorming.

How To Use Brainstorming Best

Brainstorming is part of design thinking . You use it in the ideation phase. It’s extremely popular for design teams because they can expand in all directions. Although teams have rules and a facilitator to keep them on track, they are free to use out-of-the-box and lateral thinking to seek the most effective solutions to any design problem. By brainstorming, they can take a vast number of approaches—the more, the better—instead of just exploring conventional means and running into the associated obstacles. When teams work in a judgment-free atmosphere to find the real dimensions of a problem, they’re more likely to produce rough answers which they’ll refine into possible solutions later. Marketing CEO Alex Osborn, brainstorming’s “inventor”, captured the refined elements of creative problem-solving in his 1953 book, Applied Imagination . In brainstorming, we aim squarely at a design problem and produce an arsenal of potential solutions. By not only harvesting our own ideas but also considering and building on colleagues’, we cover the problem from every angle imaginable.

“It is easier to tone down a wild idea than to think up a new one.” — Alex Osborn

Everyone in a design team should have a clear definition of the target problem. They typically gather for a brainstorming session in a room with a large board/wall for pictures/Post-Its. A good mix of participants will expand the experience pool and therefore broaden the idea space.

summary writing brainstorming

Brainstorming may seem to lack constraints, but everyone must observe eight house rules and have someone acting as facilitator.

Set a time limit – Depending on the problem’s complexity, 15–60 minutes is normal.

Begin with a target problem/brief – Members should approach this sharply defined question, plan or goal and stay on topic.

Refrain from judgment/criticism – No-one should be negative (including via body language) about any idea.

Encourage weird and wacky ideas – Further to the ban on killer phrases like “too expensive”, keep the floodgates open so everyone feels free to blurt out ideas (provided they’re on topic).

Aim for quantity – Remember, “quantity breeds quality”. The sifting-and-sorting process comes later.

Build on others’ ideas – It’s a process of association where members expand on others’ notions and reach new insights, allowing these ideas to trigger their own. Say “and”—rather than discourage with “but”—to get ideas closer to the problem.

Stay visual – Diagrams and Post-Its help bring ideas to life and help others see things in different ways.

Allow one conversation at a time – To arrive at concrete results, it’s essential to keep on track this way and show respect for everyone’s ideas.

summary writing brainstorming

To capture everyone’s ideas in a brainstorming session, someone must play “scribe” and mark every idea on the board. Alternatively, write down your own ideas as they come, and share these with the group. Often, design problems demand mixed tactics: brainstorming and its sibling approaches – braindumping (for individuals), and brainwriting and brainwalking (for group-and-individual mixes).

Take Care with Brainstorming

Brainstorming involves harnessing synergy – we leverage our collective thinking towards a variety of potential solutions. However, it’s challenging to have boundless freedom. In groups, introverts may stay quiet while extroverts dominate. Whoever’s leading the session must “police” the team to ensure a healthy, solution-focused atmosphere where even the shiest participants will speak up. A warm-up activity can cure brainstorming “constipation” – e.g., ask participants to list ways the world would be different if metal were like rubber.

Another risk is to let the team stray off topic and/or address other problems. As we may use brainstorming in any part of our design process—including areas related to a project’s main scope—it’s vital that participants stick to the problem relevant to that part (what Osborn called the “Point of View”). Similarly, by framing problems with “How Might We” questions, we remember brainstorming is organic and free of boundaries. Overall, your team should stay fluid in the search for ways you might resolve an issue – not chase a “holy grail” solution someone has developed elsewhere. The idea is to mine idea “ore” and refine “golden” solutions from it later.

Learn More about Brainstorming

The Interaction Design Foundation’s course on Design Thinking discusses Brainstorming in depth.

This blog offers incisive insights into Brainstorming workshops .

Jonathan Courtney’s article for Smashing Magazine shows Brainstorming’s versatility .

Literature on Brainstorming

Here’s the entire UX literature on Brainstorming by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

Learn more about Brainstorming

Take a deep dive into Brainstorming with our course Design Thinking: The Ultimate Guide .

Some of the world’s leading brands, such as Apple, Google, Samsung, and General Electric, have rapidly adopted the design thinking approach, and design thinking is being taught at leading universities around the world, including Stanford, Harvard, and MIT. What is design thinking, and why is it so popular and effective?

