Succeeding in postgraduate study
Succeeding in postgraduate study

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Succeeding in postgraduate study

6.2 Mind maps

Mind maps are also known as concept maps or ‘spider’ diagrams. These and other visual representations involving diagrams, sketches, cartoons and the use of colour, are useful creative tools that help to structure, categorise and make connections between ideas. They steer away from ‘linear’ thinking, provide you with an overview of key concepts and their connections, and help reflective learning become visually engaging, dynamic and memorable. Mind maps are also useful tools for structuring your thoughts for an assignment, and for planning and drafting essays, reports, projects and dissertations. They will help to motivate you, and get your academic writing off to a good start. You can use this technique to relate relevant ideas and information from study materials and other resources to each other as you study, or to summarise and reflect on your knowledge and understanding, and research on a particular topic at the end of a block or unit of study. Your mind map will grow and evolve to reflect your own learning, as you make progress with your studies. View this brief presentation to learn more about this technique.

Download this video clip.Video player: Session 2, slidecast 1: tools for reflective learning – mind maps
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Transcript: Session 2, slidecast 1: tools for reflective learning – mind maps

SESSION 2 SLIDECAST TRANSCRIPT
SLIDE 1
Hello and welcome.
This slidecast briefly introduces mind maps as tools to support your reflective learning.
SLIDE 2
We explore the concepts, guide you through some simple steps in creating your own mind map and take a look at a couple of examples to get you started.
SLIDE 3
So let’s begin by asking ‘What is a mind map?’ Well, mind maps are also known as concept maps or ‘spider’ diagrams. These and other visuals are useful creative tools that help you to structure, categorise and make connections between ideas. They steer away from ‘linear’ thinking, help to provide an overview of key concepts and their connections, and make reflective learning visually engaging, dynamic and memorable.
SLIDE 4
You can think of mind maps as visual tools that will help you to ‘brain-storm’ and make connections between ideas, relate key concepts and information from study materials and other resources to each other, summarise and reflect on your own knowledge, understanding and research on a particular topic (for example at the end of a block of study), and to help you to structure your thoughts for an assignment (planning and drafting your essays, reports, project and dissertations). Mind mapping is a process that will also grow and evolve to reflect your own learning.
SLIDE 5
OK, so how do you create a mind map?
SLIDE 6
It’s fairly straightforward really. You just need to follow these nine simple steps. Begin by writing down your central topic or idea in the middle of a blank page. Draw related ideas on 'branches' that radiate from the central topic. When you have a new idea, start a new branch from the centre. Make sure that you think about and include any themes, subject matter, authors, theories or experiences associated with your topic. Associate freely at this stage and write down anything you consider to be relevant. Circle the key points or ideas. Then look at each item in turn, consider how it relates to others on your page, and to the topic as a whole. Finally, map the relationship between ideas and key points using lines, arrows and colours, and use words or phrases to link them.
SLIDE 7
Now a mind map by its nature is open-ended and ‘free-form’, branching outwards from a central theme. This differs from a ‘flow-chart’, which typically has a beginning (or a ‘starting point’) and an end (or a ‘finishing point’).
SLIDE 8
Here is an example of a flow chart. It’s a decision tree used on the Open University module DE300 ‘Investigating Psychology’ at level 3. The schema shows the relationship between the nature of questions asked, data available and appropriate choice of statistical tests to be used based on the selection. It starts off by asking ‘What type of question do you have?’, and by the time you reach one or other of the end points at the bottom, you should have obtained the relevant answer – the appropriate statistical test that you should use. Now this is an extremely useful scheme, but it would not typically be considered a mind map.
SLIDE 9
Here is an example of a mind map. This particular example emphasises some general guidelines for creating mind maps. You can see that ‘guidelines’ represents the topic at the centre of the image, and can begin to appreciate the ‘free-form’ nature of the visual display. Branching out from the central theme are some key points concerning ‘keywords’, ‘clarity’, ‘use’ and ‘style’. Each of these main branches has further subdivisions emphasising additional points related to the main concepts.
SLIDE 10
Now mind maps can be computer-generated or hand-drawn. The choice is entirely up to you. Here is a basic example of a computer-generated mind map. This one is based on study material for the Open University course Y156 ‘Understanding children’, produced by that module team. You can see that the topic ‘Attachment relationships’ forms the central idea and starting point in this mind map. Radiating outwards are five main branches entitled ‘good relationships’, ‘barriers to good relationships’, ‘relationships in later life’, ‘child’s behaviour’ and ‘academic research’. These are further elaborated as we branch outwards. For example, on the top left of this figure, ‘trust’, ‘confidence’ and ‘security’ are linked with relationships in later life, which are in turn affected by attachment relationships in childhood – progressing back to the central theme. You can begin to see how themes and concepts are connected in this visual format. Importantly, links between key concepts can be identified. For example, repercussions between ‘barriers to good relationships’ and ‘relationships in later life’ highlighted on the left hand side.
Mind maps give you the opportunity and the flexibility to personalise your reflective learning. They will help you to develop your creative, innovative and critical thinking skills. They are also quite a lot of fun to create, and there are many examples on the web that should help to inspire your own creative outputs.
This brings us to the end of this presentation.
Thanks for listening to this slidecast. We hope you found it useful.
End transcript: Session 2, slidecast 1: tools for reflective learning – mind maps
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Session 2, slidecast 1: tools for reflective learning – mind maps
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Pause briefly here to reflect on your learning by completing Activity 2 below.

Activity 2 Active reflection

Allow approximately 5 minutes

Consider the following questions:

  • What has been the most useful thing that you have learned so far from Session 2?
  • What one question remains uppermost in your mind, and why?
  • In what way is what you have learned in this session relevant to your personal life or professional practice?
You can type text here, but this facility requires a free OU account. Sign in or register.
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