One challenge that I faced while writing my dissertation was that every time I started a new chapter, I had to deal with multiple ways of organising it. For example, there were times when I could have narrated my story village by village. Alternatively, I could have organized the layout based on themes or chronology of events that would cut across each village. There was merit in organising the chapter in each of these methods. This is a challenge that a writer would face no matter what one writes: be it a story, a journal article, a movie script, a dissertation or any book for that matter.
If organising a chapter or a journal article is challenging, planning an entire book or a dissertation can be absolutely daunting. Sometimes, the author is forced to stick to some broad outlines that are enforced by the publisher or by the University that forces the decision on us. Most dissertations have an introduction wherein we are asked to describe the issue we’re working on, provide literature review, argue that this work is distinguished, discuss the research methods, et cetera. Such guidelines are certainly helpful in expediting our work, by making the decision of organising on our behalf. But even these broad outlines will never leave us without a choice of different ways of organising that which we are writing, at least in the two or three chapters that are left to us.
While the challenge of organising the layout cannot be wished away or mechanically solved, I found it useful to try out different possible layouts by putting each on a mind map. To continue with the previous example, I would start a mind map with three nodes: chronological, thematic and village-by-village. Under each of these nodes, I would attempt to narrate the story by putting the basic arguments together as a tree.
This process forces us to think about how exactly we would narrate the story, and in the process we would be able to identify the merits and pitfalls of each of these layouts. In the process of doing it, we also create a detailed outline that can be extremely helpful during the process of writing. Visualising arguments in different ways can also help us discover a new form of organising that is more logical and effective.
One unanticipated way in this process helped me was that the mind map presented me with a broken down set of topics that I had to write on, and I could focus on one little task at a time when I wrote, instead of trying to relate to the entire book or dissertation or a chapter at any given point of time. Thinking of the dissertation on the whole can be daunting, and the demotivation that comes with it makes us postpone the writing work. Tools like these can help us by putting us back on the track by breaking the daunting giant into manageable little parts.” Quoted from reference number 1.
Mind Maps are liberating for your left brain. Learn how a Mind Map can get you unstuck!
What is a mind map
Tony Buzan, who created the word “Mind Map” and has written extensively on it, describes it as a powerful graphic technique that makes use of the way our brains naturally work. He says it has four characteristics.
- The main subject is crystallized in a central image
- The main themes radiate from the central image as branches
- Branches comprise a key image or key word printed on an associated line.
- The branches form a connected nodal structure
How does a mind map help?
By using a Mind Map as a starting point for thinking, you can bypass the blockage and feeling of overwhelm caused by overly analytical thinking. The Mind Map allows you to see more than one thought at a glance, and in doing so helps clarify your thinking. It shows the way ideas are interrelated (or less related than you thought.) It allows more access to creative, non-linear parts of your brain.
CONSTRUCTING A MIND MAP FOR YOUR THESIS PROJECT
In this video we provide an overview of Mindjet app for Android and iPhone platforms and how it can help you capture ideas and information from any Android device.