Design Thinking is not exclusive to designers —all great innovators in literature, art, music, science, engineering and business have practiced it. So, why call it Design Thinking? Well, that’s because design work processes help us systematically extract, teach, learn and apply human-centered techniques to solve problems in a creative and innovative way—in our designs, businesses, countries and lives. And that’s what makes it so special.

The overall goal of this design thinking course is to help you design better products, services, processes, strategies, spaces, architecture, and experiences. Design thinking helps you and your team develop practical and innovative solutions for your problems. It is a human-focused , prototype-driven , innovative design process . Through this course, you will develop a solid understanding of the fundamental phases and methods in design thinking, and you will learn how to implement your newfound knowledge in your professional work life. We will give you lots of examples; we will go into case studies, videos, and other useful material, all of which will help you dive further into design thinking. In fact, this course also includes exclusive video content that we've produced in partnership with design leaders like Alan Dix, William Hudson and Frank Spillers!

This course contains a series of practical exercises that build on one another to create a complete design thinking project. The exercises are optional, but you’ll get invaluable hands-on experience with the methods you encounter in this course if you complete them, because they will teach you to take your first steps as a design thinking practitioner. What’s equally important is you can use your work as a case study for your portfolio to showcase your abilities to future employers! A portfolio is essential if you want to step into or move ahead in a career in the world of human-centered design.

Design thinking methods and strategies belong at every level of the design process . However, design thinking is not an exclusive property of designers—all great innovators in literature, art, music, science, engineering, and business have practiced it. What’s special about design thinking is that designers and designers’ work processes can help us systematically extract, teach, learn, and apply these human-centered techniques in solving problems in a creative and innovative way—in our designs, in our businesses, in our countries, and in our lives.

That means that design thinking is not only for designers but also for creative employees , freelancers , and business leaders . It’s for anyone who seeks to infuse an approach to innovation that is powerful, effective and broadly accessible, one that can be integrated into every level of an organization, product, or service so as to drive new alternatives for businesses and society.

You earn a verifiable and industry-trusted Course Certificate once you complete the course. You can highlight them on your resume, CV, LinkedIn profile or your website .

All open-source articles on Brainstorming

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Learn How to Use the Best Ideation Methods: Brainstorming, Braindumping, Brainwriting, and Brainwalking

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Module 6: The Writing Process

Brainstorming and freewriting, learning objectives.

  • Explain how brainstorming and freewriting can help you start writing

Chances are you have learned about brainstorming in your other English courses. If not, then maybe you make lists or charts to help you make a decision in your life. Perhaps you have worked a job where you had to solve a problem with your coworkers so you listed ideas that helped you get started. When you writing in college, it’s helpful to get some ideas down before you write. As you begin thinking about a topic, before you begin your official draft, you write down ideas and concepts associated with your assignment to develop your ideas. This is a critical step in helping to shape and organize your paper. Brainstorming and freewriting are two great ways to get started.


Brainstorming allows you to quickly generate a large number of ideas. You can brainstorm with others or you can brainstorm by yourself, which sometimes turns into freewriting. To effectively brainstorm, write down whatever ideas come to mind. The key is to not place judgment on what you wrote. Don’t worry about whether it sounds smart or if it directly connects to your topic. To brainstorm, let your thoughts about a specific topic flow, and list those thoughts without stopping or judging if what you are writing about is any good.

Let’s take a look at an easy example. Say you are being asked to write an essay about squirrels, and you’re not particularly sure what you would like to write about since you’ve never thought too much about the squirrels in your yard. The goal is to get down as many thoughts as possible in order to answer a question.

Example: What do I know about squirrels?

  • How to get them out of the garden
  • Squirrel traps
  • Repellents for squirrels
  • Types of squirrels
  • How to get rid of them humanely (without killing)
  • Brown vs. black vs. red squirrels
  • Flying squirrels
  • What they eat
  • Different types of play
  • Training squirrels
  • Hunting squirrels
  • Squirrels and cats
  • Squirrels and dogs
  • How they nest
  • Build nests in the same place each year

So, what happens once you’ve brainstormed a topic? Look over the list. Are there items that group together? Are there items that catch your interest as a thinker, researcher, and writer—items you want to know more about? Are there items that seem unrelated or not useful? Use your list as a starting place; it creates ideas for you, as a writer, to work with in your paper. If you look closely at this list, do you see topics that could be grouped together?

