As a Ph.D. student, I am constantly trying to improve my ability to communicate the findings of our lab and my work to others. A central part of this effort in any academic setting is the composition and publishing of scholarly articles and presentations. One of the keys to a great paper or presentation (other than actually having something interesting to talk about) is organization and flow. If the end product is a paper, you will also need to maintain and easily refer to dozens and sometimes hundreds of citations to past papers that relate to your work.
An international group of scientists and software engineers have adapted the existing mind mapping software called FreeMind to make it a bit more targeted to planning and writing academic communications. Probably the biggest improvement they have made to FreeMind with a mind to academics is the ability to effortlessly integrate your entire library of PDFs and references into SciPlore.
You set up a location for SciPlore to monitor for PDFs and it automatically imports them into a mind map that represents your personal library. You can organize this mind map file however you like, by subject matter, author, etc. All you have to do is manipulate the mind map. This would be kinda neat if that’s all it did — but not THAT much more useful than a group of folders in your home directory. Why this program really gets cool is what it allows you to DO with your PDFs.
As you read a PDF and notice a passage that is cool or that pertains to something you will want to refer to later, you can highlight that passage and create a bookmark for it in your PDF viewer. This passage with then automatically be imported to the mind map as a child of the paper. This allows you to record and organize the salient points of all your papers in an organized and centralize manner. Later on (sometimes months or years), when you are trying to refresh yourself on the importance of a particular paper to your work or the field, you can easily scan your mind map to get the good stuff in seconds rather than slogging through the whole paper again!
Additionally, the ability to copy and paste these notes to new mind maps allows you to outline your next paper as a new mind map using snippets of the papers you will want to cite in that paper from the beginning! It even had available cite-while-you-write and bibliography formatting built in.
Check out the video above and the project’s home page for a slightly more involved description and a screen-cast demonstration of SciPlore in action.