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What is a mind map?


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Mind maps are diagrams that show how ideas and topics are connected. You can see examples of mind maps, concept maps and other types of information map on the right.

They are used to assist learning, to help when thinking a topic through for planning or better understanding, and to improve the organization of information. You can find pointers to much more about their use, how to make them, and which to use in a variety of circumstances below.  

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Varieties

There are many types of diagram that are loosely called mind maps, and mind map users disagree over definitions. Some apply the term to what others call spidergrams or concept maps, while some have a rigorous definition. These distinctions can be useful and WikIT tries to make them clear and help you judge which is the right kind of information map for specific circumstances.

This wiki provides examples and terminology to sort out the full spectrum of types, the different types and their uses.

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Uses of mind maps

Mind maps may be used for personal projects, for analyzing and understanding books, for planning writing, for a wide range of uses in business, to enhance creativity and, most importantly because this was its seedbed, in education.

School may not be the best place to encounter them, because they may be thought of as inappropriate in later life and therefore not be used when they could be. This is illustrated by the experience of a university professor: "The problem with assigning mindmaps is that students see it as grade school."

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Choices of map type

When you are choosing the type of map to make, these are the main considerations:

  • whether you really do have a choice - a teacher's instructions or boss's policy may mean you have none,
  • your reason for making the map - to think something through, to plan, to generate ideas, to learn, to understand, ...
  • where you will work on it - on a scrap of paper, on a computer screen, on your iPhone,
  • how you will use it once finished - bin it, keep it up to date, display it in a meeting, show your boss, write a book or blog post from it,
  • the audience (if other than yourself) it is intended it for,
  • whether you are drawing maps by hand or using software, and naturally:
  • your personal preference.

You may choose a mind map, concept map, spidergram, tree diagram - many options - and if you have elected to use a mind map, you still have a choice between Buzan mind maps and common mind maps in their various forms.

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Now read about how to make a mind map ...

For free information about the hundreds of visual thinking tools available, visit the
Visual Thinking Center
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