Mind mapping

Read our guidance on creating effective mind maps and find out how they can help you with your studies.


Using mind maps

Whether using mind maps to help kick-start your creative process or as a way to plan or revise an area of your academic work, mind mapping can be a great way of engaging all of your senses in your university work.

Download our mind maps fact sheet (PDF, 325KB)

If you are someone who particularly enjoys learning or revising using pictures, symbols or colours instead of writing outlines of text, mind mapping might be ideal for you.

By putting all of the information about a topic or subtopic into one mind map, you have the benefit of seeing the bigger picture, whilst also being able to focus on the details and how they might fit together.

Mind maps can be used for almost anything. You could mind-map the content of a single lecture, a whole module or a particular theory in your field. You can even use them to help you revise for exams, by mind mapping your course notes or a past exam paper.

And the good news is you don't have to be Picasso to make a great mind map. All you need is a blank sheet of paper and some coloured pens to get started.

301 Recommends:

Our Mind Mapping workshop gives you the skills and techniques required to use mind mapping. Colours, pictures, and connections help you to remember the flow of information, and the methods you will learn will help you to commit your learning to memory. You will have the opportunity to start your own mind map, so you might want to come along with a topic in mind - perhaps something from a recent lecture, seminar or assignment.

To view some example mind maps, please visit our mind mapping Google folder.

Watch this short study skills hacks video for some ideas on how to start using mind maps in your academic work.

Why mind maps work

The more areas of your brain are activated during learning, the easier it is to recall that information later.

By being creative, using different colours, non-linear layouts and drawings (artistic ability is not important – stick men are fine), you are activating a range of processing networks in your brain and making multiple connections between ideas.

This will help you reach that information more quickly when you try and remember it in an exam or when writing an essay.

The mind mapping process

Step 1: The sun diagram

To help you get creative before you create your mind map, it's best to start with a sun diagram.

Here there is no censorship and no organisation – every relevant idea relating to your central topic is given its own spoke on the sun diagram and no idea is too crazy as long as it relates to your topic.

At this stage, don't try to link ideas together or create substructures of branches – each idea stands alone.

Step 2: The mind map

Now, all the creativity in your sun diagram can be brought into a more realistic and organised structure.

Start by building the main branches of your concept based upon how the items in your sun diagram can be grouped together.

Write along the lines, with thicker lines for the main areas and thinner lines for the subtopics that relate to these. Keep adding detail to each branch in smaller and smaller offshoots from your main branch.

You can make branches a strange shape and add pictures to illustrate your point – sometimes really terrible artwork can make your mind map even more memorable and unique.

Once you have finished a mind map, or if you run out of room on the page, you can either stick on more pages around the edges or start a new mind map based upon one of your branches so that you can go into more detail – the back of old rolls of wallpaper are great for creating huge mind maps.

You can put yours on a wall or in a prominent place so that you keep revising the information it contains, you could even test yourself by trying to recreate that exact mind map from memory as revision.

Top tips

Use A3 landscape paper.

Use at least four different colours.

Start in the centre of the page.

Be bold and try to add pictures to each concept, especially the central topic.

Like any skills, mind mapping will take time to get used to, so don't worry if your first few are not perfect and take a while to complete.



IT Services – Mind mapping software

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Academic Skills Certificate


FreeMind – Free mind mapping software 

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