Northcentral University Writing Center

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Writing Center


Cubing is an exercise that helps the writer to develop a conceptual understanding of a subject or topic from six different perspectives. The concept is that the writer approaches each subject or topic as a six-sided cube, with each of the six perspectives offering a different point of view. In this way, cubing provokes critical thinking skills because it encourages different ways of thinking and different ways of seeing a topic or issue. Even if the writer already has some ideas about the topic and/or and has settled on a working thesis statement, cubing is still encouraged to challenge and deepen perspective.


Like freewriting, cubing is a timed exercise. For cubing, however, the writer allots a set amount of time for each of the six sides of an imaginary cube. Here’s how cubing is done:


  1. Select a topic (e.g., a subject, issue, idea, event, problem, question, object, or a scene) and write that topic at the top of the page.


  1. Allot three to five minutes to write from each of the six perspectives of the cube:  


Describe it: (What defines it? What can be explained about it? Colors, shapes, sizes, etc.)


Analyze it: (What parts or components make it up?

Compare it: (What is it similar to?)


Apply it: (What can be done with it? How can it be used?)


Associate it: (What can it be related to or connected to?)  


Argue: (What arguments can be made for and against it?)












Start with the obvious (what is known), but then allow for some spontaneous freewriting into the perspective’s question. The idea is to let ideas flow freely in response to each perspective. Like freewriting, the writer must avoid controlling or editing thoughts or writing and just keep the ideas moving and flowing onto the page.


  1. When one side of the cube is completed, the clock is restarted and the writer moves on to the next perspective until all six perspectives are complete.


  1. When all six sides are finished, read over and evaluate what has been written. What angle or perspective seems most interesting? What surprises help to see the topic in a new way?  The writer will likely distinguish a particular side of the cube that provoked more curiosity and interest than others.

Once the cubing has been reviewed and evaluated, the writer should find that the topic has been sufficiently narrowed and that the process of collecting, developing, and organizing the paper may begin.


Here’s another version of the Six Sides of Cubing that some writers may find more useful for academic writing:

  1. Describe it: How can the topic or issue be described?
  2. Compare it: What is the topic or issue similar to or different from?
  3. Associate it: What does it make one think of? What can be related it to? How can the topic or issue be connected or related to other topics or issues?
  4. Analyze it: How can the topic or issue be separated or broken down into smaller parts?
  5. Apply it: How does the topic or issue help one to understand or define other topics or issues?
  6. Argue for or against it: How could one be for this or against this? This works or doesn’t work because?


For more information on Cubing, please visit the Writing Centers at Colorado, Purdue, and Chapel Hill.