Mind Mapping FAQ

Frequently asked questions

  1. What is a mind map?
  2. What can you do with a mind map
  3. What you can do with a computer mind map
  4. How was it invented

What is a mind map?

A mind map consists of a central word or concept, around the central word you draw the 5 to 10 main ideas that relate to that word. You then take each of those child words and again draw the 5 to 10 main ideas that relate to each of those words.

In this way a large number of related ideas can quickly be produced with virtually no mental effort. The concept of 'writers block' is hard to understand once you have grasped the use of this simple technique!

What can you do with a mind map

Note taking

As a means of note taking Mind Maps have several advantages over other systems:

Creative Writing & Report Writing

A mind map lets you rapidly produce an almost infinite number of ideas, and at the same time organize them by placing each idea next to what it is related to. This makes a very powerful tool for creative writing or report writing, where it is very important to get down all your ideas first. It is then a trivial matter to read the mind map and write a sentence or paragraph on each 'key word'.

Studying the easy way

Instead of simply reading a book on some topic, next time try using a mind map while you read. Just draw your central word and then begin reading, every time you read some idea that strikes you as important or interesting, just add it onto your mind map in the appropriate place.

When you have finished reading the book you will have a one page Mind Map which summarizes everything of interest in that book. You will probably also have added several things which you thought up yourself during your reading. The act of creating the mind map will have greatly increased how much you absorbed from the book, and if you ever want to review the topic all you need to do is to look at the mind map. If you want to learn the information very solidly then try to redraw the Mind Map from memory a few times. You will find it very easy.

Studying as a group (or family)

A group of people can work together to produce a single mind map by following these steps:
  1. Individually draw mind maps on what you already know about the subject.
  2. Draw a group mind map combining what you already know.
  3. Decide what you need to learn based on this group Mind Map
  4. Individually study the material, all covering the same areas for depth of knowledge or all covering different areas for speed as appropriate. Each person completing the mind map by his/her self.
  5. Again combine as a group and create a final master group mind map.

Families who have started regular weekend study days as a hobby have benefited tremendously. Children typically go from average or below average to second or third from the top in all subjects and the parents also find themselves excelling at work. One Swedish family was besieged by neighborhood children asking if they could join in the fun!

Meetings & Think Tanks

As soon as you write something up on a white board you have immediately lost the creativity which everyone has. So any creative meeting should always start by people spending a couple of minutes individually mind mapping. Then as a way of running a meeting a master mind map on a white board allows every idea or statement to be recorded and placed in an appropriate place so that it can then be discussed at a sensible time. Also no one feels ignored as all ideas are placed on the mind map.

Giving a Talk

When giving a talk a set of notes in the form of a single mind map has several advantages over other memory aids:

What can you do with a computer mind map

Computer Mind Maps offer several major advances over the original paper mind map. These advantages should combine to make Mind Mapping as popular as it should be:

Easy restructuring

You can easily restructure your mind map, moving words and trees of words around in seconds. This makes the computer mind map even better for quickly creating new ideas and ordering ideas into a meaningful structure.


Using the style system you can instantly highlight different features of a complex mind map. E.g. you might make all the 'expensive' options suddenly appear in bright red or all the 'good' ideas appear in bold underlined type.


Being brief and using single words is the key to a good mind map, but sometimes you need to write sentences of explanation for yourself or others. The computer mind map allows you to do this but to keep the extra information hidden until it is needed. This can also be used for learning information, you should be able to recite the 'comment' information without looking at it, when you can do this you have 'learned' the contents of the mind map and only need the key words to bring it back.


In this day and age it is not really acceptable to present your manager with a crayon drawing of your plans. A computer generated mind map gets past this problem by having the same high quality appearance as any other document.


With a computer mind map you can instantly export the Mind Map to a plain text file, Microsoft Word or Rich Text Format, a web page, or Powerpoint presentation file.

How was it invented

Mind Mapping was invented by Tony Buzan following his research into note taking techniques.

Note taking

Tony Buzan studied the three common techniques for taking notes during a lecture:

He then tested each of these and found the following results when testing how much was learned or remembered:

Least learned = 1

  1. Complete transcript given to student
  2. Student writes complete transcript
  3. Summary given to student
  4. Student writes summary
  5. Key words given to student
  6. Student writes own key words

Most learned = 6

Visual Memory

Another seemingly unrelated study on memory was also used in the formation of mind maps. In this study by Ralph Haber 2560 photos were shown to subjects. Then subjects were shown 2560 pairs of photos and asked in each case to say which photo had been in the original group of 2560 and which had not. The success rate at this test averaged between 85% and 95% showing that humans have an almost photographic visual memory. In another study where 10,000 vivid pictures were used a success rate of 99% was recorded.


If two people all draw mini mind maps around the idea 'shoe'. (A mini mind map is a mind map which only goes one level deep, i.e. it only has words which are directly related to the central idea). If each person comes up with seven related words, how many do you think would be duplicates between the two people? Studies have shown that the average is one word in common, and anything above two is very very unusual.

Try this yourself, get a friend to write down the first seven things related to the word "shoe", and do the same yourself, then compare the lists.

Result, Mind Maps

With these results and other research Tony Buzan came up with a new method for taking notes. His new system was based on the idea of making the notes as brief as possible and also as interesting to the eye as possible. The surprising result was that mind maps can be used in many different ways other than just simple note taking.

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