Definitions of a mindmap


as a search term in Google yields more than 21.800.000 results. What is a good definition ? What is a mind map?

First read here what definition I give for a mind map and then see which descriptions are given by others. Also read what is my opinion – as an educational psychologist and specialist mind mapping is about that?


A mind map is an image with a subject in the center. From the center there are a number of main branches with a keyword on each branch. Those main branches have sub-branches with elaborations of the key words. There is only one word on each sub-branch. The branches are (in) colored. The most important parts of a mind map have (colored) images above the respective branches.

If you do not agree with me or if you have additions or improvements, please let me know!

5 most important rules of mind mapping

The most important rules of a mind map


Insofar as texts from WikipediA are used, they fall under the   Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license,

WikipediA defines a mind map as a diagram composed of concepts, texts, relationships and / or images, which are arranged in the form of a tree structure around a central theme.

Furthermore, Wikipedia says that mind maps can be used to support creative processes and for learning and remembering.

They say about electronic mind maps that they can be used in making complex and multimedia information accessible.


I wouldn’t say a mind map is a diagram . According to WikipediA, a diagram is a schematic, graphical representation of a process or of a number of quantities and their mutual relationship. The first part is good. A mind map is indeed a schematic graphical representation. But whether a mind map is also a graphical representation of a process or a number of quantities, I do wonder. I always say, “A mind map is a representation of what is in your head.” A good mind map therefore has organic branches (no straight lines). Organic branches represent more like the brain works. (Radial, according to Tony Buzan)

Drawn mind map


What is good in the definition is that the interrelationship can be indicated in mind maps. This is done by making arrows between the branches. However, mutual connections are indicated at most. The mutual causal relationships still have to be considered. That doesn’t go well with mind mapping. It is better to use causal loops for this.

A mind map is therefore very suitable as a representation for a (complex) whole; to see the whole, but not to understand the whole. More is needed for that.

A word

WikipediA indicates that a mind map is made up of concepts, texts. That is incorrect according to Tony Buzan’s rules. Definitions; keywords, that’s right, but no lyrics! texts make mind maps difficult to read and it is very important that there is only one word on each branch (as many as possible). So no long texts. This is a major mistake made by many mind mapping people.


And then an important error in the definition: and / or pictures. That is absolutely incorrect. A mind map has pictures by definition. (not ‘or’) A mind map without pictures is a word web. The fact that a mind map has pictures (images) per one, makes a mind map powerful. That power falls away from a word web.

Word web

example word web

Tree structure

According to WikiPediA, a mind map is built according to a tree structure. That is also completely incorrect.

tree structure

Above is a tree structure. Although it is clear that there are all kinds of things in the tree, this is an extremely confusing structure. In addition, the ‘direction’ is incorrect. It seems that this ‘tree’ must be read from the trunk (from below). That is certainly not the case with a mind map.

I’d rather talk about a star structure. I think that’s a much better representation.

Star structure

Although a star does not really have ramifications in the rays, it represents the radial “explosion” much better. Thinking is not straightforward. Thinking is radial, from the inside out, in all directions. So in the middle is indeed the central theme.

Perhaps a star with branches like a tree would be an even more beautiful representation.


WikipediA indicates that mind maps can be used to support creative processes. I think the angle is not wrong there. The point is not that mind maps support creative processes, but rather that creative processes can be used in order to subsequently achieve better remembering. Incidentally, it is not just about remembering better, but also about presenting better.

Mind map MI(c) Truus Römgens

Here’s such a mind map that shows a high degree of creativity. Not all rules of mind mapping are used well here, but it is the creative power of Truus Römgens that makes this mind map so strong.


An important application that WikipediA lacks is a mind map that can be used very well in presentations. A PowerPoint presentation is suitable as a linear presentation. A Prezi is suitable if there are several parts that need to be zoomed in. A mind map is very suitable as a presentation to keep seeing the whole thing properly. A mind map on the computer is a very good option for presenting.

Mind map on the PC

WikipediA talks about electronic mind maps. In my view, electronic has more to do with equipment that works with semiconductors and microprocessors. I don’t think a mind map can be electronic. However, a mind map can be made on an electronic device. But I would rather speak of a digital mind map; a mind map created on the computer or another device. For example, a mind map can also be made very well on a tablet.

mind map on pc


Encyclo provides a reference to Dutch language in primary education and to Quizlet. The third reference is to Wikipedia. It is described in detail about this.

Dutch language in primary education

According to them, a mind map is ‘A way to structure information’. It says that mind maps are used in education to help students structure information. Finally, they indicate that mind mapping is related to a word field or a word web.

That a mind map is a way to structure is correct. However, this is not a definition of a mind map. That is an application. And then the question remains for what? It is true that mind maps are used in education to structure information, but that is not the definition of a mind map.

