This is a guest post by Jabe from MindMaple.

As a college student, my lack of organization skills was often an obstacle to my success. I am a creative thinker, but if I let my creativity run wild it can become as much a problem as it is a benefit. When generating ideas for an essay or project in college, I never found myself stumped by a lack of inspiration but rather by an excess of unfocused ideas. After a brainstorming session I would often end up surrounded by more ideas than I knew what to do with, and without any idea of how to integrate my thoughts into a unified argument.

In our electronic age, we have access to an enormous amount of information. However, without effective methods of organizing and connecting this information, we can be easily overwhelmed. In this post I will show how mind mapping software, a creative organization tool used by many professionals to manage projects and information, can also be an extremely valuable tool for students.

Mind mapping allows us to represent information visually. We can organize topics and ideas by categories and subcategories, and it is easy to show the relationships between different ideas. Using mind maps, we can analyze specific ideas in detail while maintaining an awareness of our general goals and concerns. Mind maps can be used for brainstorming, taking and sharing notes, organizing projects and schedules, and many other purposes.

Let’s imagine we have an assignment to write an essay on Shakespeare’s play Macbeth for an English class. Our end goal is to have an essay that makes a clear argument by guiding the reader step-by-step through a complex but organized system of information. The essay must be linear and highly structured: it must have an introduction which leads the reader into a rich body of related ideas that support and develop one another, and eventually it must bring the reader to a sensible conclusion. Getting an essay writing service in the mix here would be a good idea as well.

When we are initially brainstorming for the essay, however, our thought process will be anything but structured. Different characters, scenes and themes from the play will flash through our mind. Our mind will be making constant transient connections between different elements of the play. The challenge of writing an essay, or creating any kind of presentation, is turning this unstructured intuitive thinking into a structured argument.

To organize our thoughts, we might think to make an outline or list using a word processor. However, the problem with word processing, or even writing an outline by hand, is that outlining is an inherently linear form of organizing ideas—one idea must follow another directly, and it is difficult to represent complex relationships and networks. An outline can be useful for representing the basics of the final essay, but it is hardly an ideal tool for planning in the early stages of the project.

Mind mapping can provide a solution to this challenge. Mind mapping’s ability to represent ideas spatially provides an enormous advantage to us as we consider various thoughts and ideas. When we are children, our brains learn to process complex visual information long before we are able to use language effectively. Organizing thoughts visually is a highly intuitive process, and allows us to think about information in new ways, often revealing ideas and connections we might otherwise miss.

The following images provide an example of the enormous difference between organizing thoughts with mind mapping (using the recently-released mind mapping software MindMaple) and with a commonly used word processor. For this example, I imagined having to brainstorm ideas for the Macbeth essay.

 

The difference between the two formats speaks for itself. Making a mind map is fun! It encourages us to be creative and follow our intuition. There is always space to add new categories and ideas, and it is simple to illustrate the relationship between different ideas. My mind map is somewhat cluttered, but you can make your mind maps as organized as you like. A simple web search will bring up countless
examples of organized mind maps on a variety of topics. The specific mind mapping software MindMaple is perfect for both beginners and advanced mind mappers. Unlike many other software products, which restrict the placement of new topics, MindMaple allows you to move and rearrange products freely. For beginning users, or for users who might prefer more structured maps, MindMaple also includes numerous formatting features to help you keep your maps organized and clean, as well as tools for integrating documents, pictures, and other features into your maps.MindMaple is available for download at www.mindmaple.com

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