Hold that thought: Mind Mapping with MindGenius

Understanding, organising and retaining information can be challenging. While studying and working we often need to compose and organise our written work, understand complex topics and retain information. Mindmapping can be an excellent tool to help us meet these challenges.

Depending on the task at hand mindmapping can be useful for almost everyone, but can be particularly useful for Neurodiverse profiles such as Dyslexic learners.

Mindmapping is a way of graphically representing a topic, concept or problem, so we can visualise it, making it easier to understand. Mindmapping is a versatile technique which can have many applications. Here are some examples:

Brainstorming

Mindmapping is a great way to brainstorm. You can use it to better capture your thoughts or start exploring a topic. You may find that it can help to stimulate and generate more ideas.

Capturing all of your ideas can reduce the load on your working memory. Once you can see your ideas together on one page, you can then edit and arrange them into a more organised structure. This is also useful for group brainstorms, try it on our large screens in the group study rooms and technobooths.

Planning and organising

Bring order to chaos. Before you start a task it’s a good idea to plan how you are going to do it. Mindmapping can help you plan written work such as an essay. With most digital mindmaps, as you build your map you can add more substantial notes to ideas. This means that when you export your finished mindmap into a Word document you have a logical outline structure and some content to get started with.

You could even use a mindmap to plan your research or literature search in an academic database, plotting out which keywords, synonyms and antonyms you are going to use.

A mindmap breaking down a keyword search of " a comparison of the effectiveness of exercising versus a health diet in reducing obesity in children".
A mindmap to plan a database search [click to expand].

Revision

Make your revision notes into a map. When trying to recall information it’s easier to remember the spatial layout of a map rather than linear notes. Add additional memory hooks, such as colour and images, which can prompt you to recall the associated concepts.

Breaking down complex ideas

Some topics are complicated such as land law, who is related to who in Wuthering Heights, or potential Brexit  scenarios, requiring flow charts and maps to make visual sense. It’s difficult to keep all that information in your head or to understand the connections when going backwards and forwards though linear notes.

A mindmap of Wuthering Heights characters and their relationships.
The characters of Wuthering Heights [click to expand].

So, how can I start mindmapping?

To me, Mindmapping has no strict rules, but there are some basic guiding principles you may wish to follow to keep your map effective:

  • Put your topic or essay title in the centre this is useful for keeping you on track or remind you to answer the question in hand.
  • Use single keywords (or very short phrases) so you can see at a glance what the map means when you come back to it. Key words are easier to digest and remember if you are using the map for revision. Keywords are also useful because at the mapping stage our ideas may not be fully formed sentences, but we can still easily capture and build on them.

Using MindGenius software

MindGenius 2019 software is now available on any City student Windows pc.
Staff can download the software onto their City staff desktop computer via the Software Centre. MindGenius is excellent for project management and has some advanced features to facilitate this, such as the ability to create a Gantt chart from your map at the click of a button.

MindGenius Functionality

The software is simple to use with “type and return” functionality to build you map. You can also:

  • Add attachments to keep the documents you are reading for a project or essay organised by linking them to relevant branches within the map.
  • Add notes: Add more substantial notes to each branch. As mentioned, this feature is excellent when planning an essay.
  • Export to Word: You can export your finished mind map to Word to create draft written work. In Word you will have a linear structure to work with along with your added notes.
  • Export to PowerPoint: You can use the software to help plan and create presentations.
  • The mental connection tool allows you to link ideas on different areas of you map and describe the relationship between them.
  • Categories and Filter: You can use colours to code or categorise ideas across your map. If your map becomes quite large and complex you can filter by category to concentrate on particular themes.
  • Templates such as the SWOT and PEST analysis can help encourage exploration of a topic and apply critical thinking to it.
  • If you’re really not sure where to start there are guided brainstorm tools, such as ‘solution finder’ and ‘question sets’.

A real life example

I find mindmapping incredibly useful for organising complex, but otherwise unordered ideas. To write this article I planned it first in Mind Genius.

I started by brainstorming in an unstructured way, getting every one of my ideas down on the page (which is very cathartic!). This reduced the load on my working memory. I also used the Who? What? Where? When? Question set to stimulate more ideas and identify gaps in my thinking.

Once all my ideas were on the page I could move on to organising and structuring the information using the drag and drop functionality to group ideas which came under the same theme.

Then I could think more critically and reject any of the weaker or less relevant ideas. i.e. in this article I’m not going to talk about other mindmapping software so I have deleted those branches on review.

A mindmap bout mindmapping, many ideas have been added with no real structure.
Stage 1. An unordered mindmap. [Click to expand]

A mindmap about mindmapping with more structure
Stage 2. An ordered mindmap. [Click to expand]
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Stage 3. Mindmap exported to Word as outline text. [Click to expand]

Need Help?

If you need help or have any questions about Mind Genius contact us. We’d like to hear what you think so please add your comments below or share with fellow students how mind mapping works for you.

How to: Create a mind map

How to: Create a mind map. 6 ways mindmapping can support your study

Mind mapping is an active and visual way of representing information. Unlike linear notes (traditional notes written out), with a mind map you can view all of your notes on one page and visually identify structure and relationships more effectively.

You can use old fashioned paper and pencils or mind mapping software to create one. Just add your main idea or goal to the centre, then, using keywords add your main topics, and then your sub topics to those and so on.

6 ways mind mapping can support your studies

  1. Planning: You can use mind maps to help plan a project, essay or assignment. Creating a mind map can help you get all your ideas down, hone the structure, and generate and develop new content. Some software allows you to export your map’s hierarchy to a Word document so you can flesh out the bare bones of the framework. (I made a mind map to plan out this article!)
  2. Revision: Create an overview of the subject area. Some software include a notes field for adding longer sections of text. You could use these to enter answers to main questions and test yourself. Mind maps are an active way of learning. They can be multi-sensory – associating colours, images and keywords with information could create a hook for memory recall. You could think about displaying completed maps on a wall so you look at them often.
  3. Notetaking: Make notes from one study text or more using the chapters as thematic structure. This is a more active way to engage with material where there is scope to add your own thoughts and ideas. Again, you can see the overview while also breaking the subject down into manageable sections, making it understandable.
  4. Brainstorming or group projects: Working collaboratively on a mind map helps all members of the group see discussion areas and/or areas of work allocated to them. Mind maps can help you stick to the chosen topics but also stimulate more ideas. Use the large screens in the group study rooms or the technobooths for maximum effect.
  5. Representing complex ideas and concepts: Mind maps can help you easily see how ideas relate to one another and also see the “bigger picture” when it can be easy to get bogged down in detail.
  6. Productivity: Software allows you to move ideas around on the page, export an outline to Word, and add your own notes and links to reading materials.

    A mindmap representing the 6 ways mindmapping can support your studies
    A mind map about mind mapping: 6 ways mindmapping can support your study.

Tony Buzan the originator of mind mapping says that Imagination + Association = Memory. In your mind map try using colour coding, mnemonics, or “memory palace” (Method of Loci) to make examples really come to life (the more vivid, humorous and unusual you make them the more memorable).

For making mind maps City has a very easy to use software called Inspiration. You can find Inspiration in the programmes menu on all City student computers.

You can also check some of the great resources and guidance available through the Learning Success Moodle module, including a follow along demonstration.