What Is a Mind Map?

Do you sometimes struggle to get your thoughts organized? Regularly need to brainstorm different ways to solve a problem? Then mind mapping could be the answer. So… what is mind mapping? More to the point… what is a mind map? We answer your questions in this beginner’s guide: you’ll find out what a mind map is (with examples) and much more besides.

What is Mind Mapping? A beginner's guide.

Mind mapping is a great solution for brainstorming and organizing your ideas. The best part? It can be used by anyone: from individuals to professionals, students and educators. Let’s dive right into everything you need to know about mind maps. In this blog post we’ll ask: 

  • What is a mind map?
  • What does a mind map look like?
  • How do you build a mind map?
  • When is a mind map useful?
  • What is mind mapping software?

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You’ll learn what a mind map looks like and how to create one. We’ll also look at some mind maps, with examples, that you can use today.

What Is a Mind Map?

The first question we need to answer is the most simple and the most important: what is a mind map? In simple terms, a mind map is a free-form diagram based on keywords that relate to a central idea. Mind maps help you to visualize your thoughts without worrying about interruptions or editing, until you want to at least.

Creating useful mind maps is a question of thinking in a certain way. Asking yourself what is the mind mapping method?” is vital to understanding what a mind map is and why it is useful. 

It’s actually an interesting story. The mind mapping method was popularized by the late British psychologist Tony Buzan. He argued that linear notes require readers to scan information from left to right and top to bottom. According to Buzan, people are visual learners. Our brains’ natural preference is to scan pages in a non-linear fashion, rather than sequentially.

So what is a mind map in the context of the way our brains learn? Unlike conventional note taking, visual mind maps let us process information holistically. In other words, mind maps help us to see the big picture.

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What Does a Mind Map Look Like?

what does a mind map look like?
What does a mind map look like? See how ideas are visualized.

You can’t answer our key question – what is a mind map? without referring to the traditional mind map layout. So, what does a mind map look like? As you can see above, mind maps are built around a single central idea. From here, you draw lines from the central topic that branch outwards in different directions. This builds a network of related sub-ideas, or child topics. 

As you build out from the center, your mind map turns complex information into a structured diagram. This works in line with your brain’s natural way of working, creating associations between ideas. 

What does a mind map look like? Anything you’d like! Check out these mind map examples for inspiration.

Make Your Own Mind Map

What does a mind map look like? It’s your imagination… you tell me!

Thomas George, Editor-in-Chief, Meister

When people ask what is a mind map? It’s sometimes easier to show than tell. Here’s how anyone can make a mind map – on pen and paper or using digital mind mapping software.

mind map structure example
Mind maps work best when you stick to keywords.
  1. Define your central and first level topics. This is the main theme of your map and the most important sub-categories below it. 
mind map showing what is a mind map with example
Add depth and watch your map grow.
  1.  Expand your branches by inserting information that adds detail to your ideas.

This process is essentially infinite. Your mind map will grow as far as it needs to in order to accommodate your ideas.

If you use an online mind mapping tool like MindMeister, you can add images, notes, attachments and links to your mind map for even more context.

When Is a Mind Map Useful?

who uses mind maps?
What is a mind map and when is it useful? Here’s who might benefit from mind mapping.

In our quest for creativity, we shouldn’t just ask the most basic question – what is a mind map? – but go further to learn the key uses of the mind mapping method. In fact, our question should be: what is a mind map and when is it useful?

The simple answer is that mind maps can be used for more or less everything: from organizing your personal life to planning your business. Mind maps are especially practical for any part of a process in which you need to: 

  • Structure your thoughts on a larger topic.
  • Collect a lot of information from different sources (even collaboratively).
  • Visualize how your different ideas link together.

As mind maps are so versatile, you’ll probably want to know how you can use them yourself. Let’s look at some key mind map examples for personal, business and educational use.

Mind maps also help you to recall information better. Read about the science-backed benefits of mind mapping in this blog post.

Mind Maps for Personal Use

mind maps for personal use
What is a mind map useful for? Let this weekly plan inspire you.

If you keep forgetting your to-dos, feel like there’s never enough time, or are just overwhelmed by choice… a mind map for personal organization can help you take back control.

What is the mind mapping method good for in this context? Simplification. Life becomes so much easier when you can break down big tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. You’ll only need to create the map once. Then, simply adapt it to fit your changing needs, adding, updating or removing categories as you please.