The observation that mind maps are related to a word field or a word web is also correct, but mind maps are also related to systems thinking and visual thinking; And so I can go on and on. This suggests that a mind map is a word web, but that is definitely incorrect. It is much more than a word web.


According to Quizlet, a mind map is a kind of map of your thoughts and ideas.

That’s an interesting definition. I also often say that a mind map is a kind of map of what is in a head. What is taken out of mind is contained in a mind map. This is not a complete definition, but it is a good addition.

An addition that Quizlet gives is that they call it a map. A map is intended for navigating over a country. If it is meant here that a mind map can be used to navigate in the brain, then that is a nice addition.

Four meanings of mind map are mentioned here. One of those four is WikipediA again.

Source: [site no longer available]

Teacher Tools defines a mind map as a graphical diagram (or information tree) that starts from a central topic and links it to side issues and related concepts. A mind map would help to distinguish details from essentials when studying and organize information logically in memory.

It is true that a mind map is a graphical representation. Here it is called a graphical scheme. A diagram often refers to a simplified representation of reality. That is the case with a mind map, so a graphical diagram is a good definition.

They then miss the ‘information tree’ again, because what has already been indicated is a tree full and that offers no structure. Moreover, a tree starts from the trunk (bottom to top) and a mind map starts from the middle.

Starting from a central subject is good. However, the links to it are not side issues, they are main issues. The main branches therefore indicate the main issues. Any sub-branches are then breakdowns of those main issues. However, these should not be called side issues, because it is important that side issues stay out of the mind map as much as possible.

A good thing is the addition that related concepts can be linked to branches. This is very well possible, especially with mind mapping on the PC. Links on paper are difficult, but with mind mapping on the computer that goes very well of course.

It is obvious that a mind map makes it easier to distinguish between the main issues when studying. I also think it is, although I am not aware of any studies to prove that it is.

The logical ordering of information in memory also fits in the definition. At least that applies to a large group of people. Logical ordering makes information easier to remember, except for those people who are mentally centered. They usually already have an order in their memory. A mind map disrupts that order for them.

They say; A mind map is a diagram of your thoughts.
RD Vink, who wrote this text, provides a detailed definition.
For a full version click on the link above.

Vink speaks of a mind map as a diagram consisting of concepts, texts, pictures or relationships that are arranged according to a tree structure. That is the same definition as with WikipediA. He did add that it is a diagram of ‘your thoughts’. That’s a nice addition, although it can also be a diagram of a book.

Vink also talks about a tree structure. Enough has now been said about this.

Then it is indicated that a mind map is often used to support creative processes and for learning and remembering. That part of the definition is also similar to what is in WikipediA. Then the definition of Vink contains a description of how a mind map is created. He describes how the mind map is built from the middle (central theme) with main and sub-subjects. That’s a great description.

What I find very good in the further description is that Vink indicates that the best use can be made of keywords and pictograms for the overview. and not with long texts. That’s an important rule for a good mind map: One word on a branch!

Also very good in this description is that Vink indicates that relationships can become visible and that the ordering can be made clear with color. Colors are also very important in mind maps.

It is clear that Vink is describing Tony Buzan’s theories. Tony Buzan also calls himself the inventor of mind maps. Whether that is really the case remains a question, but it is certain that he has made an excellent contribution worldwide in learning to use mind maps properly. He gives the reason why a mind map works in the video below, which is also available on the website.

Balance defines a mind map as follows: Drawing of icons (pictures) with text. Pupils with  dyslexia can use this to make a summary of the subject matter or a book and also use this technique to give answers to a test.

Although the definition is a bit blunt, a drawing of pictograms (pictures) with text, Balans is right that students with dyslexia can make summaries with mind maps and use this in a test. Of course, this applies to everyone, not just dyslexic students. Although a positive effect has not yet been demonstrated by scientific research, there are many dyslexic students who say they enjoy this a lot.

Mind map according to Pauline Zwart

change manager at


According to Ms Zwart, a mind map is a diagram in which knowledge is displayed in a compact and visual way. She adds that a mind map is made up of concepts, texts, images and relationships between them.

Although the question is whether a mind map is a diagram, the rest of the definition is correct. “Representing knowledge in a compact and visual way” I have never encountered that before. That is indeed characteristic of a mind map. The fact that she immediately adds that a mind map is composed of concepts, texts, pictures and relationships between them, shows that she bases herself on the theories of Tony Buzan.

In her definition of a mind map she also indicates later that one subject is central in a mind map . That is also very characteristic and I have not encountered it much more often.

It is a pity that Mrs Zwart also talks about a tree structure. Perhaps she means that the branches branch out from the middle like branches in a tree.

