Brainstorming Potential Examples
to Illustrate Your Paper

Once you have your topic, the first thing to do is to list all of the possible details, examples, reasons, facts, data, and quotations you need to illustrate your thesis.

In your paper, you only want to use relevant material. However, in brainstorming, you should list every possible. Later, as you are selecting your best examples, you can eliminate those that are not relevant.

If you try to analyze your examples while you are brainstorming, this pre-writing exercise will not be as effective.

Selecting Relevant Material

After you have a list of potential details, examples, reasons, facts, data, and quotations, begin to select those that are most relevant for your paper.

You need to consider your thesis and audience when deciding on relevant details, examples, reasons, facts, data, and quotations. For example, if you wanted to focus in on how a single event can change a nation, it is unlikely that you would write about President Kennedy’s assassination to an audience of high school students. However, if you were writing for an audience whose members were around 55 years old or order, you could say, "People remember what they were doing when they heard about Kennedy’s death." You might even talk about the impact of having Walter Cronkite begin crying while informing the country of Kennedy's assassination.

I deliberately picked Kennedy’s assassination for this example to make the point about the importance of knowing your audience. Most — if not all — of the members of this class could not remember when President Kennedy was assassinated. Even the parents of many students in this class could not remember the event because they, too, had not yet been born.

Walter Cronkite retired from CBS news in 1981. Although you might have heard the name “Walter Cronkite,” his name likely does not carry the same emotional weight as it would for your grandparents.

In the same way, if you cite Nicki Minaj for an older audience, the example might not have the intended impact on your audience.

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Choosing examples to which your audience can relate is important for a successful essay. To write "As popular as Nicki Minaj" might have no meaning to an older audience in the same way that saying "As popular as Shelly Winters might not have meaning to today's teenagers.