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Subject LibGuides

Software all [Archive]: Mind mapping

"A key focus in mind maps is that they represent an individual's personal style and can therefore be unique."

Johannes Wheeldon & Mauri K. Åhlberg, Visualizing Social Science Research: Maps, Methods, & Meaning

Mind maps are diagrams used to visually organise information hierarchically. Mind maps are created around a single concept or image at the centre of a blank page or canvas. Major ideas directly branch from this central point with further ideas and detail branching off from those levels. Mind maps are purposefully colourful and work well when combined with imagery to represent ideas, concepts or information. The non-linear but hierarchical approach of mind maps makes them an excellent way to organise your ideas, plan an essay, make notes for a lecture or revise content.

  Mind mapping software

As you can see from the summary image here, it is possible to use software to make mind maps. University of Hull computers have Inspiration and MindView installed so you can make digital patterned notes on campus computers. Inspiration and MindView are not available for your own computer without purchase.

If you're looking for a free tool for your own computer, check out FreeMind for PC or Mac. Web-based tools like WiseMapping are also available. Another inexpensive (though not free) alternative would be Open Mind.

The Skills Team do not support these mind map software packages directly, but the videos below, along with our information on creating a mind map, will help you get started:

A mindmap showing how to mindmap



Open Mind


Creating a mind map

hand-drawn mind map in a notebookMind maps can be drawn by hand on paper or using specialist software described here. The photograph here shows a hand-drawn map within an A4 notebook but you can also make much larger hand-drawn maps on flip chart paper or wallpaper to tackle more complicated ideas. With mind-mapping software, your maps can grow as big as you need them.

Tony Buzan, an educational consultant, first popularised mind mapping as part of his work on mental literacies. He has published many books focusing on mind mapping, suggesting a few rules to ensure it is effective:

  1. Start with a central image to represent your topic or subject. When looking at the map, this central image will be the subject of attention. 
  2. From the central image, create branches for each of your key concepts or ideas. The branches should flow out of the diagram, from thick lines to thin. These lines should only be as long as the key concept or idea which should sit on top of the line or within it.
  3. From these key concepts or ideas, continue to branch out into second-level and third-level branches. These should flow from the main branches and move from thick to thin. The lines should only be as long as the works that sit on top of them.

In addition to these principles you should consider:

  1. Using images and symbols to demonstrate your ideas.
  2. Highlighting keywords with capitals, boldness or colour
  3. Using multiple colours in the map 

If you want more information about mind mapping from Tony Buzan visit his page for more information.

Reference and image attribution

Buzan, T. (2014) Mind Maps for Business, Using the ultimate thinking tool to revolutionise how you work, 2nd Edition. Harlow: Pearson.

(1) Mindmap by Nicoguaro (CC BY-SA 3.0) 

(2) Mindmap by Graham Burnett (CC BY-SA 3.0)