Sometimes it works better to write down each idea on a separate piece of paper. Some people like to type their ideas. The most important part of this process is to be curious about your topic.

It also helps to ask yourself some brainstorming questions:

  • What am I interested in? What do I care about?
  • What do I know that I could teach others?
  • What would I like to change about this issue?

In order to capture more of your thoughts, you may want to brainstorm a few times until you have enough ideas to start writing.

Brainstorming Assignment Example

Imagine you are in a class. Your instructor says you will have to write a paper on your favorite freetime activity , and that you must also persuade your reader to try it.

  • ice skating
  • writing poetry
  • playing the piano
  • swimming lessons

Let’s think of another example. How about the common situation in which the instructor wants you to write about “something you care about” or an “issue you have” ?

  • An example of something small that’s irritating could be people you live with who leave trails of toothpaste by the sink and never clean up after themselves. A personal example can be useful as a bridge to a larger issue that will be your topic—in this case it could be community living and personal responsibility.
  • In academic writing with a less personal slant, the source of irritation is often another writer/theorist with whom you disagree. Your “irritation” then would lead to an effective piece about why you have a better conception of what’s really going on.
  • A less direct version of this would be a writer/theorist who makes some good points but lacks something in his/her argument that you can add to the “conversation.”

Maybe you already have a method that works for you and it looks nothing like this process. Do you answer the brainstorming questions with your process?


Freewriting is just what it says—writing freely, whatever comes into your mind, without caring about spelling, punctuation, etc. It’s a way to free up your thoughts, help you know where your interests lie, and get your fingers moving on the keyboard (and this physical act can be a way to get your thoughts flowing).

Try a series of timed freewritings. Set a timer for five minutes. The object is to keep your fingers moving constantly and write down whatever thoughts come into your head during that time. If you can’t think of anything to say on your topic, keep writing what comes to mind. Thinking about what you need at the grocery store? Write that down. Thinking about what you need to do for your math class? Write that down too. Stop when the timer rings. Shake out your hands, wait awhile, and then do more timed freewriting. After you have a set of five or so freewritings, review them to see if you’ve come back to certain topics, or whether you recorded some ideas that might be the basis for a piece of writing.

Freewriting Example

Here’s a sample freewrite that could yield a number of topics for writing:

I don’t think this is useful or helpful in any way. This is stupid, stupid, stupid. I’m looking out of my window and it’s the end of may and I can see that white cotton stuff flying around in the air, from the trees. One of my aunts was always allergic to that stuff when it started flying around in the spring. Don’t know offhand what type of tree that comes from. That aunt is now 94 years old and is in a nursing home for a while after she had a bad episode. She seems to have one now every spring. It’s like that old tree cotton triggers something in her body. Allergies. Spring. Trying to get the flowers to grow but one of the neighbors who is also in his 90s keeps feeding the squirrels and they come and dig up everyone’s flowerbed to store their peanuts. Plant the flowers and within thirty minutes there’s a peanut there. Wonder if anyone has grown peanut bushes yet?

Don’t know . . . know . . .I really need to buy pesto for tonight’s dinner.

Possible topics from this freewrite:

  • Allergy causes
  • Allergies on the rise in the U.S.
  • Consequences of humanizing wild animals
  • Squirrel behavior patterns and feeding habits
  • Growing your own food


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  • Brainstorming. Authored by : Marianne Botos, Lynn McClelland, Stephanie Polliard, Pamela Osback . Located at : . Project : Horse of a Different Color: English Composition and Rhetoric . License : CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike
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Brainstorming: 10 Examples, Techniques, and Benefits

brainstorming examples and definition, explained below

Brainstorming is the divergent thinking process of gathering a large number of ideas in a short amount of time, which you will parse and improve upon in future steps.

Commonly, it takes place on a piece of paper or large board where you can visually dump your ideas. However, it can also occur in your mind. It may also be either done individually or in groups (Al-Samarraie & Hurmuzan, 2018).

Definition of Brainstorming

The word brainstorming was first coined in the 1940s by advertising executive Alex F. Osbornn (Paulus & Kenworthy, 2019).

Osborn defined it as a way to generate a large number of ideas in a short amount of time without any criticism or judgement.

Importantly, brainstorming is about generating as many ideas as possible in order to help push through a plateau or brain block. Ideally, it will help bring out creativity and out-of-the-box thinking in order to generate fresh and innovative ideas (Litchfield, 2008).

