Mind-mapping is an extremely useful technique that can be successfully used in almost any kind of creative endeavor, academic writing included. It helps you organize your thoughts and ideas, gives an opportunity to see things from a different angle, find new connections between seemingly unrelated aspects of your work. However, drawing mind maps on your own is awkward, messy and inconvenient – but luckily there are mind-mapping tools either specifically designed with academic writing in mind or the ones that simple are greatly suited for it.
If you’ve never used a mind-map and have no idea how to do it, then you possibly should start with FreeMind – it is your basic tool that is so simple that it just can’t go wrong. And after you learn a little bit you may move on to something a little bit more fancy.
FreeMind is probably one of the most popular and universal mind-mapping programs – despite being rather old (it appeared long before mind-mapping became so trendy), it still comes highly recommended. It is free, open-source, easy to install, runs on Windows, Linux and MacOS and is updated relatively regularly.
Docear started out as a humble modification of FreeMind, but in course of time grew into what its developers call an academic literature suite – a tool that helps you organize, write and find academic literature. Among other things, it allows you to sort documents citations into different groups, view annotations from multiple documents at the same time, manage your pdfs, find recommendations of free papers on your topic that you can immediately download and much more. Mind mapping is just one of the things this suite is capable of, which makes it a convenient multi-purpose solution for academic writers – not to mention that it is free and open-source.
Bubble.us puts its stake on simplicity and availability. It may have a lot of different options, but it has one important advantage: you don’t have to download and install anything. All you have to do is to sign up, and after that you can start mind-mapping whenever you are wherever you want, from any device – all your mind-maps are connected to your account and can be accessed whenever you need them. Basic version is free, for additional option you have to pay a small monthly fee.
Another instrument aimed at simplicity, this time coming from such a well-reputed company as Google. Clean and simple design, nothing excessive, completely free, and it works as a web app, which means that it works both on PC and Mac.
iMindMap is a program promoted by Tony Buzan, a well-known popularizer of mind-mapping technique. It is beautifully designed, allows you to draw mind maps using different forms and colors, offers a lot of options… but one can’t but think that it is a tiny bit overpriced, with the cheapest version costing as much as $100, especially taking into account the abundance of cheap and free alternatives.
Mind mapping is a powerful technique that can fire up your creativity even if you are tired or bored – and with the right tools it is achieved even easier.