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Generate and Refine Ideas


To try listing, you will need paper and pencil or a computer. Write or type your topic at the top of the page. Then list several thoughts, facts, or ideas related to that topic using single words or short phrases. When you’re finished writing, carefully look over your list and group like items together. After you’ve grouped the items, give a title to that group. You can then list supporting thoughts and any new associations that you make about the items in the list. These groups may become major sections in your paper.


Let’s look at an example of listing with a writer who knew he needed to write a paper on Mary Wollstonecraft.

List One:

Mary Wollstonecraft


considered radical


Father bullied his wife


she established school


Mother was Elizabeth Dixon


wrote Vindication of


the Rights of Women


important document


in women’s liberation


met Captain Gilbert Imlay


lived with William Godwin


List Two:

Mary Wollstonecraft


“Personal History”


Father was Edward John Wollstonecraft


he bullied his wife- Elizabeth Dixon


Mary established school with sister at Newington Green


In 1792 she went to Paris and witnessed Robespierre's Reign of Terror


She met Captain Gilbert Imlay and bore him a daughter


Later, she went to live with William Godwin


She and Godwin eventually married due to Mary's pregnancy (March 1797).


In August, a daughter (Mary) was born


Mary died on September 10.



- wrote Thoughts on the Education of Daughters


Book Vindication of the Rights of Women published in 1972- Most important document in movement for women’s liberation


Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman


When in Paris she collected information for An Historical and Moral View of the Origins and Progress of the French Revolution: and the effect it has Produced in Europe- a book sharply critical of the violence of the French Revolution.




She was a free-thinking person regarding marriage and religion


She advocated equality of the sexes


In this example, you can see the original list above and the revised list to the right. In the original list, you can see the writer typing short phrases about his topic, Mary Wollstonecraft. List two, to the right, shows an organized version of the original list to which the writer has added even more specific information.


You can also try “reverse listing.” If you know the main topic areas that you want to discuss in your paper, begin by listing those and then fill in the information beneath the main topic areas.