One of the key benefits of brainstorming is that it allows an individual or group to think freely and suspend judgement of ideas.

This can lead to the creation and consideration of ideas that may not have been considered otherwise. Even a seemingly useless idea may lead to a fruitful breakthrough.

History of Brainstorming

While the act of brainstorming has likely been used for thousands of years, the term itself has its roots in the 1930s when Osborn, along with his colleagues at an advertising agency, began using group creativity sessions to generate ideas for their clients (Putman & Paulus, 2009).

With a new term coined, the concept became refined and made more explicit. Today, it has become a popular tool used in both organizations and people’s personal lives to generate new ideas and solve problems.

Popular ideas behind brainstorming have evolved over the years and brainstorming strategies have been adapted to suit different situations, industries, and needs (Paulus & Kenworthy, 2019).

For example, it can be used for anything from coming up with vacation ideas with your family to coming up with new product lines for large multinational corporations.

Stages of Brainstorming

The brainstorming process typically involves three stages: preparation, ideation, and evaluation (Paulus & Kenworthy, 2019).

  • Preparation: The focus of the preparation stage should be on setting the rules, structure, and culture around the session. It may, for example, encourage team members to come to the team with sufficient background knowledge, and ensure all people in the group know the importance of creating a non-judgemental environment.
  • Ideation: The ideation stage involves sharing ideas which will be added to the brainstorming notes, such as on a flipboard or shared screen during a group video call (Litchfield, 2008). This is where the actual idea generation takes place. Participants are encouraged to share their ideas knowing that there is ‘no silly idea’ at this point in time.
  • Evaluation: With a wide range of ideas collected, the group needs to categorize, review, and select the most promising ideas. This may involve drawing connections between ideas, merging ideas together, and finding identifying problems with certain ideas. At this stage, it’s important to ensure the chosen ideas have alignment with the objective.

10 Examples of Brainstorming

Below are some possible situations in which brainstorming can be highly effective.

Example 1: Product Development

Brainstorming can be used to generate new product ideas or improve upon existing ones. For example, a team of designers, engineers, and marketers could brainstorm ideas for a new smartphone that incorporates cutting-edge technology and features. Importantly, the team should be composed of product market experts and, ideally, people with prior knowledge about issues with the current product iteration, consumer feedback, and gaps in the marketplace.

Example 2: Marketing Campaigns

Brainstorming is common in marketing and advertising, and in fact, the term was coined by a marketing professional.

Generally, this session would involve bringing together a team of creatives with good knowledge of the market as well as cutting-edge marketing techniques in order to come up with a campaign idea. For example, a team of marketers could brainstorm ideas for a new social media campaign that leverages the power of influencers to reach the audience.

Example 3: Brainstorming for a Novel

Brainstorming can be an excellent approach to improve writing techniques, especially when writing a novel.

In this situation, I would gather some fellow writers or personal tutors who have experience developing plots, characters and themes and go over the things that could work better in your novel.

By analyzing my plot structure and understanding my character’s traits based on their backstory, I could get valuable insight into how to make the story more engaging.

Example 4: Brainstorming for Business Strategic Plans

Brainstorming is an excellent way to devise strategic plans for higher-level business development.

It helps you visualize how your business may look like in the future while allowing feedback from team members involved in the development process to obtain insights from all departments.

A team of executives may get together around a single table with reports and data sheets explaining different growth areas of the company.

Example 5: Brainstorming New Classroom Ideas

Brainstorming is one of the best ways for teachers to develop new ideas for curriculum building and lesson planning.

Teachers should consider mingling with colleagues who have years teaching experience engaging students around different scenarios shaping them towards positive cognitive outcomes.

Example 6: Brainstorming Home Decor Projects

When renovating a home, brainstorming can help skyrocket creativity while considering factors like budget, style, and functionality.

Collaborating with an interior designer or friends who have taste in home decor and DIY projects can be useful in generating interesting ideas that match the requirements of the homeowner.

Example 7: Brainstorming for Event Planning

Brainstorming is an essential tool when it comes to event planning as it helps to identify key themes, vendors, catering, and decoration ideas.

The best part of brainstorming is involving event planners together with their clients in a room or a virtual hangout session to discuss their vision for the occasion and generate ideas in real-time.

