Embracing the Chaos

We’ve been working with the concept maps for a few weeks now, and I know there have been some challenges and frustrations along the way. Many of us are used to a particular way of doing research and keeping track of ideas for our writing, and the concept maps may have interfered with/changed those practices in some way.

What I’d like you to do now is channel your least cynical selves, and think about how concept mapping affected your research process. For instance:

  • Did you approach readings differently than you otherwise would have?
  • Did you make notes differently? Did you pull different things from the articles?
  • Did the mapping affect the search terms you used, or the way you carried out your search for sources?
  • Was your writing process for these maps similar to your process for other academic writing? Did you follow the same heuristics or algorithms?

Is there anything else that this mapping process allowed you to do differently?

16 comments for “Embracing the Chaos

  1. Stephanie
    October 16, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    I like concept maps because they help me remember all of the things I want to include in my paper. Concept mapping is something I already do mentally, but seeing the entirety of the map is super fun. The most useful thing about having a physical copy of the map is helpful in remembering all of the connections in topics and supporting ideas. This will help me enormously in creating specific “in depth” papers, something I normally struggle with as I like to discuss broad terms. Concept maps help keep the mind focused on the specific connections between ideas and are useful as a prewriting exercise as a paper outline of ideas.

  2. anniepoma
    October 16, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    The process of concept mapping has increased my awareness in looking for specific words and ideas in our readings/outside research related to my topic (social media). Normally, I would read the text without any sort of mission except to absorb the material in front of me. Lately, however, I find myself reading more carefully to ensure that I do not miss anything that significantly ties into my concept map. In my own research, there have definitely been specific terms and ideas I have looked for, such as social media and how it influences writing habits. My writing process for this map is very similar to the way I write because I knew what I wanted to research and present long before I had all of my content. I had a goal in mind before I put in the work to collect my data.

  3. Karissa
    October 16, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    I found myself focusing on key words more than I usually would have, and then taking breaks from reading to put those in my “parking lot” every time I did this, I got a brief glimpse of the other concepts there, and I took that knowledge back with me to my reading. I did a lot less highlighting than I usually do as well, which may mean I need to go back and re-read articles. Not sure if this would be different than if I’d done my usual annotating while reading. I also felt that being able to literally move ideas around spatially affected the way I perceived the distance of the relationship between clusters of concepts. My writing process was definitely more recursive than writing a paper, and I spent a lot more time tinkering with placement than I usually would. Also, the ability to add color to highlight or ask questions makes those areas I am most concerned with stand out more than they would typically in a verbal explanation of my ideas.

  4. Nora Smith
    October 16, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    Because I knew I would need to pull out terms from my readings, I read them looking for terms, rather than trying to understand the whole concept. In general, it’s just better for me to read an article, and then go gather the terms I need, but I’m also typically short on time and patience, so that doesn’t happen much. My process for creating my map isn’t normally what I like to do. I like lists, I feel like I can learn a lot from lists, and outlines seem to be organized lists, therefore that’s how I plan what to write and how I begin my writing process. Concept maps do involve lists, but the finish product looks like something much different, so it’s a very different way of organizing my thoughts than I typically do.

  5. abrambila1
    October 16, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    I feel like this concept map has made my research process a little more difficult because instead of focusing on the research I’m struggling to keep up with making sure the concept map is correct and that the connections are working. I do think though that having my process be done in this way has really highlighted a path to the main points in what I found through my annotations. So as of now this has helped me in some ways but also made my research process more difficult and confusing. I am more of a linear person and I feel like a more straight forward approach is more beneficial for me personally, concept mapping is most likely something I will never do again after I leave this class. I do see the benefits to this kind of process and I’m curious to see if my grade on the next essay we write will be better or worse due to this type of prep work instead of the way I normally do it like from our first essay.

  6. pchoudhuri
    October 16, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    Throughout this process, I definitely have been approaching the readings differently than usual. I find myself picking apart different ideas and somewhat categorizing them to relate to each other, so when I go to apply those ideas to my concept map, it is easier. This process is different mostly because it takes more time. Because I’m analyzing, almost over analyzing, every topic, it has helped me find deeper meaning in each article. Taking apart an article can be very helpful, especially for dense material (like some we’ve read in this class) that, in fact, need to be taken apart in such a way to be properly understood. It’s also helpful when searching for my information because, instead of thinking of the big picture, you pick out key aspects to search, in turn, finding more, and finding more specific meaning.

  7. Jon Williams
    Jon Williams
    October 16, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    Seeing my ideas represented in a more eye-popping visual format was helpful. It sort of aids me in being able to recall key ideas and concepts that would be less memorable in a bullet-point notetaking format on MS Word. It also forced me to view these topics in a very distilled, “big picture” way – by virtue of the mechanics of these concept mapping tools, it’s hard to get caught up in meaningless, nitpicky details (a problem I have a lot when doing prewriting type stuff). It’s also nice to have it as something to refer to when experiencing writer’s block during the composition of the actual essay. I often lose track of that “big picture” that’s supposed to animate the piece by zeroing in on relatively meaningless, peripheral attributes or going off on tangents that I find interesting, but are irrelevant to my main idea. Seeing the main concepts in a raw, distilled form can be helpful in getting back on track.

