Mind mapping a book

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To recap briefly, the technique of Mind Mapping a book falls into two parts -preparation and application. Within these divisions there are eight stages. For ease of reference, the stages are summarised below, with recommended time limits. A complete summary Mind Map by Vanda North of the MMOST technique, incorporating a study-day plan, is on page 239.

Preparation

1 Browse - create the central image of the Mind Map (10 minutes)

2 Setting time and amount targets (5 minutes)

3 Mind Mapping existing knowledge on the subject (10 minutes)

4 Defining and Mind Mapping goals (5 minutes) Application (times dependent on material studied)

5 Overview - add main Mind Map branches

6 Preview - first and second levels

7 Inview - fill in the Mind Map details

8 Review - complete the Mind Map

Preparation 1. Browse (10 minutes)

Before you start reading the book in detail, it is essential to gain a quick overview. The best way is to look at the front and back cover and the list of contents, and flick through the pages a few times, getting the general 'feel' of the book.

Then take a large blank sheet or Mind Map pad and draw a central image that summarises the subject or title. If there is a particularly striking or colourful image on the cover or inside the book, feel free to use it. If you are also reasonably sure of the main branches that are going to radiate from the centre, you can add these at the same time. They will often correspond to the major divisions or chapters of the book, or your specific objectives in reading it.

By starting your Mind Map at this early stage, you are giving your brain a central focus and the basic architecture within which it can integrate all the information gained from studying the book.

Setting time and amount targets (5 minutes)

In view of your study objectives, the book's content and level of difficulty, and the amount of knowledge you already have, decide on the amount of time you will devote to the entire task, and the amount you will cover in each study period.

Mind Map of existing knowledge on the subject (10 minutes)

Now 'turn away' from the book and your previous Mind Map, take a new sheet of paper, and as fast as you can do a quick-fire Mind Map burst on everything you already know about the topic you are about to study. This will include whatever information you have gained from your initial browse through the book, plus any general knowledge or specific items of information you may have picked up during your whole life that relate to the topic in any way.

Most people are delighted and surprised to find that they actually know a lot more about the topic than they had previously thought. This exercise is also especially valuable because it brings appropriate associations or 'grappling hooks' to the surface of your brain and sets it moving in the direction of the topic you are studying. It also enables you to identify areas of strength and weakness in your knowledge, indicating which aspects you need to supplement.

t Defining and Mind Mapping Goals (5 minutes)

At this stage you can either add to the existing knowledge Mind Map you have just completed, using a different-coloured pen, or you can take a new blank sheet and do another quick-fire Mind Map burst on your goals in reading the book. These goals may take the form of specific questions you wish to find the answers to, areas of knowledge you wish to find out more about, or perhaps skills you wish to acquire.

Mind Mapping your goals in this way greatly increases the probability of your eye/brain system registering any information it comes across that seems relevant to those goals. In effect, the Mind Map of your goals acts as an 'appetite' that naturally motivates your search. In the same way as a person who has not eaten for several days will become obsessed with food, good preparatory Mind Maps increase your 'hunger' for knowledge.

Application (times dependent on material studied)

Overview, Preview, Inview, Review

Having completed your preparation, you are ready to start the four levels of reading - overview, preview, inview and review - which take you ever deeper into the content of the book. For details of these stages see pages 204-205.

At this point you can either: Mind Map the book as you read; or mark the book while reading and complete your Mind Map afterwards. These approaches are both equally valid - the one you adopt is entirely a matter of personal choice and may depend on whether the book is yours.

• Mind Mapping while you read is like having an ongoing 'conversation' with the author, reflecting the developing pattern of knowledge as the book progresses. The growing Mind Map also enables you to keep checking your level of understanding and adjusting the focus of your information-gathering.

• Mind Mapping afterwards has the advantage that you produce your Mind Map only once you have gained a complete understanding of the book's content, and the way each part relates to the others. Your Mind Map will therefore be more comprehensive and focused and less likely to require revision.

Whichever method you choose, it is important to remember that Mind Mapping a book is a two-way process. The aim is not simply to duplicate the author's thoughts in Mind Map form. Rather, it is a question of organising and integrating his or her thoughts in the context of your own knowledge, understanding, interpretation and specific goals. Your Mind Map should therefore ideally include your own comments, thoughts and creative realisations arising from what you have read. Using different colours or codes will enable you to distinguish your own contributions from those of the author.

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