Use visual brainstorming to develop and organize your ideas.

Cluster diagrams, spider maps, mind maps--these terms are used interchangeably to describe the practice of visually brainstorming about a topic. Modern readers love cluster diagrams and spider maps because they enable readers to discern your purpose and organization in a moment.

When Is Clustering/Spider Mapping Useful?

As depicted below, writers use clustering to help sketch out ideas and suggest logical connections. In this way, writers use cluster diagrams and spider maps as an invention tool. When clustering, they do not impose an order on their thinking. Instead, after placing the idea in the center of the page, they then free-associate.

Remembering that the goal is to generate ideas, make the drawing visually attractive, perhaps using color or a variety of geometric shapes and layout formats. Typical cluster and spider maps resemble the following:

  • Branches: If ideas seem closely related to you, consider using small branches, like tree limbs, to represent their similarities.
  • Arrows: Use arrows to represent processes or cause and effect relationships.
  • Groupings: If a number of ideas are connected, go ahead and put a circle around them.
  • Bullets: List ideas that seem related.

In addition to being a powerful invention strategy, cluster maps and spider maps can also be used to represent complex relationships to readers.

Online Cluster/Spider Maps

  1. Visual thesaurus: This online software application draws cluster diagrams around words. Plug in a word and watch similar terms spin around it. Give it time and you'll see many interesting associations.

  2. Forest management: View an example of a hand-drawn cluster map.

  3. Sociograms: Two well-functioning teams: Social network analysis encourages visual depictions of people's collaborative networks.

  4. Social networks: Examples of how maps of social networks can be drawn. Evaluating the alcohol environment: Here cluster maps are drawn to show correlations between bars and violent crime.

  5. Crime patterns made clear for Portland, Oregon, citizens via Internet mapping: This essay provides examples of how crime maps show patterns in criminal be

When Are Clustering/Spider Maps Useful?

  • Clustering is a particularly effective strategy during the early part of a writing project when you're working to define the scope and parameters of a project.
  • Congue Clustering can help you identify what you do know and what you need to research about a topic.

"Clustering: Spider Maps" was written by Joseph Moxley, University of South Florida

 Use visual brainstorming to develop and organize your ideas.

MP900433138In 1765, Joseph Priestly created the now commonplace timeline. Priestly's timeline depicted the lifespan of 2000 inventors whom he considered the "most distinguished in the annals of fame."

In technical documents as well as magazine articles, timeline flow charts are exceedingly popular. Readers love chronological timelines, which graphically chart the emergence of an idea or concept. For example, you could draw a timeline of writing technologies or a timeline for the use of visuals inside texts.

Typically, timelines move from left to right or from top to bottom to denote the passage of time, as illustrated below.

When Are Timeline/Flow Chart Maps Useful?

Because they highlight the passage of time, timelines and flow charts offer a visual representation of how ideas, people, inventions, or processes evolve.Readers can glance at your timeline while reading your story, whether it's about an inventor, or the emergence of a new technology.

 


"Timelines: Flow Chart Maps" was written by Joseph Moxley, University of South Florida

Use visual brainstorming to develop and organize your ideas.

Like cluster/spider maps, hierarchical maps involve drawing a graphical representation of ideas. Unlike clustering, cluster/spider maps are chiefly concerned with analyzing relationships among ideas.

When Are Hierarchical Maps Useful?

Mapping is a useful organizing and revising tool when you want to see if you've made connections clear among ideas or if you've gone off on a tangent. 


"Hierarchical Maps" was written by Joseph Moxley, University of South Florida

Use visual brainstorming to develop and organize your ideas.

Do you have a grand theory or an explanation for a fundamental question such as, "Do computers think?" or "How long have human beings existed?" If so, you may want to use visual language to reveal the complex details, interactions, and processes embedded within your theory.

When Are Model/Theory Maps Useful?

  • Use visual language to explore a theory or model. As your thinking evolves, redraw the theory or model. For major projects, you may want to do multiple revisions.
  • Describe how multiple processes interact within a complex, chaotic system.

Suggestions for Drawing Theory/Model Maps

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A theory or model map draws on the strength of other maps, such as clustering/spider maps, time lines/flow charts, hierarchy concept maps, systems and concept maps. In other words, a theory/model map may have clusters, time lines, circles and arrows. Possible features for theory/model maps are:

  • Circles: You might have one large circle for the entire system and then, inside that, other circles, depicting sub-processes.
  • Arrows: Use arrows to illustrate how the system flows. Note when new components enter or leave the system.
  • Groupings: If a number of ideas are connected, go ahead and put a circle around them.

Online Theory Maps


"Modeling/Theory Maps" was written by Joseph Moxley, University of South Florida