How to read a mind map

How to read a mind map

For some people, “reading” a non-linear visual information format can be challenging. That’s why I put together this helpful, step-by-step visual guide to how to read a mind map.

In 8 simple steps, you’ll learn a simple, effective way to drill down into the contents of a mind map, how to interpret each type of element it contains and gain a deeper understanding of its contents. It’s really not hard, once you understand a few concepts.

Just like a visual outline

A mind map is simply a visual expression of the hierarchical text outlines you learned how to create when you were in school. You know, the ones where first-level topics were denoted using the Roman numeral I, II, III etc., second-level subtopics were given the prefix of A, B, C, and so forth. In a mind map, the central topic is equivalent to the title of the outline, first-level topics are equivalent to the first level (I, II, III) of the outline, second-level topics are the next level of the outline (A, B, C) and so forth.

So, without further ado, here is the 8-step process I recommend for reading and interpreting a mind map:

1. View the central topic. What is the overall theme of this mind map?

read mind map topics in a clockwise order2. Starting at the 12 o’clock position (top center) and moving clockwise, read the 1st-level topics only. What is the high-level SCOPE of information this mind map covers?

3. Next, drill down to the lower levels of the mind map. Start with the first topic on the top right side of the map. Review each group of subtopics, and try to discern what the map’s author is trying to say.

4. Repeat this process for the other 1st-level topics, taking each one in the order in which it appears.

5. Review the map’s legend (if it has one) so you understand what the author means by each type of icon or symbol used in the mind map.

6. Follow any relationship lines and try to understand how the two linked topics are related.

7. Read any notes, attachments and links that are joined to the topics of this mind map.

8. Return to your high-level perspective of the mind map. What is the author’s overall message? What is he trying to communicate via this mind map?

Download this helpful guide to reading a mind map

Download a large (1300×800) JPG image you can share on social media

Download a PDF of the 8-step process

Got questions?

Do you have any questions I haven’t answered in this blog post? Please post them in the comments below!


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