This semester I'm teaching a section of IDIS 110 (Introduction to Information Literacy). Recently in class, I demonstrated how to create a "Mind Map" (sometimes called a "Concept Map"). A mind map is a way to brainstorm by visually organizing concepts around a central theme or idea. Here's an example of a mind map outlining the different parts of a research paper:
As someone who thinks better when I can include pictures and graphics alongside text, using mind maps has made me be a better planner and researcher. Besides planning, I also find myself taking meeting notes using mind maps. For me, it's a way to quickly see the different parts of a problem, and then isolate the parts and deal with them individually.
It's easy enough to create a mind map with pen and paper, but there are some great programs available if you—like so many of us—are permanently attached to your computer. The mind map above was created using a program called XMind, which can be downloaded free from http://www.xmind.net/. On the website, you can even browse mind maps created by other users. Next time you have a project or idea to brainstorm, give mind mapping a try!