A mind map is an informal, pictoral outline showing all of your ideas and supporting details. It allows you to creatively explore ideas free from the constraints of sentences and paragraphs. Writers who have difficulty with formulating complete thoughts without a clear sense of direction or who are global rather than linear thinkers can benefit from mind maps.
To create a mind map, write your tentative thesis in the centre of a blank page. Draw branches from it representing ideas that, from your reading and thinking, you associate with the thesis. Add twigs to these branches labeled with supporting details. Create as many branches and twigs as you can. Mind maps can be hand-written, as in this example for a paper on communication technology; you can also use software to make a digital mind map as seen in this example for a paper on Hamlet.
The mind map cannot show the order in which to pursue ideas, but it can suggest directions and the connections between your ideas and evidence. The mind map helps you better understand your topic and thesis. It can also be the basis for a more formal outline; from it, you can determine which arguments should be main arguments, which should be supporting details, and which arguments do not support your thesis.
Many software programs can help you to create mind maps. For example, Inspiration (which can be accessed from any Trent computer) allows you to create intricate, illustrated mind maps. There are many other programs available online as well.
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