Theseus works by making thinking visible, and the dynamic logic behind that thinking transparent. Take a look:

Theseus diagram

See the little triangles? Each one represents a question--the question that it makes sense to ask at that point in the thought process. (The different colors represent questions of different types.) For example, the yellow triangle to the immediate right of the purple "trunk" box represents the question "How does Theseus work?" The boxes to the right of the triangle contain elements that help to answer that question. A linked set of questions and answers make up what we call a "thought tree."

A good thought tree maps out a kind of dialogue: questions lead to answers, and answers raise further questions. Effective thinking, it turns out, has precisely this structure. In fact, thinking is nothing more than a disciplined process of:

  • Asking the questions that it makes sense to ask,
  • Proposing the best answers you can come up with, and
  • Testing those answers with more questions.

An amazing thing happens when you work with thought trees: you actually begin thinking more deeply and effectively. Why does this happen? Well, explicit prompts and subtle visual cues reinforce the "rules" of effective reasoning. The mental muscles that support clear, focused dialogue grow stronger, and the habits of mind that make for sound judgment get internalized. The only better way to develop strong thinking skills is to engage others in critical dialogue!

When you create a good thought tree, you also do useful work. Your aptitude grows, but you simultaneously organize information and create a useful thought structure--a diagram that converts easily into a detailed, logically structured outline. Use Theseus to organize your thoughts, and you can have fun, complete your writing assignments, and expand your abilities--all at the same time!

The Research behind the Method

Use Visual Thinking Techniques To…
Improve Clarity
  • Reduce reading time by 10-50% (1)
  • Reduce comprehension errors by 32-60% (2)
  • Reduce document length by 39-50% (3)
  • Reduce information retrieval times by 81% (4)
Be More Productive
  • Reduce first draft development time by 83% (5)
  • Reduce revision time by 75% (6)
Accelerate Learning
  • 23-89% improvement in learning due to visual mapping tools (7)
  • 13-50% faster assimilation of structured information (8)

1. Baker,1988;Holding,1985
2. Shaffer,1982;Jonasen et al,1980
3. U.S. Army,1977
4. Ethicon, 1997
5. Fein & Patten, 1989
6. Streit, et al, 1986
7. Horn, 2002
8. Burrell,1979,Jones,1986
9. Webber,1979;Romiszowski,1982
10. County of San Diego, 1995