Mind Maps

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What Is a Mind Map?

A mind map is a diagram that you create which involves the use of words and drawings to depict your thought patterns. You've most likely etched your own version of a mind map many times without realizing it. Visual learners create mind maps instinctively.

Mind maps can also present a new way of looking at a process or situation. They offer students the ability to draw a picture of their thought processes. Mind maps are helpful because they present a true reflection of your own thought patterns, unlike illustrations in books that present somebody else’s thought patterns.

To create a mind map, simply being by writing a key word or concept in the center of a piece of paper. This should be the overall topic or focus of your map. This could be the subject of an essay you're planning to write, or it could be a problem you need to resolve.

For our sample mind map we will focus on the major events of the U.S. Civil War. We begin by placing the words "Civil War" in the center of a piece of paper.

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Build Your Mind Map

Focus on a subtopic for your mind map. What do you know about it? 

Some subtopics will seem more important than others, but you don't need to worry too much about editing your thoughts at this early stage. Go ahead and write down every subtopic that comes to mind. There's plenty of time for editing later in the process!

As you can see in the example, one important issue during the first stages of the Civil War was the secession of several states. This mind map depicts a visual presentation of several state secessions.

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Create Visual Aids

Mind maps can be simple or complex. They can contain circles, squares, words, images—anything you care to include.

If you are a visual learner, you may choose to use different shapes or different colors for different subtopics.

During the first brainstorming stage you may have noticed that some of your subtopics fit under a certain theme. You might use a single color to remind yourself that these topics complement one another.

Visual elements like color can help to reinforce information and improve your memory.

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Using a Mind Map to Study

Continue adding your subtopics and using whatever visual elements you prefer. Remember that a mind map is your own creation, and it should reflect your way of thinking. Don’t worry too much about following anyone else’s directions. And don't worry too much about neatness! The creative process is often messy!

Let your mind map reflect your understanding of a topic. Use your mind map as a study aid to memorize or explore any topic in depth.

Tips For Using a Mind Map

The mind map is a useful tool for studying for a test of any kind. It is useful for:

  • Memorizing a list
  • Preparing for an essay exam
  • Outlining an essay
  • Planning a research project
  • Planning a big event
  • Organizing a campaign as you are running for a position in the student government
  • Remembering a course of action
  • Memorizing steps
  • Studying terms and vocabulary
  • Breaking down a process for deeper understanding
  • Organizing your thoughts
  • Analyzing a story