Mapping can be used to either generate ideas OR to sort out and develop ideas you have generated through another preparation method such as brainstorming or freewriting.
Mapping is how we lay out the ideas visually to find connections and to branch out and make new ideas and connections. Eventually mapping will lead you to a list of ideas and a sequence to use them in.
1. How to use mapping to generate ideas:
Write the topic in the middle of the page. Draw branches out from that topic and write keywords or phrases that you associate with that topic. Draw more branches out from each of those keywords (sub-topics) to develop each of those ideas. Look, then, at which of the sub-topics go together and if any of the extended ideas can link to each other. Draw branches and lines between the ideas that could work together. Decide, then, if you would like to regroup your ideas.
Write the topic in the middle of the page again and go through the first steps again with the new groupings.
Do this as many times as you like until you have clear responses and ideas that you can now form into the parts of an essay. With the bubbles and branches you can see how the ideas work, how they interrelate and how they work together as a whole.
Before you write your paper it is a good idea to choose what order your ideas will be written in. This will ensure that you answer the whole question, remember all the parts, and that your answer can have a logical flow. An essay is a complicated answer and it is important that all of the parts of the essay (introduction/body paragraphs/conclusion) work together in a way that is easy to read, logical, and that builds together to the conclusion. This can't happen if the parts are jumbled or random.
It is important to work out which idea should go first, which ideas are prerequisite to other ideas, etc. What is your most dramatic idea? Which ideas work together to form another, bigger idea? With all of these elements going on, it is important to write down a list of the order you will use. To decide on that order you may have to work out what kind of structure you need first or, if you already know that, you may be able to proceed straight to the plan (also known as an outline.)