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A mind map is a diagram used to visually outline information. A mind map is often created around a single word or text, placed in the center, to which associated ideas, words and concepts are added. Major categories radiate from a central node, and lesser categories are sub-branches of larger branches. Categories can represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items related to a central key word or idea.
Mind maps can be drawn by hand, either as "rough notes" during a lecture or meeting, for example, or as higher quality pictures when more time is available. An example of a rough mind map is illustrated.
Although the term "mind map" was first popularized by British popular psychology author and television personality Tony Buzan, the use of diagrams that visually "map" information using branching and radial maps traces back centuries. These pictorial methods record knowledge and model systems, and have a long history in learning, brainstorming, memory, visual thinking, and problem solving by educators, engineers, psychologists, and others. Some of the earliest examples of such graphical records were developed by Porphyry of Tyros, a noted thinker of the 3rd century, as he graphically visualized the concept categories of Aristotle. Philosopher Ramon Llull (1235–1315) also used such techniques.
The semantic network was developed in the late 1950s as a theory to understand human learning and developed further by Allan M. Collins and M. Ross Quillian during the early 1960s. Mind maps are similar in radial structure to concept maps, developed by learning experts in the 1970s, but differ in that the former are simplified by focusing around a single central key concept.
Buzan's specific approach, and the introduction of the term "mind map" arose during a 1974 BBC TV series he hosted, called Use Your Head. In this show, and companion book series, Buzan promoted his conception of radial tree, diagramming key words in a colorful, radiant, tree-like structure.
Buzan says the idea was inspired by Alfred Korzybski's general semantics as popularized in science fiction novels, such as those of Robert A. Heinlein and A.E. van Vogt. He argues that while "traditional" outlines force readers to scan left to right and top to bottom, readers actually tend to scan the entire page in a non-linear fashion. Buzan's treatment also uses then-popular assumptions about the functions of cerebral hemispheres in order to explain the claimed increased effectiveness of mind mapping over other forms of note making.
Buzan suggests the following guidelines for creating mind maps:
This list is itself more concise than a prose version of the same information and the mind map of these guidelines is itself intended to be more memorable and quicker to scan than either the prose or the list.
As with other diagramming tools, mind maps can be used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid to studying and organizing information, solving problems, making decisions, and writing.
Mind maps have many applications in personal, family, educational, and business situations, including notetaking, brainstorming (wherein ideas are inserted into the map radially around the center node, without the implicit prioritization that comes from hierarchy or sequential arrangements, and wherein grouping and organizing is reserved for later stages), summarizing, as a mnemonic technique, or to sort out a complicated idea. Mind maps are also promoted as a way to collaborate in color pen creativity sessions.
Mind maps can be used for:
In addition to these direct use cases, data retrieved from mind maps can be used to enhance several other applications; for instance expert search systems, search engines and search and tag query recommender. To do so, mind maps can be analysed with classic methods of information retrieval to classify a mind map's author or documents that are linked from within the mind map.
Effectiveness - Cunningham (2005) conducted a user study in which 80% of the students thought "mindmapping helped them understand concepts and ideas in science". Other studies also report positive effects through the use of mind maps. Farrand, Hussain, and Hennessy (2002) found that spider diagrams (similar to concept maps) had limited, but significant, impact on memory recall in undergraduate students (a 10% increase over baseline for a 600-word text only) as compared to preferred study methods (a 6% increase over baseline). This improvement was only robust after a week for those in the diagram group and there was a significant decrease in motivation compared to the subjects' preferred methods of note taking. A meta study about concept mapping concluded that concept mapping is more effective than "reading text passages, attending lectures, and participating in class discussions". The same study also concluded that concept mapping is slightly more effective "than other constructive activities such as writing summaries and outlines". In addition, they concluded that low-ability students may benefit more from mind mapping than high-ability students.
Features of Mind Maps - Beel & Langer (2011) conducted a comprehensive analysis of the content of mind maps. They analysed 19,379 mind maps from 11,179 users of the mind mapping applications SciPlore MindMapping (aka Docear) and MindMeister. Results include that average users create only a few mind maps (mean=2.7), average mind maps are rather small (31 nodes) with each node containing about 3 words (median). However, there were exceptions. One user created more than 200 mind maps, the largest mind map consisted of more than 50,000 nodes and the largest node contained ~7500 words. The study also showed that between different mind mapping applications (Docear vs MindMeister) significant differences exist related to how users create mind maps.
Automatic Creating of Mind Maps - There have been some attempts to create mind maps automatically. Brucks & Schommer created mind maps automatically from full-text streams. Rothenberger et al. extracted the main story of a text and presented it as mind map. And there is a patent about automatically creating sub-topics in mind maps.
Mind-mapping software can be used to organize large amounts of information, combining spatial organization, dynamic hierarchical structuring and node folding. Software packages can extend the concept of mind-mapping by allowing individuals to map more than thoughts and ideas with information on their computers and the Internet, like spreadsheets, documents, Internet sites and images. It has been suggested that mind-mapping can improve learning/study efficiency up to 15% over conventional note-taking.
In 2009, Mohamed Elhoseiny et al. presented the first prototype that can generate mind maps out of small text to fit in a single screen. In 2012, it was extended into a more scalable system that can work from larger texts.
The phrase "mind map" is trademarked by Buzan's company for the specific use of self-improvement educational courses in Great Britain  and the United States. The trademark does not appear in the records of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.