Example 8: Brainstorming Personal Life Goals

Brainstorming can help you set achievable personal goals while shedding light on your desires.

At times like these having a life coach might come in handy who can incorporate exercises where you jot down all the things you desire either professionally or personally such as traveling to other countries or buying a new house.

See Also: A List of 151 Goals for Life

Example 9: Brainstorming UX Designs

In the development of digital products such as web applications or mobile apps brainstorming plays a key role.

Through group discussions between UX designers and developers they’ll emphasize ways of enhancing user experience by identifying areas where previous iterations had no success.

Example 10: Brainstorming Career Choices

Brainstorming can help young people finishing high school to create a roadmap towards the best career for them.

At this time of life, people usually don’t have a clear idea of the job they will do, but they may have a clear idea of what they are good at, what they enjoy doing, and the general direction they want to go (white collar, blue collar, etc.).

The process of deciding what to do may involve seeking out mentors or attending career fairs where people can offer guidance and support.

Techniques for Effective Brainstorming

There are several techniques that can be used to enhance the effectiveness of brainstorming sessions (Al-Samarraie & Hurmuzan, 2018). Generally, this involves putting in place clear group norms , including:

  • Encouraging all participants to share their ideas
  • Avoiding criticism and judgement
  • Using visual aids to stimulate creativity
  • Building on others’ ideas
  • Combining ideas to create new solutions
  • Setting a time limit to encourage rapid idea generation

Benefits of Brainstorming

The benefits of brainstorming are numerous. It can help people and organizations generate new ideas, solve complex problems, and make better decisions.

In the workplace, it can also improve team morale and strengthen team cohesion . By engaging individuals in idea generation, companies can create a culture of innovation and creativity.

1. Innovation

Firstly, brainstorming plays a significant role in boosting innovation (Litchfield, 2008).

When we sit together and come up with different creative ideas, we tend to approach situations with new perspectives that we often overlook alone. Sometimes our minds can only go so far when left to its devices!

The act of bouncing thoughts off one another elevates creativity tremendously. Brainstorming as a group often produces new solutions that wouldn’t have surfaced otherwise (Al-Samarraie & Hurmuzan, 2018).

2. Problem Solving

Secondly, brainstorming is incredibly beneficial for problem-solving .

While we all face challenges in life, brainstorming can act as a beneficial tool for addressing and overcoming those issues.

When faced with a problem, having multiple people collaborate during the decision-making process leads to better outcomes than relying solely on one person’s point of view (Litchfield, 2008).

In addition, when each member contributes equally unique views and suggestions about possible solutions without dismissing others’ input or ideas, new strategies can arise which become successful approaches (Paulus & Kenworthy, 2019).

3. Team Morale and Cohesion

A side-effect of brainstorming as a group is that it can make a stronger group dynamic . Its key principles include inclusion, open-mindedness, and working together.

Coincidentally, this can also make work much more enjoyable!

Collaborating as a team creates cohesiveness within the company culture because all persons contribute towards achieving mutual goals rather than accomplishing solo achievements only related to their title or job description (Paulus & Kenworthy, 2019).

Support from team members through both triumphs and failures can increase mutual respect among colleagues for each other while creating social bonds.

4. Culture of Innovation

Lastly, creating a culture of innovation becomes achievable when utilizing brainstorming tasks regularly within the company environment.

Brainstorming can lead to creative solutions that would not be possible without the open-minded, free-flowing brainstorming process (Paulus & Kenworthy, 2019).

Challenges of Brainstorming

While brainstorming can be a highly effective tool for generating ideas and solutions, it is not without its challenges. Some common challenges include:

  • Groupthink : where individuals conform to the group’s opinions and ideas (Putman & Paulus, 2009). This may happen if one dominant person leads the brainstorming session in a particular direction.
  • Unequal Participation: some participants may dominate the discussion while others are minimally involved. Less experienced or peripheral members of the group may be pushed aside.
  • Lack of Focus: a brainstorming session can become unfocused and start to lack direction. While creativity and open-mindedness is useful, the session may also drift away from its original goals and end up failing to be fit for purpose.
  • Criticism and Judgement: depending on the group culture, ideas may be criticized or judged prematurely, which can undermine the purpose of brainstorming. This is where positive workplace culture is highly important (Litchfield, 2008).
  • Not conducive to Convergent Thinking : brainstorming is a type of divergent thinking, where people try to come up with multiple solutions to one problem. This is only useful at certain times (Putman & Paulus, 2009). Often, we need to do the opposite: come up with one solution by bringing together multiple pre-determined answers.

