I love mind maps and have used them successfully for over twenty years. I have found them a useful way of writing notes for academic work, particularly revision notes, and I also use them on consultancy assignments. After working with a client for a series of days, I use the mind map to capture the overall sense of the project, the key points and phrases I think are important, and to give me a visual representation of the organisation as a whole. Here are a couple of my recent note taking/mind maps.  As you can see I always use colour but don’t always follow some of the traditional features of mind maps.

Example Mind Map – Alison Price

Informing Contexts and the F2F Event

Notes on Portfolio for Informing Contexts – Alison Price, May 2019

In the context of starting my PhD studies in October I am thinking about putting a mind map together of the key philosophical influences and approaches relevant to my practice. As I reflect on this idea I can see the mind map as a possible approach in recording the development of the literature review phase and also to document the journey in my photographic practice. For me, this approach fits neatly alongside the autoethnographic research method I also intend to use.

I decided to review the mind map rationale and methodology (before grabbing my coloured felt tip pens) to ensure that I was capturing all the key points in terms of formulating and presenting my mind maps. So, I bought Tony Buzan’s book Mind Map Mastery.  In the Preface, Buzan refers to how the mind map mimics the way the brain works:

“By studying the structure of the brain, I found the breakthrough I was searching for.  The fact that we possess a minimum of 100 billion brain cells, each one of which contributes to our thinking, inspired me.  I found it enthralling that each of these neurons has tentacles radiating out from the cell’s centre like the branches of a tree, and I realised that I could make use of this model diagrammatically to create the ultimate thinking tool.”  (Buzan 2018: 10).

As I reflected on why I like mind maps I referred to Buzan’s comparison between conventional note taking versus mind mapping.  While traditional note taking is linear in its approach the mind map provides for a multi-faceted record.  It is colourful rather than monochrome and incorporates pictures as well as words.  Mind maps are multidimensional whereas normal note-taking is sequential.   Mind maps encourage imaginative thinking and rather than being disorganised as conventional note-taking can be, the mind map is analytical.

In addition, I am a visual person, I like doodling and jotting things down in picture form and enjoy finding the links between concepts and ideas.  I enjoy using different colours for different ideas and thoughts.  I like to admire my handiwork at the end and I actually enjoy the process of presenting my notes in an attractive way.  When I come to review my notes I find the information in a mind map easy to recall and instantly accessible.

As I reminded myself of the process and the idea of mind mapping, I was reminded that a mind map always has a central image that captures the main subject of the map.  From this, thick branches radiate representing the key themes and issues of the subject.  Each main theme is drawn in a different colour.  Further smaller twigs can be added for associated themes.  A single image or word should be placed on each branch.

One of the things I had forgotten over the years was the centrality of pictures in the mind map.  I am not a very confident artist and had obviously decided not to do this at an early stage, but I will definitely do this in the future.  I had also failed to vary the thickness of the branches, depending on the centrality and importance of the word or idea it represents although the most important concepts/ideas were always near the centre of the mind map.  I had stuck to using lots of colours and I had also embraced linking ideas and concepts through arrows.  I was right to remind myself and revise the process of mind mapping at this stage.

I had been struggling with all the philosophical debates and thinking that might provide insights to my photographic practice and how these might link together in a coherent way.  I thought I would produce a mind map to work through the links and categories.  But as I reflected on this idea I thought maybe the mind map may be a way of introducing my PhD title and concept to my supervisors when I start in October.  And maybe, I could produce further mind maps as my reading and thinking develops into the literature review and then into my photographic practice.  The mind maps would form one part of the rigorous research process and method I would use in my PhD.


BUZAN, Tony.  2018.  Mind Map Mastery.  London:  Watkins Media Ltd.

Alison Price

Alison Price

My name is Alison Price and for the past ten years I have travelled the world photographing wildlife, including Alaska, Antarctica, Borneo, Botswana, the Canadian Arctic, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
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