Students discussing notes in pre-sessional English session

Thinking skills

Mind maps can help you to organise your ideas, plan your assessments and communicate visually

Mind maps are maps of your ideas and of the literature, and a great way to represent information visually.

There are many ways to produce a mind map, so it's a good idea to practice creating mind maps to develop your preferred style. You can be as creative as you like, and your mind maps don’t have to be pretty or tidy. Everyone has their own preference.

Many people find that mind maps work best when they include images. The pictures don't need to be high quality – they simply need to help with your recall of the information.

Mind maps can be used for:

  • Brainstorming
  • Developing understanding
  • Sorting out and organising your ideas — and therefore planning
  • Reflection
  • Memory
  • Revision and exams

Reasons to use mind mapping

  • Mind maps very simply replicate the way connections are made between neurons in our brains – so some people find mind-mapping more 'natural' than other forms of note-taking.
  • By creating associations and understanding relationships, your understanding may also develop more quickly – and more deeply – than with other methods.
  • The images and other visual clues used in mind maps can help improve your understanding and memory.
  • When you're relating a piece of information to your mind map or a particular strand, you're engaging in synthesis – you're making associations and identifying relationships between your own ideas, the literature and your experience, which can helpful you see how all the information fits together.
  • Mind mapping is flexible and fluid – as you engage with new ideas and literature, you can change any part of your map to reflect what you've learned.
  • Mind mapping forces you to think about how a new piece of information relates to your existing mind map, and to engage fully with the relevance and significance of the information. If the new data doesn't 'fit', you can consider whether it needs to be included at all, or whether your map needs a new thread.

Mind maps can help you to: 

  • Explore a topic and develop your ideas
  • Sort and organise your thoughts
  • Explore for breadth and depth
  • Identify relationships such as cause-and-effect, or similarity and difference
  • Decide what material to include or exclude, and therefore what your assignment will focus on
  • Decide what is important for background and context (where required)
  • Plan your assignment and structure it well

Using mind maps

  1. Content spreads out from a main heading in the middle. This is your starting point. It can be anything, for example a topic, your idea, or information from a text.
  2. You could produce a broad outline of key topics for an assignment or section, and pick a specific point for a new mindmap in order to think and explore more deeply.
  3. Use just a couple of key words and/or images for each piece of information.
  4. Individual bits of information are always connected to other bits of information.
  5. You should alter the size and style of the text and connecting lines to indicate importance.
  6. You should use colour to help identify themes and relationships. You may find that some pieces of information can go with more than one branch. Colour-coding and using additional connecting lines can help you keep track if this is the case.

Mind mapping value and process

Mind map made using Inspiration software available on the University network

Mind map created using Inspiration software, which is available on the University network.

Download our mind mapping revision sheet

Download this page as a PDF for your mind map revision notes.

Do you want help with mind maps?

Tuition in mind mapping is available from the Academic Skills Unit (ASK) at academicskills@port.ac.uk.

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