How to Organize Thoughts on Paper? A Step-by-Step Guide

Learning how to organize thoughts on paper is an important skill for any writer, and this step-by-step guide can help.

Brainstorming, mind mapping and note taking are all terms that refer to one of the most important steps of the writing process. Learning how to organize thoughts on paper is a key factor in becoming a good writer, but this is often something that’s not taught in writing courses in high school. 

Before you can start writing anything, whether it is a research paper or a short story, you need to get your thoughts organized. Here is a step-by-step guide to learning how to structure your ideas in a logical order on a piece of paper as part of the prewriting process, so you can get started more successfully.

How to Organize Thoughts on Paper

How to Organize Thoughts on Paper - A Step-by-Step Guide

If you are going to organize your thoughts on paper, you need to know how to do it. These steps will make your next writing task just a little easier to tackle.

Before You Begin: Choose Your Organization Method

Learning how to organize thoughts on paper
Decide which of these techniques will help you meet your writing goal most effectively.

Before you begin writing things down, choose the method you will use to organize your thoughts. Some popular ideas include: 

  • Clustering. This prewriting technique asks you to write your main argument or idea in the center of the paper, then connect other ideas around it, connecting those circles to each other as well to show how they relate to one another.
  • Concept or Mind Map. A concept or mind map is a diagram that writes ideas in circles or boxes, then connects them to other ideas with arrows and connective phrases, such as “results in” or “contributes to.”
  • Brainstorming. This prewriting technique focuses less on organization and more on generating ideas quickly, without the need for them to associate with each other.

Decide which of these techniques will help you meet your writing goal most effectively.

Step 1. Do Some Research

Learning how to organize thoughts on paper: Do some research
Research keywords surrounding your topic to give yourself some basic knowledge.

Before you can start writing ideas and structuring those ideas into an outline and paper, you need to know something about your topic. Research keywords surrounding your topic to give yourself some basic knowledge. This will help guide the organizing process.

Step 2. Make Note Cards

As you begin your research, jot ideas down on note cards. You should write down any facts or ideas that you find in your research on index cards, noting the source on the card as well. Keep adding to your note card stash as you research and write. 

Step 3. Freewrite

Freewriting can help you get initial thoughts on paper, without worrying about putting them into any sort of logical order. Simply start writing on your topic, and see where it takes you. When you complete a short period of freewriting, see what you came up with and how you can use that to start your organization. 

Step 4. Speak Your Ideas

If you are having trouble with the prewriting process or are fighting writer’s block, grab a voice recorder and start talking. Talking out your ideas can help you move from head to paper. 

After talking into your voice recorder for a while, listen to what you have said. Transcribe your spoken words into written words on the paper to get started with your thought organization.

Step 5. Outline

Once you use these techniques to come up with some ideas, you are ready to outline them. An outline uses main points followed by subpoints to organize thoughts. Each sub-point should directly relate to the point above it. Start with Roman numerals, then add capital letters underneath, followed by numbers. 

Step 6. Create the First Draft

Now you are ready to start your writing assignment. Using your note cards, fill in the main points of your outline with the facts and thoughts you researched until you have full paragraphs. 

Sometimes new writers will get to this step and find themselves struggling with writer’s block. If that happens, remember to just start writing. Your first draft won’t be perfect, and you have the freedom to revise after re-reading it. 

Step 7. Revise and Publish

Complete your first draft, then leave it for a bit. Come back to it and re-read what you have written, analyzing the structure and organization to make sure that it flows. Revise where needed, and publish your piece by blogging, turning it in to your teacher or submitting it for publication.

A Final Word on How to Organize Thoughts on Paper

A well-written paper or book starts with careful organization. Careful organization starts with getting your thoughts on paper. Learning how to organize thoughts on paper is a critical skill for the modern writer.

Thankfully, writers have many tools available to them, including everything from apps to voice recorders. Still, all it takes is a simple pen and paper or note card to get started.

If you have a writing assignment looming or are considering writing a book, simply start by organizing your thoughts on paper.

FAQs on How to Organize Thoughts on Paper

Can you learn how to put your thoughts on paper?

Yes, organizing thoughts on paper in written work is easy to learn, but it does take some practice. Once you become skilled at organizing your thoughts, you will be a better writer.

What is the best prewriting technique?

The best prewriting technique is the one that helps you get your thoughts onto paper in a somewhat organized fashion. Some writers will use more than one prewriting technique to help them start writing.