Use mind maps to improve your learning
Are you still taking notes to organize your information the old fashioned way? Try the technique of making mind
maps, and see whether this method of organizing your thoughts works better for you.
When you need to organize your thoughts, you probably write out all your thoughts the old fashioned way.
However, there is a technique called mind mapping which can help you organize your thoughts and help you
understand the relationship of all the components. Try it and see.
Many students find that the use of mindmaps helps them take notes more effectively and remember better when they
study for exams.
The main problem with taking notes the traditional way is that this is a very passive process. Simply taking
notes does not get the brain very involved in interacting with the information. If you can get your brain to get
more actively involved in organizing the new material you will remember it better.
The following technique for note-taking is particularly effective for people who are highly visual. This method
of making notes is sometimes called “mind-mapping” or making a “learning map”.
Although it takes some practice to use mind-mapping effectively, most people who use it find they can retain and
remember far more information with a lot less work.
The essence of the learning-map (also known as “memory-map”, or “mind-map”) technique is quite simple. You will
need a blank piece of paper, the larger the better. You will need at least one pen, more if you want to use a
variety of colors.
You will be trying to fill the entire page with your notes, so it is important to keep the size of your writing
quite small. With practice you should be better able to judge what size of writing will work effectively.
As you listen to the lecturer, or read the article you are studying, decide what you think the central theme is.
For example, you might be listening to a lecture where you decide the central theme seems to be, “Conditions in
Europe on the eve of World War 2”
Or you might be listening to a talk that has a central theme of “Strategies that plants use to survive
Once you have decided what the central theme is, jot down the words in the center of the page, and draw a circle
around the main theme. Don’t try to write down a sentence or a paragraph--just get down enough of the key words
that will bring the ideas back into you mind.
Keep listening or reading, watching for the first main sub-theme.
When you come across the first major sub-theme, pick a spot on the page to jot down a few key words that sum up
the sub-theme. Draw a circle around the sub-theme words, and then join your sub-theme circle to the main theme
circle with a line.
Each time you come across a new major sub-theme, write down a few key words to summarize the new idea, and draw
a circle around those words. Then draw a line to join the sub-theme circle to the main idea circle in the center of
the page. Eventually you will have a circle in the center with several spokes radiating from it.
The lines or spokes don’t have to be straight, and they can be of any length required. The “circles” don’t have
to be circles; they can be squares, triangles, or oval squiggles if you prefer. You can use different colors to
help you organize the ideas better.
As the speaker or writer continues to present his ideas, you will find that some of the ideas being presented
are additional supporting details that clarify or illustrate one of the sub-themes you have already identified. In
this case you will write these “sub-sub-themes” down using just a few words, enclose them in a circle or squiggle,
and link them to their sub-theme with a line.
Eventually your sub-theme circles may have many spokes radiating from them as the author or lecturer continues
to present his ideas. At a glance you will be able to take in the dominant themes of the talk and the underlying
organizational structure of the ideas.
If you happen to have any ideas of your own while you are reading or listening to the lecture, jot them down as
well. This shows you have your brain actively interacting with the material.
When you make a mind map or a learning map of all your notes, you create a very visual document that differs a
lot from traditional methods of making notes for class.
People who learn very well visually will particularly benefit from the way that learning maps clearly show the
relationships between main themes, sub-themes and supporting facts and ideas.
Try this method and see if this is the note-taking technique that works best for you!
About The Author
This article was written by learning expert Royane Real. If you want to improve
your learning, get her new short report “Your Quick Guide to Improving Your Learning Ability”