Have you ever sat through a long lecture or spent exhausting hours taking notes from reading — only to forget half of the content later? Have you ever wished for an easier way to plan a presentation or outline a research paper? Mind mapping might be just the solution. Graphically organizing and representing information, this technique uses diagrams to combine text, lines, colors, symbols and other graphics into a logical and memorable format.
Mind maps can be used for numerous purposes, including: note-taking, studying for exams, problem-solving, brain-storming, preparing outlines for research papers or preparing essays. In any of these activities, you would start your mind map by placing your main topic or theme at the very center of the page. You then build radially by drawing lines emanating outward from the center topic. Labeling each line with a keyword or point, you would build your map further by drawing more lines emanating from these points. The new lines would become sub-points, qualifying information or useful, related points. You can continue to build or clarify any point by radially adding more lines to them as you deem appropriate. When you have finished your mind map, you will have captured in diagram form all the information that you think is important or helpful.
To make the information in a mind map stand out, you can personalize it with colorful pictures, symbols or other graphics. Rather than use only text to represent a keyword or sub-point, make your mind map shine by replacing or coupling the text with colorful graphics that will help you understand or recall the information later.
Educators, engineers, students, business people and others have used mind maps for centuries to assist in learning, brainstorming, memory, visual thinking, and problem solving. In recent times, the concept of mind mapping has been popularized by a British psychologist/author, Tony Buzan. Buzan theorized that using traditional text outlines of subject matter uses only part of our brains. This linear, left-to-right, top-to-bottom way of representing information is less effective than the mind map because our brains are better at scanning entire pages in a non-linear fashion. He also espoused the importance of incorporating pictures, colors, symbols and other graphical representations into the mind map to draw on the non-verbal centers of our brains to achieve better understanding and recall.
While mind mapping can be very useful, it is not difficult to master. Use these steps to begin one:
1. Start with a blank sheet of paper.
2. Turn the paper sideways in the landscape position.
3. Draw a colored image in the center of the page that will represent the topic of the mind map. Label the topic image with text.
4. Draw the main themes or ideas about the topic on thick lines radiating out from the central image. These are your keywords from which you will build your mind map.
5. Start to add a second level of thought. These words and/or images should be related and linked to the main branch of keywords/themes that triggered them. The connecting lines on which these words/images are placed should be thinner. These words can be in lower case.
6. As the second level of thought triggers more words or ideas, draw lines emanating from them to capture the new words/ideas.
7. Use images throughout your mind map. Add an image to all the main branches to represent each theme and also use images to personify every important keyword on your map. You can use:
o Line drawings
o Stick figures, etc.
8. Add dimension to your mind map by enclosing words or images in boxes and adding depth.
9. Use colors freely throughout. Be as audacious, big and imaginative as possible
If you are looking for a more dynamic and effective way to organize notes, to draw up plans, to prepare a presentation or to study, give mind mapping a try. The technique is easy to master and engages more of your mind in the learning and recall process. You might find that this is just the solution you have been looking for to boost your performance.