Sometimes, it can be beneficial for individuals to brainstorm on their own before coming together to share their ideas as a group (in education, we call this the think-pair-share method).

Brainstorming is a powerful tool that can be used to generate new ideas, solve complex problems, and make better decisions. By understanding the process, techniques, and benefits of brainstorming, individuals and organizations can unlock their creative potential and drive innovation and growth. While it is not without its challenges, careful planning, facilitation, and participation can help avoid these pitfalls and lead to successful and productive brainstorming sessions.

Al-Samarraie, H., & Hurmuzan, S. (2018). A review of brainstorming techniques in higher education.  Thinking Skills and creativity ,  27 , 78-91.

Litchfield, R. C. (2008). Brainstorming reconsidered: A goal-based view.  Academy of Management Review ,  33 (3), 649-668.

Putman, V. L., & Paulus, P. B. (2009). Brainstorming, brainstorming rules and decision making.  The Journal of creative behavior ,  43 (1), 29-40.

Paulus, P. B., & Kenworthy, J. B. (2019). Effective brainstorming.  The Oxford handbook of group creativity and innovation , 287-386.

Paulus, P. B., Kohn, N. W., & Arditti, L. E. (2011). Effects of quantity and quality instructions on brainstorming.  The Journal of Creative Behavior ,  45 (1), 38-46.


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Balbharati solutions for English Yuvakbharati 12th Standard HSC Maharashtra State Board chapter 3 - Summary Writing [Latest edition]

Balbharati solutions for English Yuvakbharati 12th Standard HSC Maharashtra State Board chapter 3 - Summary Writing -

Solutions for Chapter 3: Summary Writing

Below listed, you can find solutions for Chapter 3 of Maharashtra State Board Balbharati for English Yuvakbharati 12th Standard HSC Maharashtra State Board.

Balbharati solutions for English Yuvakbharati 12th Standard HSC Maharashtra State Board Chapter 3 Summary Writing Ice Breakers [Page 135]

Discuss in pairs and guess the correct alternative for the following.

To summarise means _______ .

Put information in chronological order

To recapitulate the main points in selection

To introduce new information

To write one’s opinion about selection

The type of summary that consists of a paragraph to express the main idea is _______.

Written summary

There are various ways of incorporating other writers’ works into your own writing. They differ according to the closeness of your writing to the source writing. Match the ways of writing in brief given in column (A) with their descriptions in column (B).

Balbharati solutions for English Yuvakbharati 12th Standard HSC Maharashtra State Board Chapter 3 Summary Writing Brainstorming (A1) [Page 138]

Complete the following as instructed. Read the passage and write its summary according to the given steps.

Communication is a part of our everyday life. We greet one another, smile or frown, depending on our moods. Animals, too, communicate, much to our surprise. Just like us, interaction among animals can be both verbal or non-verbal. Singing is one way in which animals can interact with one another. Male blackbirds often use their melodious songs to catch the attention of the females. These songs are usually rich in notes variation, encoding various kinds of messages. Songs are also used to warn and keep off other blackbirds from their territory, usually a place where they dwell and reproduce. Large mammals in the oceans sing too, according to adventurous sailors. Enormous whales groan and grunt while smaller dolphins and porpoises produce pings, whistles, and clicks. These sounds are surprisingly received by other mates as far as several hundred kilometers away.

Balbharati solutions for English Yuvakbharati 12th Standard HSC Maharashtra State Board Chapter 3 Summary Writing Brainstorming (A2) [Page 139]

Cut redundant words:

We’re often inefficient in our language, using more words than necessary. Consider the following phrases. Find five more redundant words.

a. “Circle around” can become “circle.”

b. “Write down” can become “write.”

c. “Added bonus” is simply a “bonus.”

d. “Get to the point as quickly as possible” is really “get to the point.”

e. “Close proximity” is “close.”

f. “During the course of” is “during.”

Adverbs clutter up your copy. You can usually live without them. Just delete italicized word and rewrite.

“That’s usually a good thing to do.”

“That’s fairly good coffee.”

“I totally agree.”

“ Actually , I disagree.” 

One word substitutes are words that replace a group of words or a full-sentence effectively without creating any ambiguity in the meaning of the sentences.

