Some common and easy-to-use visual brainstorming and organizing tools:
- Venn Diagrams are great for comparing and contrasting and for seeing details that can be synthesized. They could certainly be useful in figuring out how to organize something like a literature review. Venn Diagrams are easy to create on PowerPoint, though this program does not allow for much complexity. However, Venn Diagrams are not the best diagramming tools for multi-layered, complex situations.
- Clusters can be used as an initial brainstorming technique to not only generate ideas and connections but to also see what might be the most viable focus for a project. Clusters can be quite messy, and another organizational technique is generally used after a writer has worked through completing a cluster.
- Mind Maps are fairly detailed and complex maps that can display connections between ideas as well as sub-content. Mind Maps, as originally conceptualized, are more artistic than most other visual graphic organizers or brainstorming maps. They are generally used to help students remember concepts and visually present information (such as from readings). For more information on Mind Maps, go to: http://www.mindtools.com/
- Schematics are generally used to display processes, such as the process of a factory production line, or the design of a circuit or machine. However, researchers and writers can use schematics to display processes observed (human interactions, movements, etc.) or how any “mechanisms” observed function.
- Situational Maps are maps that look to visually represent an entire research situation, considering human actors, non-human actors, and discursive (language-based) actors. Situational maps were developed by Adele Clarke and are discussed in detail in her book, Situational Analysis: Grounded Theory after the Postmodern Turn. Mapping software like Bubbl.us and VUE are great for creating complex situational maps.
For PDF images of fill-in-the-blank graphic organizers, go to: http://my.hrw.com/nsmedia/intgos/html/igo.htm