If you could rewind and glimpse into a college lecture room from 25 years ago, you would likely see students jotting down information in list format using bullets, numbers or letters to organize information sequentially. The problem with conventional note-taking, says Tony Buzan, inventor of mind-mapping, is that our brains remember information better when we associate ideas with each other. Many of today's college students are filling their notebooks with multicolored branches stemming from a single main idea and images to help them learn and recall information.
A mind map often comes out looking a bit like an alien spider with one large body and multiple limbs stretching across the page in a haphazard manner. Although it may look like a mess at first glance, mind maps allow you to take a great deal of information and organize it in a way your brain will remember. Mind maps are useful for note-taking, but you can also use them to brainstorm ideas on any topic, to consolidate research from many sources, to study and memorize information or to think through complex problems.
Keep It Simple
You can begin a mind map by writing the main topic in the center of your paper and circling it. Each subtopic is then drawn as a branch off the main topic and branching off of each subtopic continues from there, as necessary. Label each branch with one or two strong words to trigger the idea in your mind. Use phrases that have personal significance and meaning to ensure understanding when you revisit your mind map later. Keep it simple while taking lecture notes, as you can always add, delete or reorganize information after class.
Begin With What You Know
When your brain organizes and processes new information, it links it to existing information as much as possible. Imagine your brain is a file cabinet with files for millions of topics. When you learn new information, your brain likes to find the related files to add the new facts instead of creating a completely new file. Mind-mapping is more effective when you create a map of what you already know on the topic before adding information that you read or hear.
Use Color and Visuals
A complex mind map might include several main concepts, each with many related facts or ideas. Color-coding the branches allows you to see related information at a glance. This helps your brain compartmentalize ideas for easier retrieval during a test. You can use multiple highlighters in different colors to link similar concepts together and connect related concepts that are far apart on your map by drawing a single line to link the information. Images can also help you recall information more easily than trying to remember words. When appropriate, place simple images or symbols on your mind map to accompany important ideas.
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