Ready to map your way to a more organized life? Try out some of these fantastic templates to get started.

Mind Maps for Business

mind map for business
What is mind mapping in business? Here’s just some of what you can do.

Lots of people learn how to mind map at school and university and then forget all about it when they enter the world of work. However, when we ask what is a mind map?” a sometimes unexpected answer is that it’s an incredibly potent business tool. 

One of its most popular uses is collaborative brainstorming. Mind mapping makes the process very simple, especially online. Rather than sit together in an awkward, stuffy meeting room, your team can add their ideas from anywhere, asynchronously. It works, too: studies show that people working independently produce better results compared with traditional in-person brainstorms.

Ready to take your team brainstorming sessions to the next level? Get started with these great brainstorming templates.

Mind Maps for Education

Mind mapping remains an incredibly popular tool in education for learners of all ages, all across the world. By the time they reach further education, young people no longer ask “what is a mind map?” but instead “how do I make mind mapping work for me?” 

However, mind mapping is perhaps even more important for educators than the students they teach. From planning single lessons to entire course syllabuses, faculty members across organizations benefit from easy sharing, easy editing and the ability to share materials with students remotely.

Teachers love using mind maps in the classroom too, especially online mind maps. With them, educators can employ dynamic teaching methods that keep students engaged. Many teachers use mind maps as a basis for independent learning, simply linking to external materials that help students discover topics for themselves.

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What Is Mind Mapping Software?

mindmeister editor
MindMeister, a mind mapping software, helps you digitize your mind maps

Although you can still have fun mind mapping with a pen and paper, mind mapping software is the key to creativity in an online era. Mind mapping software replicates the mind mapping method in a digital environment, allowing you to add topics, draw connections and much more. Compared to analog methods, online mind mapping software means you can:

In terms of the question, what is a mind map?, it should be pointed out that there are some key differences between what most people create with mind mapping software and the “pure” Buzan method. The modern definition of mind mapping normally includes what might be termed as spider or bubble maps – but many key principles remain the same. 

Create Your First Mind Map With MindMeister

There are many different mind mapping tools out there, but we honestly think we have the best: MindMeister. Why? It’s incredibly intuitive. It’s very easy (and even free) to get started with your first map. Let’s look at two of the most popular ways for beginners to create their first mind maps: templates and public maps.

You can get started with MindMeister in minutes. Read this step-by-step help center guide and try it out for yourself.

MindMeister Templates

mindmeister templates
Choose the layout of your mind map that best suits your needs.

MindMeister makes it easy for you to dive right in. On the dashboard, you’ll find everything you need to create new mind maps from scratch or from a predefined template.

Alternatively, you can explore a huge range of mind maps on our templates page. Simply find the template you want to use, copy it to your account and make it your own!

You can even duplicate useful mind maps to create templates which can be shared and reused.

Public Maps Universe

Once you’ve mastered the art of mind mapping, you’ll probably want to share your maps with others. MindMeister’s Public Maps Universe contains millions of mind maps made by users all over the world. Go there, copy your favorite map to your own account, and edit it as you please!

As soon as you’re done, you can display your mind maps on your website, blog or social feed using MindMeister’s simple publish and embed options. That way, the whole world can see your ideas!

Find out more about the Public Maps Universe in this blog post.

What is a Mind Map? Now You Know!

Congratulations! With this comprehensive beginner’s guide, you’ll be able to answer with confidence the next time someone asks you what is a mind map? You know what a mind map looks like, you’ve seen a few mind maps with examples, and now you can build your own. 

Ready to make mind mapping a part of your daily routine? Unleash your creativity, expand your thinking power, and manage your work more effectively.

Happy Mapping!

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What is mind mapping?

Mind mapping is the process of creating a mind map, either on paper or digitally using mind mapping software. Mind maps are representations of thoughts and ideas, which are visualized around the main idea in a radial structure. 

What is the mind mapping method?

The mind mapping method was first developed by Tony Buzan in the 1970s. It is a process of ordering and structuring information around a central topic, using connections to link related ideas. Although digital mind mapping does not normally result in “true” mind maps like the ones Tony Buzan first introduced, it remains faithful to the principles of visual, non-linear thinking.

What does a mind map look like?

Mind maps take many forms, but always have certain things in common. They always have a central idea, which is then “branched off” into multiple child topics. These child topics can be expanded again, providing more and more depth to the map. A mind map can be as large or small as it needs to be. The only limit is your imagination!