(a) The life story of man written by himself: autobiography

(b) A sound that cannot be heard: inaudible

(c) A list of books: catalogue

(d) A sentence whose meaning is unclear: ambiguous

Find as many examples as you can from the internet and make a list.

Balbharati solutions for English Yuvakbharati 12th Standard HSC Maharashtra State Board Chapter 3 Summary Writing Brainstorming (A3) [Pages 139 - 140]

Use of noun in apposition:

Apposition is a grammatical construction in which two elements, normally noun phrases, are placed side by side, with one element serving to identify the other in a different way; the two elements are said to be in apposition. Apposition can be used to make compound sentences short and simple. Neha is their eldest child and she is very intelligent. - Neha, their eldest child, is very intelligent. [Here, Neha and their eldest child are the same person.] Provide two such examples of apposition.

Transforming Complex to Simple: By using phrases like ‘’ or using noun phrase instead of a clause:

Nagpur is the city where oranges grow. - Oranges grow in Nagpur

The old man is so weak that he cannot walk. - The old man is too weak to walk.

Change the following sentence into simple:

Mr Rohit is the member and he is also the director.

The room is so small that it cannot accommodate many people.

You have to prove that you are innocent.

Nagpur is the city where oranges grow. – Oranges grow in Nagpur.

The old man is so weak that he cannot walk. – The old man is too weak to walk.

He was late so he walked in a great hurry.

Balbharati solutions for English Yuvakbharati 12th Standard HSC Maharashtra State Board Chapter 3 Summary Writing Brainstorming (A4) [Page 140]

Read any book of your choice and write its summary according to the steps explained in the chapter.

Find some professions that require the skill of summary writing and editing. Write them in your notebook.

Balbharati solutions for English Yuvakbharati 12th Standard HSC Maharashtra State Board chapter 3 - Summary Writing has the Maharashtra State Board Mathematics English Yuvakbharati 12th Standard HSC Maharashtra State Board Maharashtra State Board solutions in a manner that help students grasp basic concepts better and faster. The detailed, step-by-step solutions will help you understand the concepts better and clarify any confusion. Balbharati solutions for Mathematics English Yuvakbharati 12th Standard HSC Maharashtra State Board Maharashtra State Board 3 (Summary Writing) include all questions with answers and detailed explanations. This will clear students' doubts about questions and improve their application skills while preparing for board exams.

Further, we at provide such solutions so students can prepare for written exams. Balbharati textbook solutions can be a core help for self-study and provide excellent self-help guidance for students.

Concepts covered in English Yuvakbharati 12th Standard HSC Maharashtra State Board chapter 3 Summary Writing are Letter Writing, Flyer, Compering, Review, Essay Writing, View and Counterview, Writing Skills, Notice Writing, Appeal, Blog Writing, Dialogue Writing, E-mails Writing, Expansion of Ideas, Film Review, Interview Questions, Report Writing, Speech Writing, Reading Skills, Information Transfer, Narration, Paragraph Writing, Tourist Leaflet, Summary Writing, Summary Writing, Figures of Speech, Parts of Speech, Spotting Errors, Free Verse, Homonyms, Grammar, Spotting Errors, Modal Auxiliary, Articles - A, An, The, Change the Voice, Vocabulary, Types of Sentences, Degrees of Comparison, Use ‘As Soon As’, ‘either ... or’ and ‘No Sooner ... Than’, Tense, Synonyms, Preposition, Use ‘Not Only but Also’, Degrees of Comparison, Direct-Indirect Speech, Gerunds, Participles, and Infinitives, Root Word, Idioms and Phrases, Clauses, Make a Sentence.

Using Balbharati English Yuvakbharati 12th Standard HSC Maharashtra State Board solutions Summary Writing exercise by students is an easy way to prepare for the exams, as they involve solutions arranged chapter-wise and also page-wise. The questions involved in Balbharati Solutions are essential questions that can be asked in the final exam. Maximum Maharashtra State Board English Yuvakbharati 12th Standard HSC Maharashtra State Board students prefer Balbharati Textbook Solutions to score more in exams.

Get the free view of Chapter 3, Summary Writing English Yuvakbharati 12th Standard HSC Maharashtra State Board additional questions for Mathematics English Yuvakbharati 12th Standard HSC Maharashtra State Board Maharashtra State Board, and you can use to keep it handy for your exam preparation.

