An alternative approach, and one which some claim works with both halves of the brain by harnessing its powers of visualization and association, and thereby improves both memory and creative thinking, is mind mapping.
Mind mapping is a way of linking key concepts using images, lines and links. A central concept is linked via lines to other concepts which in turn are linked with other associated ideas. It is similar as a technique to concept mapping and spider diagrams, the difference being that true mind mapping involves constructing a hierarchy of ideas instead of pure random association.
Mind mapping uses the concept of "radiant thinking" – that is, thoughts radiate out from a single idea, often expressed as an image. Branches flow backwards and forwards from and to the central idea.
Mind mapping is generally linked with the popular psychologist Tony Buzan, although in fact similar approaches have been used by Porphyry of Tyros in the 3rd century to conceptualize the ideas of Aristotle, by Leonardo da Vinci and by Picasso, to name but a few. Tony Buzan however did much to popularize and schematize mind maps in the 1960s and 1970s and his books, listed below , provide an authoritative account on how to use the technique.
There are four key characteristics of a mind map:
The steps involved in creating a mind map may be summarized as follows:
Step 1 – Determine your central image or concept.
Step 2 – Create the basic structure for organizing your ideas: these are the main branches and are known as the Basic Organizing Ideas (BOIs), and are represented by branches radiating outwards from the main concept.
Step 3 – Put down keywords associated with the BOIs, which should sit on smaller branches connected to the main branch.
Step 4 – Revisit your mind map, putting things in order, and numbering the branches. If necessary, revise it on another piece of paper.
The following points should be borne in mind when creating a mind map:
Users are recommended to adopt a personal style and to have fun creating their mind maps, and deliberately attempt to make them as beautiful as possible. In fact, mind maps can often become mini works of art as in the following example:
© Jonathan Goldstein
If you invest in some good quality pens, as well as some coloured ones, you will find you take a greater pride in what you produce, and this will increase the "fun" element.
The benefits of mind mapping as a technique is that it enable the user to enlist the full power of the brain, both the right side, which is employed for spatial awareness, a sense of wholeness (Gestalt), imagination, day dreaming, and colour, and the left, which is the more analytical, logical side.
Mind maps draw on the brain's ability to store an infinite number of associations and this, together with their visual qualities (space, image, colour etc.) help them stimulate the memory to store more facts.
Physically they also take up less space than chronologically based notes and are less time-consuming to produce.
Mind maps can be used in a wide range of situations, from brainstorming, sorting out family problems, business meetings, making notes from books or lectures, to planning a series of television programmes. Most useful to you in your student career, however, will be:
As a student you will need to browse a large number of secondary sources – textbooks, journal articles, websites. Sometime, the amount of material can seem daunting. The benefits of mind maps, however, is that rather than working through the material from beginning to end in a chronological sequence, you proceed in a more "spiral" fashion from firstly having an overview to looking in greater and greater depth.
Before you begin to study, organize the task by:
You are then ready to do the mind map of the document, for which you go through the following (spiral) stages:
Note that the above assumes that you are reading a book; journal articles and websites also have their own organizational structure, for example pages or headings. The same principles will apply.
Lectures lend themselves less easily to the mind mapping technique because their structure is inherently linear. However, you should be able to get a good idea of the "basic organizing ideas" from the scheme of work for the course, or from the notes which the lecturer gives out at the beginning of the lecture. Try and search for the BOIs as the lecture progresses.
Note: if your mind map seems confused, then this may be because the lecture, book or website is confused!
© Graham Burnett
The basic difference here is in the preposition: you are making notes for something rather than from something, so you will need to draw together your existing mind map notes and prepare a new mind map covering what you are going to write or present.
The following diagram shows a mind map of a profit and loss statement, with some branches left blank. Can you complete it?
An excellent university site with clearly set out instructions.
Peter Russell has collaborated with Tony Buzan on mind map training, and these are the pages of his site which explain mind maps.
This is a site put together by Tony Buzan"s preferred partner for mind mapping training, Illumine Training. Some useful information under "How to".