"95 per cent of the literate human population are making notes in a manner designed to bore themselves and others to distraction" - Tony Buzan, 1993

Click on the image to see an example mind-map for essay writing.

What are mind-maps?

Mind-maps are a pictorial ways of putting ideas down on paper. They were developed in the late 1960s by Tony Buzan as a way of helping students make notes using only key words and images. They basically consist of a central word/concept/idea, around which various main ideas and related concepts are placed.

Click on the image to see an example mind-map for essay writing.

Why use mind-maps?

Mind-maps have many advantages over linear notes.

  • They are much quicker to construct and because of their visual quality are much easier to remember and review.
  • Associations between ideas are not only easily demonstrated, but also stimulate brain creativity.
  • Mind-maps work well because they operate in the same way as the human mind, ie not in straight lines!
  • The organisation of a mind-map reflects the way the brain organises thoughts.
  • When ideas are reduced to one or two words the brain must actively think about and process these ideas, in turn aiding memory.

What can they be used for?

Mind-maps can be used in many and varied ways.

  • They can be used to organise ideas or help the understanding of important conceptual issues in research.
  • They are a great aid to note taking, and can also be used for planning chapters or sections of your theses/assignments.
  • When exam time rolls around, mind-maps are a fantastic way to help you remember the information required of you and provide an overall review of your course.

Just like any new technique, mind-mapping takes practice. The important thing is to keep at it – you'll soon see improvements.

Get underway

  • Mind-maps will soon become invaluable - your research journal may be a good place to draw them.
  • Or use large sheets of paper, which can be pinned up around your office/house.
  • Use different coloured pens/highlighters, as colour is an important aspect of mind-mapping, e.g., use red to emphasise the most important concepts.

Work from the centre

Always start from the middle of the page and work out.

  • The centre should be a clear and strong visual image depicting the general theme of your map.
  • From this "bullseye" create branches for your sub-themes.
  • Use only key words or concepts, not whole phrases.
  • Write words on the lines and use cues or icons wherever possible.
  • Arrows can show links between different elements.
  • Add ideas as they occur and personalise your mind-map with your own individual flair!

Be creative, be cheeky, be funky, have fun!

Buzan, T. (1993). The mind map book. London: BBC Books.

Last updated : 28 November 2018
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