How to Cluster – a Brainstorming Exercise

How to use Clustering to Brainstorm a Topic

When you need to write about something or face a big project, it is a good idea to try a brainstorming activity. Different brainstorming activities work better depending on the project or topic. However, one of my favorites and a common brainstorming activity that I find to be particularly helpful is called “clustering.” This brainstorming activity works best when you have a general topic in mind to start with.

How to Start a Cluster

The first step in starting a clustering brainstorming activity is to start with the topic. This is your main idea or focus for the overall project. Place this main topic or idea in the center of the cluster. You can do this on a piece of paper or you can use an online brainstorming website, like Bubble at

Next Steps

Now that you have your main idea in the middle, you can start branching out with details about that main topic. Each detail should be related to the main topic and can branch out in any direction you would like. After you have these details identified (as many as you can fit and think of!), then you will want to look at these details and identify sub details for each one.

It can be very helpful to list multiple sub details for each of your main details. This will help you expand and decide which topic you want to use when you start writing or working on your project.

Some main details or sub details won’t lead anywhere, and that’s ok! Each idea doesn’t have to lead somewhere. Some of them simply dead end.

Once you feel you have explored different details about your topic, take a look over what you have done. You should see some patterns forming and some new ideas taking shape, giving you the jumpstart you need to get moving.


Looking for a great tool to help you create a cluster map? Check out Bubble:

Jenny Mark

Jenny Mark is a graduate of California State University of San Bernardino and lives in Southern California. She is a part time professor for Baker College, Southern New Hampshire University, Vista College, and Baker College. She teachs composition, creative writing, and essential college skills. Check out her blog at

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