Research is a long-term commitment. It is one thing to simply scroll up and down the web pages and glean from them basic information for use, and another thing to extract and analyze extensive information for better understanding. Unless you are engaged in the latter, you won’t be contributing greatly to scholarship. However, in case you aim to offer substantive content to existing scholarship, then you will need mind mapping for effective utilization of time and resources. But, what is mind mapping?
Mind mapping is essentially an activity to trace and collate your ideas in representable forms. These forms are generally in the nature of images, links, or lines. Of course, it is also a mental exercise, brainstorming in ordinary lingo, and aims to consider all available inputs relating to a particular subject matter and keep track of them. If you have read the previous paragraph properly, I think you should have developed a fair idea of the need for mind mapping in research. What we will discuss is the how. There are certain things you must keep in mind when mapping your ideas for research.
Here is a list of a few of them for your help:
- You can start with an elementary idea
You don’t need to have a full-fledged idea of what you are doing in research. You only need a start, and it is from that start you are going to build upon. Since mind mapping is a brainstorming exercise you will notice frequent changes to your elementary idea so do not worry. What I suggest is, you start with an idea as your biggest bubble, and then create smaller bubbles. Lines can be drawn across bubbles to establish connections among them depending on their nature. It is with time your ideas will become rounded and meaningful.
- Use color-coded schemes
I realized the importance of color-coded schemes during education when I started using highlighters while reading notes. Before then, I would simply read up or underline the keywords. Yes, underlining keywords help but nothing draws the attention of the mind better than a colored keyword or sentence. The immediacy with which your mind will register the colored content is far greater than the un-colored one. Whether you are mapping your ideas on paper, whiteboard, or an App, make sure you assign particular colors to keywords depending on their relevance in the map.
- Focus on keywords
Mind mapping is not an essay-writing exercise so do not overburden your map with content. Understand this: you are offering a diagrammatic representation of your ideas for easy memorization and quick assessment. Including lengthy statements won’t help. Instead, you should extract major keywords from the content you read and include them in the map. This way, your mind map will be neat, concise, understandable. The whole purpose of mind mapping is to make data readily accessible, and keywords assist you in that area.
- Divide your ideas into several maps
Many people I know tend to squeeze in all their ideas into one map regardless of whether these ideas are dependent or independent of each other. It is always advisable to divide your primary ideas into different maps. Work on each of them independently and then collect them together to establish any connection (if any!). The problem with squeezing in all the primary ideas into one is that it creates confusion. Our focus gets divided and we fail to determine what needs more attention at a time. For example, you want to work on the relationship between state secrecy and whistleblowing and are mapping their respective histories. Do not club these two into one map; map their respective histories separately, and then connect them.
- Make use of technology
Of course, you can map ideas on paper but that is a drawn-out process. Today, researchers all over the world have switched to the advanced forms of mind mapping found in various software. Many of these kinds of software are free to download subject to certain limitations. Some of the software you can take help from include Lucidchart, MindMeister, ClickUp, and Microsoft Visio. All of these come with wonderful features and have been simplified for easier use.
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