If you have a topic for your writing project (if not, see topics) , the next step is to think about subtopics related to it. During this stage, the "invention" or "brainstorming" stage, use the following suggestions to explore your writing project topic:

  • Let the subject of your writing project itself suggest subtopics; for example:

    Subject Possible topics
    The sun its temperature
    its composition
    its unusual phenomenon
    its relative size
    Ultrasound in medicine its physical properties
    equipment used
    medical uses
  • Use an invention checklist like the following. If you ask yourself the questions listed below, you'll be less apt to overlook important subtopics; and, with use, these questions eventually become almost automatic.

    A Checklist of Invention Questions
    Problems or needs Does your writing project concern itself with a problem or a need?
    Solutions and answers Should your writing project discuss potential solutions or answers to the problems or questions presented in the project?
    Historical events and natural phenomena Does your writing project concern itself with some historical event or natural (or mechanical) phenomenon?
    Causes and effects Should your writing project discuss the causes, effects, or both related to the phenomenon, historical event, or problem you are discussing?
    Descriptions Which aspects of your writing project require description?
    Processes Does your writing project involve processes, procedures, routines, or repetitive events that must be discussed in steps?
    Classes Can the main topic or any subtopic within your writing project be divided into classes or types?
    Comparisons to similar or familiar things Can similar things in your writing project be compared to each other? Can you compare something complex in your writing project to something familiar or common?
    Illustrative examples Will a discussion of examples related to your writing project be effective?
    Theoretical background (definitions) Are there unfamiliar terms in your writing project? Should you include them in your project and define them?
    Applications Can you discuss the applications related to your writing project?
    Advantages and benefits Should you discuss the advantages or benefits related to your subject?
    Disadvantages and limitations Are certain disadvantages, problems, limitations, or drawbacks associated with your subject?
    Warnings, cautions, and guidelines Does your writing project need cautionary or guideline statements?
    Economics or financial considerations Should you discuss cost factors, purchase expenses, maintenance and operation costs, production or output costs, or savings?
    Importance of the topic Should you discuss the importance of your subject, why people should concerned about it or interested in it?
    Historical background and important names Is there some important historical background—events and names—that should be discussed in your project?
    Future developments Should your writing project speculate about future developments or possibilities related to the subject?
    Social, political, legal, or ethical implications Does the topic of your writing project raise certain social or ethical questions—as, for example, certain medical technologies do?
    Reasons for or against In your writing project, should you try to convince readers to take certain actions or think a certain way concerning your topic?
    Conclusions Should your writing project draw certain conclusions about what it discusses?
    Recommendations Should your writing project make certain recommendations to its readers?
    Alternatives or choices Should your writing project discuss several alternatives or choices related to your subject matter?
    Criteria, requirements Will your writing project use certain criteria to draw its conclusions or to make its recommendations?
    Tests and methods used Should you have a section on the tests you perform, the methods or theories you use, or the procedures and equipment you use?
    Statistical presentations and analyses Should you include a section that summarizes and analyzes the data you collect in your project?
    Legal and administrative demands Should your writing project discuss which agencies to apply to, which forms to fill out, or which steps to take in order to accomplish the purpose of your project?
    Business or professional contexts Should you describe the specific business or professional situation, for example, a supervisor's orders, that generates the need for your project? (This applies if you invent a writing situation also.)

    Here is an excerpt of a brainstorming session in which these questions were used:

    Example of a topic list developed with the invention checklist
    How does a wind-powered electrical system (WPES) work? what are the steps in its operation?

    Savings: discuss the amount of money that can be saved using WPES.

    Relationship between average windspeeds and electrical output: what happens when there's no wind, only very light breezes? too much wind?

    Basic parts: rotor, generator, tail assembly, tower

    Different manufacturers of WPES: how to get a good system and avoid being ripped off.

    Dimensions, materials, construction of common models of WPES; sensitivity to low wind speeds

    Historical background on WPES: the time when more WPES were being used, just before rural electrification in the 1930s; who were the first developers? when has interest in WPES reappeared? why?

    Two general class of wind machines: lift and drag machines

    Lightning protection of WPES

    Aerodynamic principles as they apply to WPES

    Understanding weather patterns and seasonal and geographical factors affecting wind

    Principles of electricity: circuits, generators, types of current, meanings of terminology

    Local, state, federal tax credits and research support in wind systems research and WPES purchase by consumers

I would appreciate your thoughts, reactions, criticism regarding this chapter: your responseDavid McMurrey.