SciPlore: Mind-mapping for academic writing

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.

3 thoughts on “SciPlore: Mind-mapping for academic writing

  1. filippo

    Absolutely fantastic – I was using heavily mind maps (Xmind software) for my humongous difficulty to write – I am a PhD student at UCL/University of London.

    You did a fantastic job – if you happen to pass through Kenya (Nairobi) I definitely owe you a beer! Thanks.

    Please, keep on sharing more elements as long as they come up. I will do the same…



    1. xguse Post author

      Fil: I am glad that my post on SciPlore was helpful to you! But I want to emphasize that I am not affiliated with the development team of this program and don’t deserve praise for its features at all. I would encourage you to follow the link I included in my post to their site and make sure that THEY know how much you like it! Since it is free, it is important that we make sure they know that their time and toil is actually making a difference. Thanks for your comment and I hope you continue to check back here at Scipher in the future.

  2. filippo dibari

    yes, yes, you are right 100% – once I saw the youtube I was so enthusiastic that I could not refrain from writing the message above. Only later I discovered that the situation was actually as you describe it and I am already in touch with the designer of SciPlore! They are great.

    Thanks mate. I hope you also disseminate it as much as possible – it is an amazing tool – pity it has few hiccups with the software I am using (.pdf advanced software and Reference Manager 12).

    Super wishes for your phd too.



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