Graphic organizers are graphical representations of ideas or concepts, providing visual and kinesthetic learners with new ways to organize what they've learned. The beauty of graphic organizers is that they can help whether you're in third grade or going for your master's degree; whether you're studying history, language arts or any other subject. Many of the same graphic organizers can be used across multiple fields of study.
While students may have used Venn diagrams throughout their entire school career, they're just as effective in college. A Venn diagram is a chart of two circles overlapping each other in the middle. The outside portions of each circle are used to list differences between two concepts or subjects. The inner portion, where the circles overlap, is where the similarities between the concepts are written. Venn diagrams visually illustrate the differences and similarities between two things, which helps promote a better understanding of both subjects and how they relate to and differ from each other.
The essay planning organizer makes conceiving and writing essays easier by giving students an overall outline of each section of the essay. A simple version comprises a large box at the top to represent the introduction of the essay, containing the main idea or argument of the essay. Next, a group of smaller boxes under the large one is used to elaborate on the main idea, representing the body of the essay. The next set of small boxes is for specific examples or further elaboration on the previous set of boxes. Another large box at the end summarizes the idea and represents the essay's conclusion. The number of smaller boxes between the large ones grows or shrinks depending on the number of concepts and ideas presented in an essay.
A concept map starts with one single idea or concept circled, providing a starting point for further elaboration. While the first circle contains a fairly general concept, smaller circles shoot off from the main one to describe specific characteristics or values within the general concept. From there, each subsequent circle has its own offshoots, probing even deeper into each aspect of the concept. Such offshoots can continue as needed or stop there, making these graphic organizers easy to customize. Concept maps can help in planning essays or developing a deeper understanding of a subject's inner workings and underlying ideas.
Software Graphic Organizers
For those who find it easier to brainstorm and plan using a computer, many graphic organizers translate well into computer software. The obvious advantage is the ability to edit the information on the fly without causing extra clutter through crossing out edits or trying to rearrange concepts. Such software may be most advantageous to college students studying advanced, in-depth concepts and ideas. Software graphic organizers are easier to arrange and expand as needed, whereas their paper counterparts are confined to whatever fits on a single sheet of paper.