Ms. Zwart also says that mind maps are used to support creative processes and as a tool for learning. This does not seem entirely correct to me. A mind map is a learning aid, that’s right. Creative processes can be used for this. I think that leads to even more effective learning (and remembering).

“A mind map is said to support the natural way our brains work,” says Zwart. She formulates that neatly. Tony Buzan claims that. Whether that is really the case has not yet been scientifically proven.

Finally, Zwart will discuss mind mapping on paper versus mind mapping on the computer. She writes that there is currently software and apps to create mind maps. According to her, complex and multimedia information can be made accessible in an interactive way.

This is also very nicely described. She does not say that there is also a lot of software that does not do this in the right way, but what it says is correct in my opinion. I think good software is iMindMap there is also an app that I think is also good. There is even an app iMindMap Kids that makes me very happy.

We learn defines a mind map as a graphic technique that appeals to the many possibilities of the brain. According to, it is a simple way to retrieve and store information in the brain. indicates that mind maps can be applied to many aspects of life. They call it an effective and fun way to improve learning processes, to take notes to structure information and generate new ideas.

According to, mind maps consist of combinations of words, colors, lines and images such as photos, drawings, icons and the like.

In my opinion a mind map is not a graphic technique, but a graphic representation. A mind map does indeed appeal to the many possibilities of the brain. It is a bit unfortunate to say, but it is true that creating and using mind maps involves much more than just the linguistic area of ​​the brain. The parts of the brain that, for example, provide creativity, movement, color and images, are also explicitly activated. Learning takes place through connections between the linguistic part of the brain and the other parts.

I agree that a mind map is a simple way to retrieve and store information from the brain. The emphasis here on the relationship between a mind map and the use of the brain is very important to me.

It is not unimportant that mind maps are effective and can improve learning processes in a fun way. Now, learning doesn’t always have to be fun, but if the use of mind maps leads to greater motivation, that’s a bonus. Although no scientific research has yet been conducted on this, I know from experience that many find it a motivating way to learn.

In between, indicates that mind maps are very suitable for taking notes. This is very important. Good notes (with mind maps) lead to better memorization and ultimately better results.

A mind map does indeed provide the opportunity to structure information. This structure makes it easier to oversee the whole.

Mind mapping gives people new ideas. that’s right. Since there is usually only one word on a branch, it is not difficult to add new words to it (associate). This makes a mind map also a good tool for brainstorming.

The combination of colors, lines and images is indeed characteristic of a mind map. I find colors and images especially very important. The branches that each have their own color should not consist of lines for a good mind map, but they should be colored branches. Too often I see mind maps where the branch is one straight line. I don’t think that’s good.

According to, a Mind Map is a very effective way to put information in and out of your brain – it is a creative and logical way of taking notes and taking notes, literally putting your ideas on paper.

All Mind Maps have some things in common. They have a natural structure in the organization, which is directed from the center through the use of lines, symbols, words, colors and images according to simple, brain-friendly concepts. A Mind Map converts a long list of monotonous information into a colorful, memorable and highly organized diagram that works in line with the natural way your brain works. provides one simple way to understand a Mind Map. They say: A mind map can be compared to the map of a city. The center of the city represents the main subject; the great roads leading from the center represent the main thoughts in your train of thought; the minor ways or branches represent your second thoughts, and so on. Special images or shapes present interesting landmarks or relevant ideas.

Finally, says: The Mindmap is the outward reflection of your own natural thinking, driven by a powerful graphical process, which is the main key to unlocking your dynamic brain potential

It is true that a mind map is an effective instrument for putting information in and out of your brain, but that does not define a mind map yet. That it is a creative and logical way to take notes is also correct, but that also does not say what a mind map is.

It is striking that refers to a ‘natural’ structure in the organization. There are also mind maps with a clean structure (straight lines), but in general I prefer a structure with curved lines (a natural structure).

It is also true that a mind map is built from the center. Just prefer no lines, but (thick and thin) branches, which are colored. Images are indeed important too. Then talks about a long list of monotonous information properly presented in a mind map in a colorful, memorable and very well organized diagram. ‘Monotonous’ information, in any case it concerns a large amount of information that is difficult to remember without the structure of a mind map.

I also agree that it is a diagram that works in line with the natural working method of the brain, but there is no scientific evidence for this. (At least, I don’t know).

The comparison gives with a map of a city is a very original one and indeed that makes it clear.

It is well said that a mind map is an outward reflection of your own natural train of thought. I believe so too, but again: there is no scientific evidence for that. It goes a bit too far to add that it is the most important key to unlocking your dynamic brain potential.

If you do not agree with me or if you have additions or improvements, please let me know!