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Backing up mindmapping

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Buzan Online has responded to criticism of a lack of academic studies showing the efficacy of mindmapping with a list of references on this page. None of the papers are linked to there, it's just a plain text list (Why Mr. Buzan? If you claim "The Proof is Here!", don't you think that transparency is called for?). So WikIT has done the work for them by, as far as we can, gathering the links here for review. Mind mapping deserves academic backup as solid as that of concept mapping, assuming studies of a sufficient standard to provide evidence can be found, not just anecdotes.

But before we look at that list, we need to consider "efficacy of mindmapping" for what? Mindmapping, as this wiki shows, is used as a tool in a wide range of activities. All the Buzan Online references focus on learning and memory with no mention of the use of mind mapping for planning, creativity, organizing information for reference, business analysis and consulting, collaboration with others, decision making, planning events, staff training, recruitment and induction programs, strategic planning, preparations for detailed business plans, goal setting, problem solving, prioritizing issues, setting up management dashboards, writing, evaluating lessons learned, preparing for and administering meetings, planning, preparing and giving presentations, project management, planning courses and presenting material and planning and re-organizing web sites.

Comments are being added here from time to time, as the papers are read and the conclusions reached extracted. Studies reaching contrary conclusions are shown.

Al-Jarf, R. (2009), Enhancing Freshman students’ Writing Skills with a Mind Mapping software. Paper presented at the 5th International Scientific Conference, eLearning and Software for Education, Bucharest, April 2009. Full text available.

  • The author describes a study where students were divided into two groups, one using mind maps (made with FreeMind and by hand) and one without. You can read the paper but results given indicate measurable benefits to the group using mind maps over those who did not.
  • It is unfortunate that in making the case for using mind maps, the author quotes academic studies of concept map efficacy. The term "concept map" appears 14 times but at no point does the author acknowledge that concept maps and mind maps are not the same. This does not inspire confidence.

Boyson, G. (2009), The Use of Mind Mapping in Teaching and Learning. The Learning Institute, Assignment 3. Not found on line.

Cain, M. E. (2001/2002), Using Mind Maps to raise standards in literacy, improve confidence and encourage positive attitudes towards learning. Study conducted at Newchurch Community Primary School, Warrington.

D’Antoni, A. V., and Pinto Zipp, G. (2005), Applications of the Mind Map Learning Technique in Chiropractic Education. Journal of Chiropractic Education, 19:53-4. In April 2010, this was available in synopsis from but it has now been removed.

Farrand, P., Hussain, F. and Hennessy E. (2002), The efficacy of the ‘mind map’ study technique. Medical Education, Vol. 36 (5), pp 426-431. Available in synopsis only.

Goodnough, K. and Long, R. (2002), Mind Mapping: A Graphic Organizer for the Pedagogical Toolbox. Science Scope, Vol. 25, No. 8, pp 20-24.

Goodnough, K. and Woods, R. (2002), Student and Teacher Perceptions of Mind Mapping: A Middle School Case Study. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, 1st to 5th April 2002. Full text available.

  • The results given are subjective descriptions by students and two researcher/teachers rather than any quantitative measure or independent assessment. Mind mapping was used for a year, and most considered its use to be positive. However, 95% of the students involved did not go on to use mind mapping in subsequent years. The conclusion reached is that a sustained effort by teaching staff is needed if students are to benefit long term.

Holland, B., Holland, L. and Davies, J. (2003/2004), An investigation into the concept of Mind Mapping and the use of Mind Mapping software to support and improve student academic performance. Learning and Teaching Projects 2003/2004, pp 89-94.

Mento, A. J., Martinelli, P. and Jones R. M. (1999), Mind Mapping in Executive Education: Applications and Outcomes. The Journal of Management Development, Vol. 18, Issue 4. Free in synopsis with paid-for copy available. Synopsis contains hyperbole - describing mind mapping as "a revolutionary system for capturing ideas and insights".

Mueller, A., Johnston, M. and Bligh, D. (2002), Joining Mind Mapping and Care Planning to Enhance Student Critical Thinking and Achieve Holistic Nursing Care. Nursing Diagnosis, 13, 1, pg. 24.

Paykoç, F., Mengi, B., Kamay, P. O, Onkol, P., Ozgur, B., Pilli, O. and Yildirim, H. (2004), What are the Major Curriculum Issues?: The Use of MindMapping as a Brainstorming Exercise. Paper presented at the First Int. Conference on Concept Mapping, Spain, 2004.

Ralston, J. and Cook, D. (2007), Collaboration, ICT and Mind Mapping. Reflecting Education, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp 61-73.

  • reports subjective descriptions by students and researcher- no quantitative measures.

Toi, H (2009), Research on how Mind Map improves Memory. Paper presented at the International Conference on Thinking, Kuala Lumpur, 22nd to 26th June 2009. Not found on line.

Wai Ling, C. (2004), The Effectiveness of Using Mind Mapping Skills in Enhancing Secondary One and Secondary Four Students’ Writing in a CMI School. University of Hong Kong, Masters dissertation, HKU Theses Online.

Zampetakis, L. A., Tsironis, L. and Moustakis, V. (2007), Creativity Development in Engineering Education: The Case of Mind Mapping. Journal of Management Development, Vol. 26, No. 4, pp 370-380.

Contrary findings

In January 2011, the journal Science published "Retrieval Practice Produces More Learning than Elaborative Studying with Concept Mapping" (abstract). The New York Times wrote about this, providing much more information than the abstract. The paper reports on experiments done with 200 students (a much larger cohort than most of the studies above) adopting a variety of learning methods. Those using mapping did not come out best: "students who read a passage, then took a test asking them to recall what they had read, retained about 50 percent more of the information a week later than students who used two other methods." One of the 'other methods' was concept mapping. The students who did not map, but just did a recall test even did better when they were asked to draw a concept map from memory.

What would have been really interesting would have been to compare those who map their study topics and did a retrieval test, against a control group that did just a retrieval test.

Editor's notes: Others to be investigated

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