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What Is a Mind Map?

By Victoria Blackburn
Updated May 23, 2024
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During brainstorming, some use a mind map to take notes because it provides an illustrative representation of concepts. The form of a mind map is something like a web. Rather than the linear method of documenting information, it is a visual method for tracking and connecting ideas. Mind maps help users to better analyze and understand the information, as well as recall it in the future.

The goal behind creating a mind map is to structure the information in a way that is closer to how the brain works. The links and pathways between ideas resemble those that are formed within the brain. As mind mapping is both an analytical and creative process, the person who is drawing one uses more areas of the brain in the activity. This makes them a strong tool for helping people learn and remember information.

When a person creates a mind map, the main idea or concept is centered on a piece of paper or on the screen, in the case of an electronic version. In most cases, a colorful image is used either with the words for the concept or in place of them. From this initial starting point, related ideas and concepts branch out from the central idea. Single words or images are recommended to be used, with each word or image having its own line.

The lines between the different words and images within the mind map show how each of the concepts is related to the others. Color is used as a method of grouping like words together. Highlighting can be used to give extra emphasis to particularly important areas of the mind maps, while arrows can show the direction of causality if one idea causes another. As the mind map develops, the lines should radiate out from the central concept and provide more and more detail for the initial idea.

Random thought is used when mind mapping. The idea is to start with a central theme and then allow the brain to create links to it through word and image association. Mind maps can be created concentrically, working on separate levels from the center out. They can also be created by following one branch to its end before starting a new area.

Mind maps are used by different people for different tasks. When studying, they can be created to outline the pertinent information that has to be recalled. Also, by creating a mind map from the information at hand, the person will develop a better understanding of the different parts of a complex idea or concept. During a brainstorming session, a mind map can be a good tool for stimulating thought and discussion of a particular concept. Seeing the visual representation can induce other ideas to be considered.

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