  8. kaileefine
    October 16, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    After starting my concept map, while researching I began to pay closer attention to the ways that these ideas were connected to my topic. I started to take notes on my readings and make mental notes as to how I would connect them in my concept map. Often, I would scribble down a connecting phrase or word or make a little drawing so that I could reference it later on. Although, I don’t think that the concept map has drastically changed the way that I think, I do think that it has really pushed my thinking while I’m creating it. It has become a real brain teaser to actually be able to put into words the ways that one train of thought or concept fits with another. Leaving a trail of “breadcrumbs” for the reader of our map to follow in order to reach the same verdict, is really a good way of enhancing an argument or opinion.

  9. Ashley Schwieger
    October 16, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    Concept mapping has caused me to make more connections between my readings. When taking notes I now look for things that relate to other works. Instead of looking at a particular work as something on it’s own, I look at it in it’s relation to other ideas and topics and works. Its sort of hard to separate works from each other. They are all so interconnected that sometimes I don’t realize where one ends and another begins. My thoughts and ideas and opinions are coming from multiple sources rather than just one. It made me see how these ideas cannot be easily separated from each other, they all build or reflect on each other or ague with each other.

  10. pgraber1
    October 16, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    Concept mapping certainly has made me approach my readings differently. While reading and creating my annotations, I wrote down as many key words as possible and attempted to find connections between them. These connections, in turn, became the basis of my concept map. I like to refer to a concept map as more of an essay skeleton. Concept mapping is a process where many little ideas can be connected in order to form one large, expansive, and encapsulating idea. Surprisingly, concept mapping enabled me to become a better skimmer of articles; instead of painstakingly reading and re-reading articles, I simply pulled out the thinks which I deemed helpful for my paper.

    When my mapping process came to a halt, I was able to follow the path of the map and come up with new ideas for terms to search. This enabled me to narrow my search and come up with new key terms for my searching process.

    I think my writing process with concept mapping is very similar to academic writing; however, concept mapping helps me organize my thoughts in a more concise manner.

  11. huiyuan
    October 16, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    Concept maps kind of give me ideas about what I’m interested in. At first, all articles and annotations I read before were like mess in my brain; but after using concept maps, those ideas and terms were getting connected together and leading to a new topic that I’m interested in . Also, at the first time I worked on concept maps, it helped me comprehend the article which was difficult to me. When I listed ideas and terms from the article, and tried to connect them with key words, the general idea and organization of the article became clear.

  12. jessicajohnston08
    October 16, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    The main things I noticed from this process were that the concept map helped me in my further research and it also made outlining easier. Once I had a start on my concept map, it was helpful in seeing terms that were starting to be more prominent and areas and ideas that I wanted to search more about. I thought that it was a useful way to organize and help with research and also see a real visible example of the developing web of ideas we have in our heads. Furthermore, when I started to outline my paper, I found it a lot easier to organize my thoughts and ideas.

  13. andrewmay
    October 16, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    This response is going to be short and simple.

    Concept mapping did nothing for me. After all of the practicing and using them, I still see them as glorified mind maps. The only difference I see is that they are easier to read and therefor more aesthetic. I don’t consider this to be cynical either. It is just a fact. The concept maps did not make me approach readings differently than I normally would have. They didn’t make me take notes differently or pull different information differently. I definitely has not affected how I search for information online. And concept maps did not resemble my other writing styles for anything I have ever done before.

    The reason is simple. I had an established system, or “style” as some would prefer to call it. Concept maps were a distraction from my normal way of doing things. I have gotten this far without concept maps (or even mind maps) and I don’t consider that a problem that needs to be fixed. I am glad some people may have had success with concept maps; maybe some people will completely alter they way they organize ideas from here on out, but not me. The only thing I might ever consider using concept maps for is to show an outline type presentation to viewers who are unaware of the information I am trying to organize.

  14. Ontiveros
    October 16, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    Well, after starting this ongoing process of creating a Cmap, I have been looking more actively for key words and phrases from articles I read in order to weave them into the map that I was assigned to make. This looking for key phrases has also led me to thinking more deeply into which ways the different articles are related to each other, rather than just assuming they are all just rambling about different subjects. Usually when I make notes of things, I tend to use the same wording as the respective author of each article. Recently, I have been more focused on reducing each argument into it’s simplest terms, to avoid the wording of their “university” and instead look more at the connections between ideas. Also, this mapping has increased the amount of scanning I do, and has resulted in my searching for related information to other things I have been reading and paying less attention things that may be less connected, i.e.. the definition of ancient rhetorics in the invention chapter. Strangely enough, yes, I did follow the same heuristics, for the most part, as I do with my regular writing. I spent a great deal of time thinking about the organization before I spent time actually working on the Cmap itself.

    • mpoundstone
      October 21, 2013 at 12:52 pm

      At the beginning of my constructing of Cmaps it felt that I was blasting a blank canvas with a shotgun. Each hole in the canvas was a different concept, idea, key term, etc and none of it felt cohesive or seemed to come from the same shell.
      The fact that my concept map was a complete mess, showed me that my understanding of the article was indicative of that mess. I found myself doing something I am ashamed to say that I never really do, and that was rereading an article…two or even three times. With a clearer understanding, I was able to to recognize the important key terms within the article faster. My notes usually look like a tick-tack-toe tournament, full of x’s and o’s of me circling what was important and crossing out what wasn’t. But now that I am able to recognize key terms there is no need for this type of note-taking.
      Heuristically speaking, the concept maps gave me a tool to organize the most befuddled aspect of my life: my mind. It’s given me an algorithm for effective note-taking and thus more concise writing. I started to recognize that cleaning up the mess of my concept map was also cleaning up the mess in my research altogether. The feeling can be compared to a sincere look in the mirror and knowing you need to fix something; the concept map was my mirror.

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