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Researching and Writing a Paper: Mind Maps

This guide is about how to start, research, write, and format, a paper.

Mind Maps

A mind map is a diagram – writing done as if it was a drawing – used to visually organize information in a way that shows the relationships among pieces of information. Seeing how ideas, facts, questions, and more, are related helps you think through complex topics. A mind map is created around a single concept, drawn or written in the center of a blank page. Then related ideas (which can be images, words, or both) are added with lines connecting them to the central idea. The more important ideas are connected directly to the central idea, and other ideas (or facts, questions, quotes, comments, etc.) are connected to those important ideas. [Make sure that your mind map includes a citation for the article (book, video, etc.) and that each fact or idea you pull from the article includes the number of the page it was found on.]

A Mind Map of Student Learning Characteristics
CS Odessa, CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
Mind maps can be drawn by hand on paper or by using specialist software. (Some are listed here or google “free mind map tools”. Note: some of these sites may be advertising supported, ignore the adverts.)

Start with a central image or phrase to represent your topic or subject [Student Learning Characteristics, as seen above]. This central image is what all of the other information in the map relates to. Around the central image write (or draw) other ideas that relate to the central image [Cognitive Style, Intelligence, Approaches to Learning, Motivation, Learning Style]. Draw a line between each of the ideas, the thicker the line the more important the connection. These related concepts or ideas continue with second-level and third-level branches of the mind map [for example: Deep, Surface, Strategic, Non-Strategic (the lower right corner of the above image)]. The more visual the map the more effective it is - you can emphasize keywords by writing in capital letters, or using symbols, arrows, boldness, colored ink/pencils, highlighter colors, and so on.

Making the relationships among information (facts, questions, comments, etc.) visual provides you with an overview of the topic and, for many people, it is easier to revise and remember information. A mind map can also help you summarize and organize information. When you have created a mind map (or outline notes) for each of the sources that you are planning to use for your paper you can make a new mind map to combine information from those sources and decide what information and sources you will include in your paper and the order in which you will discuss them. (Look again at the description of your assignment at this point.)

The main topic for your essay is the idea in the center of the mind map. The main branches of the mind map are the key points you will use to present a strong argument or analysis of the main topic. Each paragraph should contain one key point, so one branch is often one paragraph in your essay. The sub-branches that connect to a branch are the information you use to expand and explain each of your key points.

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