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Generate and Refine Ideas


Cubing is a technique that encourages you to explore different aspects of your topic. Essentially, you answer six commands or prompts. You can either write or type your responses, but write without stopping and spend about five minutes on each of the six commands. Don’t worry about grammar, style, spelling, or even penmanship.


Begin by picturing your topic as a cube, and the commands work to help you see your topic/cube from each of the cube’s six sides. Let’s first look at the six sides or commands, and then look at an example of cubing.


Describe It! What is your topic? Describe or define it.
Compare It! What is your topic similar to and different from?
Associate It! What does your topic remind you of?

Analyze It!
How can you break your topic down? How are those pieces related?
Apply It! How can your topic be applied? What can you do with it? How can it be used?
Argue for it or Argue Against it? Why are you in favor of it or against it? Why would others be in favor of it or against it?


In the example below, a writer uses cubing to help her decide on a more specific topic for a paper about the homeless.


Describe It! Term homeless is used to describe many situations from those sleeping in subways to youth runaways
Compare It! Similar problems with welfare reform and healthcare in America—need make rational policy, but have to define problem which is difficult in all these situations
Associate It! Economic misfortune, alcoholism, drug abuse, chronic mental illness
Analyze It! “Reforms” such as the deinstitutionalization of chronic mental illness meant that those suffering from illness wouldn’t be hospitalized. Further, decriminalization of public intoxication . . .
Apply It! The term homeless can be applied to both those suffering from temporary economic misfortune and those suffering from chronic mental illness; therefore, . . . .
Argue for It! Government “reforms” and policies are harmful to the homeless because . . . . . .

In the example, you can see how the writer began to fill in the commands. Her answers may help her develop a tentative thesis for a research paper.