What is mind mapping?
A mind map is a visual information management tool used to organize, arrange, structure, brainstorm, and learn. It is a way of keeping, prioritizing, reviewing, learning, and memorizing information. Based on the research finding, humans’ ability to think critically and effectively is partly linked to their ability to create associations between pieces of information. Mind mapping has increasingly been adopted in academics and many other fields to transform people’s thinking and improve their visual thinking capacity. It is a collection of knowledge condensed into pictures and words. As such, it brings together creative thought and logic to ensure effective and proficient thinking about a subject.
Importance of mind mapping
A mind map is an important tool that helps one to think logically and laterally. Its importance includes:
- It allows one to organize information into chunks that are easy to remember. It categorizes information into small chunks with a logical flow from the main idea to the smaller branches.
- It improves one’s capacity to acquire, understand and retain information using visual cues or representations such as images and infographics.
- It enables one to manage a large amount of information and minimize mental clutter by condensing it into simple topics and ideas.
- It helps one become organized in their thought process
- It helps organize your notes in an effective manner around a subject
- It helps have a clearer view of the big picture on the subject matter
- It helps explore a topic or subject to the granular level, which improves understanding of the subject.
- It helps establish creative associations between different pieces of information.
- As you explore pieces of information, you discover hidden understanding
- For students, it serves as a better tool for preparing for examination by enabling them to gain a better understanding of a topic and think logically.
- Through mind mapping, your ability to solve complex problems also improves by breaking them down into smaller chunks.
- As you study different subjects, mind mapping helps discover creative ideas and insights that could not be possible through the normal studying method.
- It also helps improve your interest in a subject by creating a visual representation of pieces of information that is easily digestible by the brain.
Uses of mind mapping in academics
Mind mapping is used in different areas including life management, in the work environment to improve productivity and in academics to improve one’s understanding and expand their thinking capacity. One of the uses of mind mapping in academics is to learn languages or grammar. It helps break down parts of a language into verbs, nouns, and adjectives for easier understanding. Mind mapping is also used for preparing an outline or structure for an essay. It helps find appropriate essay topics, brainstorm essay ideas, conduct research and create an outline. Mind maps are also useful in preparing presentations by collecting and aggregating valuable information and breaking them down into slides. It also helps students in problem-solving, critical and creative thinking about topics, and general study and revision. Students can use mind maps to explore topics and identify chunks of information critical for understanding the subject. As a memorizing tool, it also helps students memorize academic materials like books and notes.
Five steps for creating a mind map
Identify the main idea
The first step to creating a mind map is to start with a central idea representing the topic of study. It should adopt a color that matches your mind map’s topic. For example, if you are going to talk about artificial intelligence, then Artificial Intelligence should be the central idea on the mind map. The reason for associating it with color is to help trigger your visual memory as an important learning and memory tool.
The second step involves adding branches to the central idea representing different themes around the topic of focus. A mind map allows you to add as many branches as possible to explore different themes within a topic. This encourages in-depth understanding of a topic and draws associations from various concepts. In the example of Artificial intelligence, the branches would include machine learning and data science as the key themes of study. We would then break the branches further; under machine learning, we would have supervised machine learning, unsupervised machine learning, and reinforcement learning. We would then include applications of machine learning such as computer vision and natural language processing.
The next step is to add keywords to the branches identified in step 2. These are the main ideas in every branch. The ideas should remain as brief as possible to trigger greater associations. For our example on artificial intelligence, having a keyword of supervised learning in the machine learning branch and data science branch will help create associations as to how machine learning and data science are related. Under machine learning, we can have a keyword such as algorithms which also applies in data science.
Color code the branches
As mentioned earlier, mind mapping is a visual representation of information to improve a person’s creative and critical thinking. Creating color codes of the branches helps connect the brain’s logical and visual aspects, thus creating mental shortcuts. This triggers the brain to organize, analyze and categorize information and identify more associations. It is advisable to use uniform color codes to represent branches and key ideas. For example, if the machine learning is painted red, its keywords should closely resemble red color distributions.
Use visual signifiers
The essence of a mind map is to condense as much information as possible in a visual representation. That is why visual signifiers such as images or graphics are important. Images convey more information than words. This is because the brain process images faster and easily and triggers memory to remember information easily. Moreover, images have been adopted as a universal language enabling people to overcome the language barrier by using signs. Adding images in the mind map will help in easy digesting of information in every branch