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Using Mind Mapping Strategies

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A mind map is a diagram used to represent ideas, words, or tasks linked to and arranged radially around a central key word or idea. Mind mapping has many applications, including the following:

  • Note-taking and reporting
  • Brainstorming, improving creativity, and capturing ideas.
  • Clarify thoughts, Summarizing, to Gain an overview.
  • Presentation
  • Planning
  • Analyze and solve complex problems.
  • Team building.

Mind mapping is an image-centered diagram that represents semantic or other connections between portions of information. Presenting these connections in a radial, non-linear graphical manner encourages a brainstorming approach to any given organizational task. This eliminates the hurdle of establishing an intrinsically appropriate or relevant conceptual framework to work within.

Some of the earliest examples of mind maps were developed by Porphyry of Tyros, a noted thinker of the 3rd century. He graphically visualized the concept categories of Aristotle. The semantic network was developed as a theory to understand human learning. This developed into mind maps during the 1960s due to the work of Dr. Allan Collins and M. Ross Quillian. Due to his commitment, published research, and his work with learning, creativity, and graphical thinking, Dr. Allan Collins can be considered the father of the modern mind map.

While people have been using image-centered radial graphic organization techniques for centuries, Tony Buzan, a British pop-psychology author, claims the mind mapping idea. He claimed the idea was inspired by Alfred Korzybski’s general semantics as popularized in science fiction novels. He argues that traditional outlines rely on the reader to scan left to right and top to bottom, but the brain actually scans information in a non-linear fashion.

Using Mind Maps allows you to quickly identify and understand the structure of a subject and the way that pieces of information fit together. It also helps with recording the raw facts contained in normal notes. Mind Maps are more compact than conventional notes, often taking up one side of paper. This helps you to make associations easily. If you find out more information after you have drawn the main Mind Map, you can easily integrate it into the original mind map with little disruption.

Mind maps are very quick to review because you can often refresh information in your mind with just a glance. They can also be effective mnemonic devices: remembering the shape and structure of a mind map can give you the cues you need to remember the information within it. Mind maps engage much more of your brain in the process of assimilating and connecting facts, compared with conventional notes.

To make notes on a subject or to explore a subject using a Mind Map, draw it in the following way:

  • Write the title of the subject you’re exploring in the center of the page, and draw a circle around it.
  • As you come across major subdivisions or subheadings of the topic or important facts that relate to the subject, draw lines out from this circle. Label these lines with these subdivisions or subheadings.
  • As you delve into the subject and uncover another level of information belonging to the subheadings above, draw these as lines linked to the subheading lines.
  • To record individual facts or ideas, draw lines out from the appropriate heading line and label them.
  • As you come across new information, link it in to the Mind Map appropriately.

A complete Mind Map may have main topic lines radiating in all directions from the center. Sub-topics and facts will branch off these. You do not need to worry about the structure produced – this will evolve on its own. The following suggestions may help to increase the effectiveness of mind mapping:

  • Use single words or simple phrases for information. Most words in normal writing are padding, they ensure that facts are conveyed in the correct context and in a format that is pleasant to read. In mind mapping, single strong words and meaningful phrases can convey the same meaning more potently. Excessive filler words clutter the mind map.
  • Use printing in your mind maps. Indistinct writing can be more difficult to read.
  • Use color to separate different ideas. This helps to separate ideas where necessary. It also helps you to visualize the mind map for recall. Color also helps to show the organization of the subject.
  • Use symbols and images. Where a symbol or picture means something to you, use it. Pictures can help you to remember information more effectively than words.
  • Use cross-linkages. Information in one part of the mind map may relate to another part. Draw in lines to show the cross-linkages. This helps you to see how one part of the subject affects another and how they connect.

While drawing mind maps by hand is appropriate in many cases, software tools can improve the process by helping to you to produce high quality concept maps. These concept maps can then be easily edited and redrafted. It has been suggested that mind mapping software can improve learning/study efficiency up to 15% over conventional note taking. There are a number of software packages available (including both free and proprietary software) for producing mind maps.

The next time you have to take notes or brainstorm, try experimenting with mind mapping techniques. You may find them to be a surprisingly effective and somewhat entertaining tool.

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