Brainstorming Graphic Organizers Study Guide

Updated on Sep 19, 2011

Lesson Summary

Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will not die.

Daniel Burnham, American architect and city planner (1846–1912)

Word webs, Venn diagrams, and concept maps are called graphic organizers because they do just that: organize ideas graphically. So they're really helpful when you're brainstorming your thoughts to find solutions to problems. In this lesson, you'll discover how to use them, and other graphic organizers, to your advantage.

Once you recognize and define a real problem, it's time to start looking for a viable, effective solution. That's why brainstorming is such an important critical-thinking skill in a problem/solution situation. Brainstorming allows you to come up with as many ideas as possible, including way out-of-the-box suggestions, without making any judgments. You've probably done brainstorming before to generate ideas when assigned a group project in school or to plan a writing assignment. You probably made a list of ideas, or possible solutions, on paper. Then what?

While lists are good for recording information, they don't help you organize your thoughts very well. But graphic organizers do. They combine words and images so that you can see a lot of information at a glance. By visually arranging information, you can map your thoughts. That map can point you toward effective decisions and solutions.

Graphic organizers more effective than lists because they:

  • are a meaningful display of complex information.
  • help you see patterns and methods in your thinking.
  • help you gather and compress information.
  • keep you focused on the problem.
  • show what you know and what you still need to find out.
  • help you interpret your thoughts and ideas.

The types of graphic organizers covered in this lesson are:

  • concept map: explores a simple topic or problem
  • web: helps determine possible solutions for problems that have more than one cause or symptom
  • Venn diagram: finds solutions by showing common ground between two or more causes or symptoms of a problem
  • chart: compares and contrasts two or more elements
  • problem/solution chart: outlines a problem, including its causes and effects, while producing possible solutions and outcomes to those solutions

Concept Map

Concept maps, also called target maps, should be used when you are exploring a topic that is not complex. To make one, draw a circle and add spokes radiating from it. Put your central idea or problem in the middle, and add possible solutions around it in any order. The following example visually arranges a simple decision and the factors that may be used in making that decision.

Concept Map



Webs are more structured and complex graphic organizers than concept maps. They're called webs because they look somewhat like a spider's web. These organizers help when you need to find possible solutions to a problem that has a number of causes. To create a web, write the problem in a circle. Next, write the causes in smaller, secondary circles and draw a line from each to the problem. Then, from each secondary circle, draw lines to other circles in which you list possible solutions. Here's an example:


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