Draw an Idea Map for College Term Paper Writing

Many college students know that constructing a well-developed outline before starting to write a term paper is a tremendously useful step in the writing process. Another step that is important but often skipped is drawing an idea map. Some students think of idea mapping as an alternative to outlining, but it really should be a step that is done before developing an outline and starting on drafts.

Here’s how to draw simple idea maps to help with the writing process:

  1. Find your preferred mapping method.
  2. Some people use white boards or large display pads to map their ideas, but simple pen and paper, sticky notes or notecards spread out on a table will do just fine. Do whatever works best for you. The idea is that you want to get all of your ideas down and have room to rearrange and organize your thoughts as they develop.

  3. Write down the first terms and phrases that come to mind.
  4. Idea maps are a form of brainstorming, which means you can develop full ideas by first writing out the key terms or phrases that come immediately to mind. Write out anywhere between 3 – 5 ideas that are related to your topic and choose one idea to focus on. Put your main idea in the middle and see if any of your other ideas can support it in any way. You don’t have to develop a thesis yet, but you’ll begin to zero-in on one subject that interests you the most.

  5. Organize your first circle of key concepts.
  6. Write out a few more terms and phrases and put them in a circle around your main idea. Look for ways to edit this first circle of ideas by removing and relocating concepts in relation to each other and the center item. Don’t be afraid to throw out some ideas if you find they aren’t closely related to your topic. You should begin to see several topics to discuss in your paper.

  7. Further develop your ideas.
  8. Keep working outward, writing out more ideas and linking related material. Your second and third circles will consist of your supporting evidence and should focus on the key concepts of the first circle. You want to think creatively at this stage because you will always have the opportunity to remove items that move too far from your topic. Keep in mind that everything should be in support of the central argument you plan to make.

An idea map takes the best aspects of your creativity and helps you develop the content for your outline and term paper. The entire exercise shouldn’t take more than a half hour but can pay dividends when you are writing your paper.