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Create a concept map

What is a concept map?

A concept map is a type of graphic organizer - and a graphic organizer is basically just a way to represent ideas (and their relationships) in a visual way. 

Usually, these ideas are put into circles or boxes (called nodes), and lines are drawn between the nodes. You may want to make a note on the line (or as part of the line) to describe the connection or relationship between the ideas. Here's an example of a concept map in this format:

Gr 8 - Ch 3 - Microorganisms

Gr 8 - Ch 3 - Microorganisms. By Siyavula Education. Licensed under a CC BY: Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Here's an example that doesn't use that format:

Zombie Concept Map

Zombie Concept Map. By Romina Militante. Licensed under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license.

What are concept maps good for?

What are some benefits of creating concept maps?

  • They can help you understand relationships between different ideas, or the steps of a process.
  • They can help you to understand what you know or remember about something, and where you might need more information.

When should I use concept maps?

  • If you're having trouble understanding something, a concept map might help because it's in a visual format.
  • Concept maps are a great way to help you review for exams.
  • Concept maps can be used as a way of brainstorming or generating ideas for a writing assignment or other project. 

How do I create a concept map?

What can I use to create a concept map?

You can use:

How do I put my map together?

  1. Start by identifying your main topic, idea or concept
  2. Brainstorm everything you already know about the topic. (If you're drawing your map by hand, you might want to use index cards or sticky notes, because they will make the next step easier.)
    • After you've done this, you might want to double-check your class notes and class readings just to make sure you haven't missed anything.
    • Is there something unclear, or some detail you think you're missing? Make a note of that (put a star on it, make it a different color, etc.) so you remember to follow up on it later.
  3. Sort the things you brainstormed; start with the big ideas, then the major points, and then the details that are connected to those major points.
  4. You should have the basic structure of your concept now. Do you see other relationships? Maybe two major points that seem related? Mark those relationships in some way (whatever works for you - lines and arrows, asterisks or other symbols, etc.).
  5. You may want to revise the map as you learn more. For example, if you created a concept map for your mid-term, you can update it during the rest of the term to help you study for your final.

"How do I put my map together?" steps adapted from:

Study Effectively: Creating a Concept Map. By the University of Guelph Library. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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