In this article we’ll show you how to use mind maps for essay writing. Mind maps can not only make this often dreadful task a whole lot easier, but also save you a huge amount of time. If you want to learn how this simple yet effective technique works, just follow the steps as outlined below.
What Is a Mind Map?
A mind map is a diagram that displays information visually. You can create mind maps using pen and paper, or you can use an online mind mapping tool such as MindMeister. Whatever you use, the rules for creating a mind map are simple:
1) Write the subject in the center of your paper / canvas.
2) Draw branches that point away from the center. Each branch symbolizes one thought or idea related to the subject. Use meaningful keywords to write these ideas onto the branches.
3) From each branch more ideas can branch off.
4) Use colors, icons and images whenever possible. These function as mental triggers and can help spark new ideas in you, which is important during brainstorming sessions.
Now that you know how to create a basic mind map, let’s go over how you can use mind maps for essay writing.
Step 1: Using a Mind Map to Find a Good Topic for Your Essay
If you have the opportunity to choose the topic for your paper yourself, try to find one that’s been covered by other researchers before, but still gives you a chance to come up with new findings and conclusions. If you choose a topic that has already been explored in depth by a gazillion other researchers, you might be hard pressed to develop a unique perspective.
Ideally, the topic should be something you are also personally interested in, or at least something you can relate to in some way. This will make the whole task of writing your essay a little less dreadful. The best way to find such a topic is a brainstorming session.
How to brainstorm topic ideas in a mind map
Create a new mind map and simply write “My Essay” or “My Paper” in the center of the map. Now, start adding ideas around the center. These can be things your professor suggested, related subjects you discussed in class, or anything else relevant to get you started.
Next, note down your own areas of interest and see where they intersect with the former. Once you have a few good ideas for the subject of your paper, you can start weighing them against each other, noting down pros and cons. Eliminate topics until you’re left with only one. This will be the topic of your paper.
In the example below, the only requirement that had been given was to write a paper about literature from the English Renaissance. You’ll see various famous writers of this time mentioned in the map, as well as various aspects of their work that could be examined in a paper, such as the symbolism, dramatic conflicts or themes.
Step 2: Start the Research Process
While working through both primary and secondary sources, it’s quite easy to get confused about the numerous arguments and counterarguments. Many students get frustrated and waste a lot of time just trying to figure out how to make all the different pieces of information fit together into a coherent text.
What you need, therefore, is a system to collect and structure all this information in one central place, so you can easily review the materials while you write.
How to collect research in a mind map
Create a new mind map for each source (book, article, essay) you read and take notes in this mind map while you work through the text. Alternatively, you can use one single map where you list all your sources and create child topics for every page/paragraph/quote you want to use in your paper.
In the map below, you’ll see that – based on our initial brainstorming session – we chose ‘Love in Romeo and Juliet’ as the topic of our paper. For our research map, we wrote this topic in the center and created individual branches for each source we read. Next to the book title, we noted down the topics covered in the source, its central question as well as important passages that we thought we might want to quote in our essay.
Here are some practical tips to set you up for success:
- Use colors, arrows and icons to indicate connections between the arguments and quotes.
- Be sure to add the page numbers to the topics in your map so you can quickly go back to do some more fact checking if necessary. If you’re working with online sources you can also attach their links directly to the topics in your map.
- As you go along, you can restructure the sources according to topics, which usually provides a better overview of the material you have available for each section of your paper.
Here’s another example of a research map. This is the map we used to take notes while reading Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the subject of our paper. As you can see, we created branches for each of the text passages we wanted to analyze in the essay.
Step 3: Outline Your Paper in a Mind Map
Before you start with the actual writing, it’s very important that you first create an outline of your paper. This will help you create a coherent structure of your arguments, counterarguments, examples, quotes, and the sources you want to reference in each argument.
You can quickly review this outline whenever you get sidetracked in your writing process, or when you’re unsure about how to continue. A mind map is a great format for such an outline because it provides you with a visual overview of your thesis statement and the entire text structure.
If you’re using mind mapping software such as MindMeister, you can also…
- Link the individual topics in your map with the respective research maps you’ve created.
- Add notes and deadlines to each step to make sure your writing stays on schedule.
- Export your finished outline as a Word document and use it as the basis for your paper.
