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Invention for Secondary School Students: Introduction

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Introduction to Invention (Grades 7-12)

The following Purdue OWL resource has been specifically designed to address various issues of invention that students in secondary school (grades 7-12) may encounter.

When you're thinking about invention, or what some might call pre-writing, here are some questions for you to consider:

  • Have you ever struggled to come up with ideas?
  • Have you ever had too many ideas and weren’t sure how to deal with them?
  • Do you want to learn how to find your best ideas?
  • Do you need to write a paper, poem, or story, either now or in the future?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then this information on writing invention is for you!

Think of the invention process as a way to create ideas. It’s the “stuff” that happens before you produce the writing that is read by others and/or graded by your teacher.

Every person goes about invention differently. The key is to find what works best for you. Try out the ideas in this section. Use them, blend them, and figure out what you like best.

These web pages are designed to give you the tools to begin the invention process. For additional information, see Introduction to Prewriting (Invention) handout on the Purdue OWL.

Beginning The Invention Process: General Guidelines and Ideas

Plan to spend time inventing ideas. Writing is not about getting information and ideas down as quickly as you can. Taking time to come up with ideas is the best way to make sure your writing will be unique and interesting, as well as being enjoyable to write.

Here are some ways to get the ideas flowing for any writing project you might do:

  • List Ideas. Write a list of 10, 20, 50, or even 100 ideas you could use for your writing, no matter how silly they might seem. Write down every idea you think of. Then, go through and circle the ideas that would work best for your writing. Consider adding levels to your lists as well. For instance, if you write down a topic in your list, you can list supporting ideas underneath that main topic.
  • Create a concept map (also known as a “cluster” map or a “bubble” outline). You begin with a single circle with your topic written inside it. Then, you draw lines to new circles in which you write ideas connected to the main topic. Then, off of the circles you just drew, draw lines to connect the circles that relate to those ideas.
  • Outline the paper. Sometimes starting with an outline is the best way to invent writing. For example, you can use dashes (-) or asterisks (*) instead of letters and numbers in your outline if that makes the invention process easier for you. For more information on outlining, see Four Main Components for Effective Outlines handout on the Purdue OWL.
  • Freewrite. Set a short time limit for yourself to write. Begin writing and do not stop writing until the time is up. Use the freewrite space to say anything that comes to mind about your topic, including any questions you still would like to answer about the topic. Keep writing even if you get off-topic. Do not try to self-monitor or work to control your writing (Goldberg 8). You might use some sentences and ideas, but be sure that the freewrite draft is not what you turn in as your final draft.
  • Use sticky notes or note cards. Write individual ideas on post-it notes or note cards. Then, arrange the cards to find patterns and potential topic ideas. Use this to generate ideas and begin to organize your paper.
  • Keep an idea journal. Have you ever had those moments where you think, “This might be interesting to write about?” Keep a journal (or computer document) of those ideas. When you are searching for your next paper topic, look back through the journal ideas you already have and see if you can use any of those ideas to “jumpstart” ideas for your current paper.

Examples of Invention Strategies

To see examples of these invention strategies, click here.

Works Consulted

Applegate, Carey. Personal interview. 30 Nov. 2013.

Goldberg, Natalie. Writing Down the Bones. Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1986. Print.

Johnson-Sheehan, Richard and Charles Paine. Writing Today. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc., 2013. Print.

National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers. Common Core State Standards Initiative. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, Washington D.C., 2010. Web. 18 Aug. 2013.

Ramet, Adèle. Creative Writing. Oxford: How To Books Ltd., 2004. Print.

Spurgin, Timothy. The Art of Reading Course Guidebook. Chantilly: The Teaching Company, 2009. Print.