Making sense out of a pile of research and turning that pile into something coherent is sometimes more difficult than doing the research in the first place. Visual organization tools such as mind maps, concept maps, and knowledge maps can help a writer at any level become more familiar with their research, organize their notes, and finally, identify links and hierarchies that will become the main new concepts (original thought) of the finished piece. All you need is a blank piece of paper and a pencil. Colored pencils and markers make the task more fun and easier to read.
Making a Mind Map
First, consider what the main subject of your article, report, or speech is and write it in as few words as possible in the middle of the paper. You can draw a picture to go with it or assign it a color to help your brain remember it.
Next, look through your notes and try to identify the main topics. You may change your mind about these as you work with your visual tool, so don’t worry if you are not sure of your choices. Draw a line out from the center topic for each subtopic, and label each as briefly as possible. Again, use pictures or colors to aid your memory.
Focus on each of these lines (or branches) and add more detail in the same way so that you have twigs for each branch. Use colors and pictures when possible, and bolder branches and letters for more important concepts.
After you’ve mapped out your information as far as you can, look for similarities, links, and hierarchies that you might want to highlight in your text. Draw lines and arrows to bridge and connect these or highlight in coded colors so that you can pick them out easily. This is called a mind map, and you may want to check out the work of mind map expert Tony Buzan at http://www.thinkbuzan.com/uk/company/about/tony-buzan
Settle on a logical flow for the points you want to make and number the branches. At this point, you may want to create a new mind map that incorporates your logical flow and linked information and leaves out anything that has proven to be unrelated or unimportant.
Making a Concept Map
If you need to compare two items, try making two mind maps and connecting similarities, links, and hierarchies between the two. Or, you can connect similarities, etc., between points on bulleted lists. The latter would be called a concept map.
Other Visual Tools
I use these methods often for organizing, scheduling, teaching and comprehending, and I find that they help me get to higher levels of learning!
This content was provided by one of our users, Margaret Montet