Using mind maps to plan and outline your essay will not only make the writing process a lot easier, it will also enable you to work through sources more efficiently and help you find information more quickly. Of course, you can use mind mapping for all types of writing assignments – from essays to short stories and from book reports to blog posts. Try it out!
See also: The Student’s Guide to Mind Mapping
Biographical Essay Writing Masterclass: Make Sure Your Narrative is Top Class
Biography is like History – a chronological list of events (but in somebody’s life). With there being 4 essential types of essays (persuasive, descriptive, expository and narrative), students often find writing narratives the most difficult. And since a biographical essay is often narrative writing in nature, we’d like to share best practices that show you how to write a great essay or ace an assignment fast. Indeed, if you’re a student taking History classes, you’ll find these tips most useful.
Groundwork goes first
Writing a biography essay is a wonderful opportunity to delve into someone’s life. A renowned actor, politician, writer, inventor, sports star – depending on the topic, you can pick one of a great many figures, with a peculiar, captivating life history and career achievements.
Your key goal is to trace the roots of who a person was, how they became the person we know them to be, what challenges they had to go through, and what their contributions were to the world. Taken together, thinking about these questions will allow you to pick your subject.
Decided who you’ll write an essay about? Great, time to do your research. As a rule, prominent figures already have tomes of biographies written about them, so your goal may be to fit lots of available information into the framework of a 2000-word essay. In addition, reading interviews and including interesting extracts from them will serve you well.
Just as you finish gathering background data and peculiar pieces of information, don’t rush ahead writing your introduction yet. One of the essentials of delivering a quality essay is drawing up an outline. Think though the structure of your paper and outline the sections and subsections, possibly down to each 150-200 words. Make sure you have a good writing plan at hand to keep all the ideas and draft components in check.
Introduction, main body, conclusion
In terms of overall structure, a biographical essay is no different to any other type of essay. A standard 7-to-10-paragraph essay with an introduction, main body and conclusion is what we’re looking for.
Introduction: The main goal of the introduction is to grab the reader’s attention and give a smooth transition to the main body of your text. Here are 3 effective methods to “hook” a reader right from the start:
· Cite a captivating quote or saying by the figure you’re writing about to show how outstanding and notable the persona is/was
· Offer a short, preferably comic or entertaining short story about the person to set the right mood for the essay to develop further
· Give an example of an iconic achievement the person attained to firmly grab the reader’s attention
Main body: You have 5-to-8 paragraphs to highlight the milestones in a person’s life and present your essay in an interesting way. For example, if you’re discussing a writer, you might choose to describe one of their most prominent books of the author as well as time periods that preceded and followed the publishing.
If you are writing about a sports star, you might want to select three of the person’s most famous games and some interesting events that took place behind the scenes as you tell their story. Or, if it’s an actor, you can discuss the history of how the person harnessed their talent and became somebody through key events in their life.
Conclusion: It is normally a good idea to discuss the contribution the protagonist of your essay made in their field of expertise, modern culture, history, etc. Has a person left any legacy? Are there any biographical blind spots that require more detailed studying? What were they most remembered for when they died or what are they most well known for today?
Finally… 5 tips for writing a biography essay which always pay off
· Deliver a consistent story – Narrative essay writing is all about making your story both informative and entertaining. Include proven facts, people, places and events that are relevant to the biography of the person you’re writing about
· Know your purpose – There will be a reason why you’ve chosen this particular figure. Why are you, for example, writing an essay about a 1950s film star and why should the reader be interested? These questions must be obvious from the essay
· You need a great introduction – Write a clear and interesting introduction and support it with facts, original sources, and quotes throughout the essay
· Stick to the chronological order – History is usually a set of events depicted in a chronological order. While it is possible to jump back and forth with your essay, for most people, especially students, writing in a chronological order usually works best
· Check your background data – Make sure all the dates, names, places, events and figures are correct, and keep Wikipedia information/references to a minimum, as such references can sometimes be less than accurate. All told, rely on proven data and checked facts, supplemented by an interesting writing style
This article was produced in conjunction with UK Essay Now. If you’re looking for more advanced tips on how to write a biographical essay, visit professional academia resources and expert writing-focused blogs, which share in-depth writing tips suitable for students who’d like to improve their History and biographical writing still further.
Now, let us know your writing experiences below!