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Mind maps (sometimes called spidergrams) are a way of planning your writing to make the most of the information that you have. By planning your writing you can decided how important an idea or argument is, where it should come in your writing task and what it is or is not linked to. Planning your writing also makes sure that you stick to the question asked and do not wander off the point.

Mind maps help, in particular, when you are asked to write ‘accounts’ or long writing tasks explaining something by showing cause and effect. These are often called ‘argumentative’ or ‘argument’ writing but this does not mean that you disagree with the question set. It only means that you provide supporting evidence for your reasons.

A simple way to look at cause and effect is as follows:

Mum gave John some money (statement of cause).
John went to the shops and bought some lollies. (statement of effect)

To turn this into a single cause and effect sentence they can be combined using a causal connective (shown here in red in each version).
(a) Because Mum gave John some money he went to the shops and bought
some lollies.
(b) Mum gave John some money and as a result he went to the shops and
bought some lollies.
(c) As a consequence of Mum giving John some money he went to the shops
and bought some lollies.

This method can be applied to any question.

The USA declared war on terrorism (statement of cause) and many other
countries around the world did so too (statement of effect).

For the purposes of the remainder of this exercise we will continue to use the second idea. The question we will be looking at will, in fact, be

Account for the declaration of “war on terrorism” by the United States of America on Thursday, 12 th September, 2001 .

By using the words ‘account for' we are immediately asking you to give an explanation about what caused something to happen. In this case you need to answer the question ‘why?' and the question could have been phrased as

“Why did the USA declare “war on terrorism” on Thursday, 12 th September, 2001 ”, and you would give almost the same answer.

We therefore need to look at what is “cause” and “effect”. One way to do this is to see the causes and effects as something which built up. You could begin with

Terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Centre buildings in New York (statement or cause) .

The USA government reacted with anger and declared “war on the terrorists” (statement or effect).

Obviously there is much more to this event than just these simple statements.

A variety of mind maps which could help you to answer this and other questions is accessible here.

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