Faced with a term paper, students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or learning disabled (LD) students often approach the topic in concepts, images, or a networks of connected ideas. We learn best visually; we need to see things in order to understand them. For ADHD students who take notes with zeal, but find it difficult to pick out the important points, or find it hard to organize thoughts into an A-B-C order outline, mind-mapping can help.
A mind map is a tool for taking notes, organizing ideas, structuring papers, and studying for exams. You can even use it for brainstorming. Using key words, colors, arrows, symbols, and icons to create a map, or elaborate diagram, you can see how one idea relates to another. Mind-mapping brings order to your thoughts, and invites a free flow of ideas, encouraging creativity.
At its simplest, a mind map is a series of ideas connected to a central theme. If you're writing a paper, begin with the main theme in the center of the page, boxed or circled and represented by a picture or key word. Draw lines radiating from the main theme to create a second layer of related thoughts. Each of these might send out shoots to create a third layer, and so on, until you have a web of interrelated ideas that provide a logical structure for your paper.
You can also use a mind map to develop a topic for a report: Begin with a broad theme and add new ideas as you brainstorm, working from the general to the specific.
A step-by-step guide
Plan on making your mind map in stages: a rough first draft to capture your ideas, an edited version of the draft to show their connections, and a final draft that groups information in an orderly way.
To make a mind map, you'll need a large, unlined notepad or an artist's sketchpad, and several colored pens, markers, or highlighters. If you take notes with a laptop or tablet PC, you might want to invest in software such as the Mindjet MindManager or Inspiration.
Let's imagine that your teacher is lecturing about the Apollo 11 moon mission, and you'd like to make a mind map instead of taking conventional notes. The following steps and illustrations show you how.
Step 1. Identify important themes.
Write the main topic in the middle of the page. As other major themes become apparent, place them around the central topic, leaving room for related information.
This article comes from the February/March 2006 issue of ADDitude.