Monday, 12 June 2017

What are Concept Maps?

A concept map is a type of graphic organizer used to help us organise our knowledge of a subject and its interconnections. Concept maps begin with a main idea (aka concept) and then branch out to show how that main idea can be broken down into specific topics.

The conceptual framework is often the weakest part of research projects: where researchers haven’t clearly determined what the concepts involved and what the relationship is between them.

There are a number of benefits from doing a concept map. They help us to brainstorm and generate new ideas. They encourage us to discover new concepts and the propositions that connect them. They allow us to more clearly communicate ideas, thoughts and information. They help us to integrate new concepts with older concepts. They enable us to gain enhanced knowledge of any topic and evaluate the information we have gathered.

Building a concept map is as simple as starting with a main idea, topic, or issue to focus on.
A helpful way to determine the context of your concept map is to choose a focus question—something that needs to be solved or a conclusion that needs to be reached.

Once a topic or question is decided on, that will help with the hierarchical structure of the concept map. We then start adding key concepts or related ideas. We throw in anything that connects and relates to our main idea. Later on we rank them; with the most general, inclusive concepts come first, then linking - branching - out to smaller, more specific concepts. Some ideas might get taken off because we realise that they are outside our scope. Or we might realise we have missed out an area, and need to add more in.

We start formalising our map by connecting all the ideas with linking phrases and words to illustrate the relationship between each. Once those links between the concepts are created, we finish up by adding cross-links, which connect concepts in different areas of the map, to further illustrate the relationships and strengthen our understanding and knowledge on the topic.

You can see a video on this here:


  • Buzan, T. (1988). Super-Creativity. USA: St. Martin's Press.
  • Inspiration Software Inc (n.d.). Teaching and Learning with Concept Maps: An introduction to concept mapping. Retrieved 24 July 2014 from  
  • Novak, J. D., Mintzes, J. J. & Wandersee, J. H. (2005). Chapter 1 - Learning, Teaching, and Assessment: A Human Constructivist Perspective in Joel J. Mintzes, James H. Wandersee & Joseph D. Novak (Eds) Assessing Science Understanding: A human constructionist view. USA: National Institute for Science Foundation (pp. 1-13)
  • Veal, A. J. (2005). Business Research Methods (Second Edition). Australia: Pearson Education.

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