1.8.1 Using a Mind Map to Summarize Information

To quickly summarize a lot of information, some people find it helpful to draw a “mind map” that shows how different topics are connected. (“Mind Map” is a trademark of the Buzan Organization [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .)

A mind map can be produced for any subject or topic. To create a mind map, start with a large sheet of paper and colored pens or pencils. Mind maps usually begin in the middle of the paper with a word, phrase, picture, or symbol that represents the subject being explored.

The next stage is to let your mind wander as freely as possible around the subject, thinking of key words or phrases that trigger ideas. The most important of these are placed nearest to the central image and are connected with lines to the center. After this, you should add associated ideas to each of the key words, again using lines to connect them.

Figure 1.8 A mind map showing “mind map laws”
Figure 1.8 A mind map showing “mind map laws”

The process of creating the map can help to sort ideas and how they fit together. These maps are very personal and can be as elaborate or as simple as you wish—there is no right or wrong way to do it. Some people like to add a lot of detail, including color, pictures, page references, and examples, while others prefer a simple plan, concentrating on key points.

Activity 1.8: The Creation of a Mind Map

Allow about 10 minutes for this activity.

We have recorded a pencast that shows the creation of a mind map, exploring one of my own recent learning experiences. Watch this pencast and, when you’ve finished watching, think about whether you would have added any extra information to the mind map.


I hope you were able to follow my thought processes when creating the map. You’ll see that I ran out of space on the page, which shows that it’s a good idea to use as large a piece of paper as possible when creating a mind map. Did you think of anything I might have added to the mind map? I wanted to add a further learning experience related to my car breaking down—learning how to mend my bicycle brakes, which I found had seized up because I hadn’t used the bicycle for ages. However, there was no space for this, so I had to restrict my mind mapto the most important aspects of the learning experience.

Creating a mind map will often involve selecting the most significant points from a lot of information. The process gets easier with practice.

You will gain some practice with creating a mind map in the next activity.

Activity 1.9: Looking Back and Creating a Mind Map

Allow about 15 minutes for this activity.

Look back through Unit 1 and summarize what you have studied in the unit using a mind map. Even if you have never used one of these before, try it and see how you get on. For this mind map, the central theme is Unit 1 of Learning to Learn, so put that in your central bubble. Then go back through the unit picking out the main ideas and the points that relate to them.


The figure below is a mind map that a student created for an earlier version of Learning to Learn. Your mind map probably has some of the elements here and you may also have added the challenges and the web evaluation skills you learned earlier in Unit 1. Whatever the content, your mind map is your personal record of the content of Unit 1 and how the different sections relate to each other. You may find connections that others do not spot. You may find it helpful to create your own mind map for each section and use it to review your work later.

Figure 1.9 Mind map for the contents of Learning to Learn Unit 1
Figure 1.9 Mind map for the contents of Learning to Learn Unit 1

Mind maps can be created using a computer instead of using pen and paper. The advantage of using a computer is that you can edit the components of your mind map. Figure 1.10 shows an extended mind map of the learning experience shown in my pencast and was made with a mind mapping program.

Figure 1.10 Computer-generated mind map showing what I learned when my car broke down
Figure 1.10 Computer-generated mind map showing what I learned when my car broke down – we recommend that you view a larger version of this mind map

You’ll notice that it is quite different from the mind map in the pencast because it has more detail.

If you’re interested in further exploring computer-based mind mapping, the following websites offer free mind map creation programs:

In the next section you’ll look at another important aspect of the study process—planning your study time.

1.8 Looking Back and Moving On

1.8.2 Planning Your Study Time