The goal of divergent thinking is to generate many different ideas about a topic in a short period of time. It involves breaking a topic down into its various component parts in order to gain insight about the various aspects of the topic. Divergent thinking typically occurs in a spontaneous, free-flowing manner, such that the ideas are generated in a random, unorganized fashion. Following divergent thinking, the ideas and information will be organized using convergent thinking; i.e., putting the various ideas back together in some organized, structured way.
To begin brainstorming potential topics, it is often helpful to engage in self analysis and topic analysis.
Ask the following questions to help brainstorm a list of potential topics.
- How do I spend my time? What are my activities during a normal day?
- What do I know about them? What are my areas of expertise? What am I studying in school?
- What do I like? What are my hobbies? What are my interests?
- What bothers me? What would I like to change in my world or life?
- What are my strongest beliefs, values and philosophies?
Ask the following questions to help narrow and refine a broad topic into a specific, focused one. Substitute your topic for the word “something.”
- How would you describe something?
- What are the causes of something?
- What are the effects of something?
- What is important about something?
- What are the smaller parts that comprise something?
- How has something changed? Why are those changes important?
- What is known and unknown about something?
- What category of ideas or objects does something belong to?
- Is something good or bad? Why?
- What suggestions or recommendations would you make about something?
- What are the different aspects of something you can think of?
Techniques to Stimulate Divergent Thinking
1. Brainstorming. Brainstorming is a technique which involves generating a list of ideas in a creative, unstructured manner. The goal of brainstorming is to generate as many ideas as possible in a short period of time. The key tool in brainstorming is “piggybacking,” or using one idea to stimulate other ideas. During the brainstorming process, ALL ideas are recorded, and no idea is disregarded or criticized. After a long list of ideas is generated, one can go back and review the ideas to critique their value or merit.
2. Keeping a Journal. Journals are an effective way to record ideas that one thinks of spontaneously. By carrying a journal, one can create a collection of thoughts on various subjects that later become a source book of ideas. People often have insights at unusual times and places. By keeping a journal, one can capture these ideas and use them later when developing and organizing materials in the prewriting stage.
3. Freewriting. When free-writing, a person will focus on one particular topic and write non-stop about it for a short period of time. The idea is to write down whatever comes to mind about the topic, without stopping to proofread or revise the writing. This can help generate a variety of thoughts about a topic in a short period of time, which can later be restructured or organized following some pattern of arrangement.
4. Mind or Subject Mapping. Mind or subject mapping involves putting brainstormed ideas in the form of a visual map or picture that that shows the relationships among these ideas. One starts with a central idea or topic, then draws branches off the main topic which represent different parts or aspects of the main topic. This creates a visual image or “map” of the topic which the writer can use to develop the topic further. For example, a topic may have four different branches (sub-topics), and each of those four branches may have two branches of its own (sub-topics of the sub-topic) *Note* this includes both divergent and convergent thinking.
Source: Faculty of Washington