Objectives: To examine the effectiveness of using the 'mind map' study technique to improve factual recall from written information.
Design: To obtain baseline data, subjects completed a short test based on a 600-word passage of text prior to being randomly allocated to form two groups: 'self-selected study technique' and 'mind map'. After a 30-minute interval the self-selected study technique group were exposed to the same passage of text previously seen and told to apply existing study techniques. Subjects in the mind map group were trained in the mind map technique and told to apply it to the passage of text. Recall was measured after an interfering task and a week later. Measures of motivation were taken.
Setting: Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of London.
Subjects: 50 second- and third-year medical students.
Results: Recall of factual material improved for both the mind map and self-selected study technique groups at immediate test compared with baseline. However this improvement was only robust after a week for those in the mind map group. At 1 week, the factual knowledge in the mind map group was greater by 10% (adjusting for baseline) (95% CI -1% to 22%). However motivation for the technique used was lower in the mind map group; if motivation could have been made equal in the groups, the improvement with mind mapping would have been 15% (95% CI 3% to 27%).
Conclusion: Mind maps provide an effective study technique when applied to written material. However before mind maps are generally adopted as a study technique, consideration has to be given towards ways of improving motivation amongst users.