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HSC EXAM GUIDE (Your online English Tutor)

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  • Writing Skills
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Class 12 and 11| How to write a summary | with example

Hello scholars, in this article I'm going to explain   how to write a summary?   But before that let's understand what the summary is and its importance?

  • Summary Writing

Maharashtra state board Class 12th and 11th English: Writing Skills 

How to write summary

What does summary writing mean? 

Importance of summarizing: .

Other Topics: 

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Class 12th Song of the Open Road | Brainstorming

Simple steps for summary writing: 


     While reading the extract the first time you have to skim the text. Now,  what does skimming mean?  Skimming means running your eyes on the text to quickly know the central idea of the text. Don't go too deep just try to grasp the key point. A minute is sufficient for that.

Let's understand with an example-

Writing summary example

     While reading the text a second time you have to scan the text. Scanning means running through the text with some questions. While scanning, ask the questions yourself like what it is about?  What are the details given in each paragraph? What is unnecessary in particular paragraphs, like examples, descriptions, details, such as dates, numbers or statistics, etc.? What should be the appropriate title? Then, while scanning underlines the keywords. It will be helpful in your next step.  you can note it down on the last page of answer sheets or in the margins of question paper with a pencil.

Let's apply this to the above example-

Summary writing Scanning a text example

Drafting a summary:

Tips for drafting a summary:.

  • You can combine one or two sentences so that you get shorter sentences.
  • Use one word for several words.  
  • Don't just copy-paste the content. Try to rephrase it.  
  • Omit all the examples, illustrations, quotations, figures of speech, any ornamental language from the original text. 
  • The most important thing I observed in my teaching career that generally students do is adding their own interpretation or opinion in summary. Don't do this. The summary should be a reflection of the original text but in brief.
  • Don't use any abbreviations to shorten the text. 
  • Avoid the repetition of the words.


     Giving a suitable title to the summarized text is important. To find a suitable title  Identify repetitions. If certain words are repeated throughout the text, it means the whole paragraph is related to that word.

Final Drafting:

     Now your summary is ready. Just recheck that have you missed any important points from the original text?   Likewise, read your summary and check that your summary flows well. It should not feel like you dumped a bunch of sentences in one para to make it short. It should have a proper sense. So that purpose linking words will be helpful to you. 

Summary of the above example

     Communication is a part of our everyday life. like us Animals, too interact with one another via a verbal or non-verbal method. Singing is one of them. Male blackbirds sing a song to attract the females and to keep away other blackbirds from their territory. Sea mammals, whales groan and grunt, dolphins, and porpoises produce pings, whistles, and clicks to communicate with other mates.

We summarise the text. Let's see what changes we made here.

' Singing is one way in which animals can interact with one another.'

' Male blackbirds often use their melodious songs to catch the attention of the females. These songs are usually rich in note variation, encoding various kinds of messages. Songs are also used to warn and keep off other blackbirds from their territory, usually a place where they dwell and reproduce. '


You may like these posts, post a comment.

summary writing brainstorming

Thanks for this information . I will use this method in my exams 🙂

:> ty, hope it helps in my exam lol

summary writing brainstorming

Thank you so much I have exam today and it helped me:))

Today is the final exam. And this really helps to understand the summary writing concept. Thanks a lot Mam

Wow... So great method

Awsome , really helpful .

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  1. Brainstorming

    a single term or phrase that you sense you're overusing in the paper. For example: If you see that you've written "increased the competition" about a dozen times in your "tropical fruits" paper, you could brainstorm variations on the phrase itself or on each of the main terms: "increased" and "competition." Listing/bulleting

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    Step 1: Generate Ideas Brainstorming "It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to always be right by having no ideas at all." —Edward de Bono Most people have been taught how to brainstorm, but review these instructions to make sure you understand all aspects of it.

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    The Context for Brainstorming Ideas for Writing. The origins of creative brainstorming date back to 1939, when ad executive Alex F. Osborn developed formal brainstorming techniques after becoming frustrated with his team's inability to generate innovative ideas. Formal brainstorming arose out of the marketing industry.

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    1. Innovation. Firstly, brainstorming plays a significant role in boosting innovation (Litchfield, 2008). When we sit together and come up with different creative ideas, we tend to approach situations with new perspectives that we often overlook alone. Sometimes our minds can only go so far when left to its devices!

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