I have been using mind maps all my life as a successful researcher. Mind maps were first developed by Tony Buzan. They have become premier tools for business people, educators, planners and managers. You can now get powerful software to generate mind maps easily and use them in your presentations. They are fantastic. They help you to think, get organised, plan and develop your ideas. They help you to use your left and right brain. You will be using your logical and creative parts of your brain.
“No law or ordinance is mightier than understanding” Plato
Mind maps are great when you want to enhance your understanding of a topic. They are dynamic tools that you can use when you are reading a research paper. Get a picture of the main theme of the paper in the middle. From the middle radiate out the key sections then branch further. Write down the major points on the main branch. Link them together. You will get an idea about how the main points link with one another. Use colours and pictures. Use only one key word or picture on a line. Make the lines curved. Mind maps ignite your creativity.
You can also use mind maps when you want to write a paper. Put the central theme in the middle of the page. Write the keywords for the main headings on the primary branches. Use in capital letters using only with one key word. Radiate ideas for each section and how they link together.
When you have finished the mind map arrange the points in a logical order. Number the main branches in a sensible sequence. Do the same thing with the sub branches in a logical order. This give you are structure of related points and a reasonable sequence to use. You have engaged both the genius right brain to generate ideas and the analytical left brain to order them.
Once you have a good map then try to write the first draft of the paper rapidly. The first draft is rough and ragged. However, it contains the main ideas for the paper. The initial draft will be full of mistakes. You must re-write all the sections in an effective and clear way. Anyone should be able to understand the arguments. Insert the appropriate figures and references in the paper.
Edit and do a thorough grammar check several times. Usually, the editing takes much longer than writing. The accuracy and the technical details need to be verified. Sentence structure refined.
“I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter” James Michener
To improve efficiency separate the writing process from the editing stage. Check the finer points in the paper. A good summary of the stages involves is given below.
- Generate a mind map with the main themes, subheadings and ideas to include in the paper
- Quickly write the first draft of the paper using your own knowledge of the subject.
- The right section one at a time. Pay particular attention to the grammar, punctuation, style and the key facts.
- Edit the paper, cut out unnecessary sentences and words.
- Check grammar, specification required and style.
- Proofread and systematically check everything including headings, subheadings, figures, numbers, references and tables.
- Check it one last time before submitting to a journal. Make sure that you have complied to all of the journal guidelines, fonts, tables, figures, references, and all the details that the journal requires are correct.
- Get online and submit the paper. Soon, you will probably get the referees comments. For now relax and wait in anticipation of the feedback.
You can use mind maps to prepare a lecture or a presentation. Once again start in the middle with a picture, radiate out the main points and then the sub points. Use one key word per branch for the main points and the sub points. Link the branches together to spot any interactions. Write down where the figures and tables are going to appear.
“Every one has his own style, his own way of presenting himself on and off the field” Sachin Tandulkar
After creating a mind map, go to your computer and use PowerPoint. Generates PowerPoint slides for each of the main points. Populate the slides with relevant details, tables, references and graphs. Clarity and accuracy is most important. Edit the PowerPoint slides. Make sure they are easy to read & understand. Only have one point per slide. Use the rule of point, example and reinforce point for each slide. Rehearse and then knock them dead.
Another excellent use of mind maps is to generate ideas for a topic. Start with a central theme and radiate out 10 branches. Populate the branches with key words to represent your ideas. Generating 10 more subbranches from each main branch. Populate these with some ideas with a picture or a keyword. Get into a very calm and relaxed state of mind. When you are relaxed and confident then you will generate many more ideas. Be as quick as silver. Speed will stimulate your creativity.
“Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity” Charles Mongus
You have now generated an amazing number of new ideas. The next task is to sit down and use your logical left brain to examine each idea. Use a separate session to sit down and evaluate each idea. Many of these ideas will be rejected. Others points warrant further investigation. Some you can put into immediate practice. Scribe them in your notebook for future reference or in a file on your computer. This is a fantastic tool for generating new ideas. The more you use it the better you will become. You will be able generate ideas on demand.
“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now” Alan Lieken
You can use mind maps to generate a plan for your thesis. Again start with the main title. Write down the chapter headings using a key word. Branch out into the subheadings. Record all the key points on the subsequent branches. Decide on the figures and tables that you will need. Under each of the subheadings you can write down all the main points that you want to write in your thesis. Arrange the ideas into a sensible order. You now have a plan you can start writing your thesis. Write each sections in your own words and do that as quickly as possible. The first draft will be very wild and uneven. You won’t want to show it to anyone. The next task is to edit the pieces and knock it into a reasonable shape. However, the first steps are necessary to get to this stage. You now have the clay to mould into a Di Vinci master piece. You will have to write each section many times to get it perfect. Once you have a good draft give it to your supervisor to read and comment. Never give him poor work. Give your best. He will give you feedback on the pieces so that you can make corrections and improve it to a standard worthy of yourself.
You can also use mind maps to write reports, client meetings, plan your day and many other applications. Use the tool and watch your creativity sour.