Thursday, September 27, 2012

Life is Full of Tough Choices: Mindmap or Concept Map?

In my previous two posts, I introduced Mindmaps and Concept Maps. Today, I'll present some rules of thumb regarding when to use each type of map.
This Concept Map illustrates the similarities and differences among Concept Maps, Common Mindmaps, and Pure Mindmaps. As Roy Grubb stated in WikIT, "Concept Maps have rigor, Mindmaps have vigor." Although this is a generalization, it really rings true regarding the differences between the uses of the two types of map. Since, to the best of my knowledge, all software packages except one create Common Mindmaps, that is what I'll focus on.

To cut to the chase, Mindmaps are best used:
  • When you have ideas in your mind and want to quickly record them,
  • For categorizing, sub-categorizing, and re-categorizing information,
  • For brainstorming, since ideas can be recorded quickly and then be reorganized, as needed,
  • For writing projects, to aid in the generation of ideas, and then to organize those ideas into a consistent, usable form,
  • For notetaking, to either take notes on a book or article you are reading, or to take notes live in a meeting or a lecture,
  • For meetings, to plan the meeting, take notes, and publish minutes,
  • For presentations, the map's central topic is the topic of the presentation, the main (first-level) branches represent the main topics to be covered and the order in which to do so, and each successive level of the map uncovers greater levels of detail of the topics specified by the main branches,
  • For planning or organizational tasks, the Mindmap allows you to quickly record all of the information that needs to be organized without worrying whether you are placing the information in the right spot in the map, and then moving branches around as necessary, after further reflection,
  • For managing the execution of tasks specified in a planning map,
  • For studying or memorizing, the categorization properties of Mindmaps illustrates which ideas are part of of the various higher-level ideas, and the visual design aids in retention of this information, and
  • For problem solving and generally stimulating the flow of creative juices, the Mindmap allows you to see the big picture and details at the same time, presenting you with the opportunity to see associations and new ideas that are not apparent in other representations.
Concept Maps, on the other hand, are best used:
  • When there is a primary focus question to be answered,
  • For breaking down and representing complex knowledge, when the knowledge is complex enough that the representation requires types of relationships other than simple categorization and sub-categorization,
  • To teach a concept as described above, through the use of relationships and their types,
  • As a Human-Computer Interface between you and an ontology and/or a computational reasoning system,
  • For the representation of knowledge in an historical or archival context, where new relationship and concepts are added as they are created or discovered,
  • For the deep understanding of a concept, creating a Concept Map is effective, because if you must have a complete understanding of a concept, the building of a map points out areas where your understanding still has gaps, which you may then fill by consulting external sources, and
  • For the creation of a representation sufficiently rigorous for a computer to reason over, a properly constructed Concept Map is ideal.
To summarize, use Mindmaps for problem solving, stimulation of creativity, planning and organization, and use Concept Maps for rigor, detailed modeling of knowledge, and as a way of representing knowledge in a form that a computer can use to reason with.

These are just examples of uses for Mindmaps and Concept Maps. There are many that I have not mentioned. However, this comparison should provide you enough of the flavor for you to decide which type of map to use for which situations that you encounter.

Once again, thanks go out to WikiT for the image, and next week the Mindmap Shootout actually begins!