Let’s say you want to research a topic: You start with a general theme, but you’re keen to know more about it. It might just be something that you have a passing interest in, your favorite band, a research topic for college, a client, or a something that you are working on. What do you do? Often you might Google some key words, and read around the topic.
Such search exercises are often unspecific, and consist more of information gathering to see what can be found and if there is anything of interest – normal search queries pump out numerous results, and by clicking on one or more of the top results, reading the contents of the linked pages, and perhaps following some links in those sites (and more reading) you eventually feel that you know something and can’t dedicate any more time to your search.
I recently came across Google Wonder Wheel and consider that it could be an excellent tool to reduce wasted time and effort in the early research steps, by allowing you to quickly focus your specific interest.
If you Google “Google Wonder Wheel” you will find numerous websites dedicated to explaining what it is (similar to what I am doing here, but since my interest has been piqued, I thought I’d use my own examples to perform a review).
You can find Google Wonder Wheel by undertaking a normal search by entering a keyword into Google search (“behavioural economics” in my example below) and then clicking on ‘Show options’. Doing so results in a column of additional options appearing (on the left in the example below), covering various ways to refine your search, as well as ‘Wonder Wheel‘. Clicking on this results in a mind-map appearing, as per the the following screenshot:
Clicking on one of the eight spokes in the first generation mind-map result in a second generation (subsequent mind-maps have up to, but no more than eight spokes, depending on the volume of search results). This process can be continued for multiple ‘generations’ of the mind map (the browser ‘Back’ button can bring you back to previous generations). See the example at the start of this post to see how the mind-maps develop for further ‘generations’.
Only two generations are shown at any one time (the current generation, and the last). At each generation, Google shows its usual list of search results for the topic which is at the center of the mind-map (ie, the list of search results on the right hand side in the example above). There is no limit to the number of generations that you can drill down.
Some of the spokes, especially on the first or second generation wheels can be rather obvious, or maybe even in some cases off-scope or irrelevant, but there are usually at least a couple of ‘interesting’ spokes that you can drill down into further – clicking on those often leads to a wheel which can have several interesting, but sometimes tangential, unexpected or revealing connections.
This can mean that without too much delay you can end up finding search results which are interesting or useful, but which you might not normally have found by undertaking a ‘normal’ search (ie, by keyword only), or at least not without extensive reading.
What is also particularly helpful is that while the search results (on the right) might include ‘corporate’ results, the mind-map itself tends to stick to ‘topics’ and individuals names (and not company names), unless your search keyword was in fact a company name. This way you can be sure that your mind-map ‘thinking’ is not distorted by company names.
When I googled the name of the firm that I work at, I found it interesting that the first generation mind-map showed all of our major competitors, while drilling down into some of the second generations showed our firm’s various social media connections, and specific topics and industry sectors that the firm is particularly active in – it was interesting to see which sectors are, at least as far as Google is concerned, considered higher priority/reputation/relevance.