A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea. Mind maps are used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, and writing.
The elements of a given mind map are arranged intuitively according to the importance of the concepts, and are classified into groupings, branches, or areas, with the goal of representing semantic or other connections between portions of information. Mind maps may also aid recall of existing memories.
By presenting ideas in a radial, graphical, non-linear manner, mind maps encourage a brainstorming approach to planning and organizational tasks. Though the branches of a mindmap represent hierarchical tree structures, their radial arrangement disrupts the prioritizing of concepts typically associated with hierarchies presented with more linear visual cues. This orientation towards brainstorming encourages users to enumerate and connect concepts without a tendency to begin within a particular conceptual framework.
The mind map can be contrasted with the similar idea of concept mapping. The former is based on radial hierarchies and tree structures denoting relationships with a central governing concept, whereas concept maps are based on connections between concepts in more diverse patterns.
Mind map guidelines
In his books on Mind Maps author Tony Buzan suggests using the following guidelines for creating Mind Maps:
- Start in the center with an image of the topic, using at least 3 colors.
- Use images, symbols, codes, and dimensions throughout your Mind Map.
- Select key words and print using upper or lower case letters.
- Each word/image is best alone and sitting on its own line.
- The lines should be connected, starting from the central image. The central lines are thicker, organic and flowing, becoming thinner as they radiate out from the centre.
- Make the lines the same length as the word/image they support.
- Use multiple colors throughout the Mind Map, for visual stimulation and also to encode or group.
- Develop your own personal style of Mind Mapping.
- Use emphasis and show associations in your Mind Map.
- Keep the Mind Map clear by using radial hierarchy, numerical order or outlines to embrace your branches.
This list is itself more concise than a prose version of the same information and the Mind Map of these guidelines is itself intended to be more memorable and quicker to scan than either the prose or the list.
A mind map is often created around a single word or text, placed in the center, to which associated ideas, words and concepts are added.
Mind maps have many applications in personal, family, educational, and business situations, including notetaking, brainstorming (wherein ideas are inserted into the map radially around the center node, without the implicit prioritization that comes from hierarchy or sequential arrangements, and wherein grouping and organizing is reserved for later stages), summarizing, revising, and general clarifying of thoughts. One could listen to a lecture, for example, and take down notes using mind maps for the most important points or keywords. One can also use mind maps as a mnemonic technique or to sort out a complicated idea. Mind maps are also promoted as a way to collaborate in color pen creativity sessions.
Mind maps can be used for:
- problem solving
- outline/framework design
- anonymous collaboration
- marriage of words and visuals
- individual expression of creativity
- condensing material into a concise and memorable format
- team building or synergy creating activity
- enhancing work morale
Mindmaps can be drawn by hand, either as "rough notes" during a lecture or meeting, for example, or can be more sophisticated in quality. An example of a rough mind map is illustrated. There are also a number of software packages available for producing mind maps.