About mind maps


Create a mind map to brainstorm your ideas. A mind map reflects what you think about a single topic and is usually created quickly or spontaneously.

At the beginning of your project you might use a mind map to explore your expectations or initial theories. Later on, mind maps can help to confirm the structure of your nodes.

You need NVivo for Mac (Version 11.2 or later) to work with mind maps.

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What are mind maps?

Mind maps are primarily a brainstorming tool that start with a central topic or main idea. Ideas that relate to the central topic are represented by an individual shape and connected with a line to the main idea. All ideas are connected in some way—either at the same level or in a hierarchy. Sometimes you might have an idea that doesn't seem to be connected to any other ideas—you can add this to the mind map as a floating idea.

To get started with a mind map, take one key concept or term and think of all the things that might be associated with it. Be fluid and don't censor your ideas as they flow. An idea might prompt other ideas to branch off it - they could be at the same level (sibling ideas) or go deeper into a concept (child ideas).

As an example, you could ask someone to interview you about your research topic. Note the key words and terms you use most—then select one of those terms to start your mind map.

When you create mind maps, save an image in your project journal and record your insights.

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When should I create a mind map?

At this stage of your project Create a mind map to
Early on
  • Brainstorm your starting point and any assumptions.
  • Map theoretical groups of concepts, sorted into themes so that you can build your node hierarchy.
During analysis
  • Develop new nodes. Either by drilling down and "breaking apart" existing nodes into new nodes. Or by working up to develop broader nodes that encompass other nodes.
  • Explore how people talk about a thing—what terms do they use? This can reveal gaps you need to gather further data for, or highlight more coding that you need to do.

Presenting results

  • Plan how you tell the story of your research.

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Create nodes from mind maps

Once you've created a mind map, you can turn your ideas into theme nodes in your project. The structure of the mind map is used to create the node hierarchy.

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