What is a concept map

A “concept map” is a diagram and a graphical tool depicting concepts and their relationships. It can be used in any sector or discipline in order to organise ideas and structure knowledge. Concepts are represented as boxes or circles and are mutually connected through arrows, creating a branched and hierarchical structure. A concept map is different from a mind map, which is a simpler tool usually focusing around a central concept and used for brainstorming, visual thinking, memorisation and problem solving. It is also different from a flow chart, which represents a workflow or a process and is used for illustrating a solution model for a given problem. Concept mapping entails a series of meaningful connections between concepts, where each couple of concepts and their connection should preferably make sense on its own even if extrapolated from the whole. The concept mapping technique was firstly developed in the 1970s and, subsequently, has been increasingly used as a means to convey and increase “meaningful learning”, which is a type of learning where the new knowledge is acquired starting from the learner’s previous knowledge.

How to build a concept map

A concept map can be developed through the following steps:

  • definition of the “focus question”, which serves to define the topic to be described;
  • listing of the concepts related to the focus question;
  • the initial concepts usually represent the mapper’s previous knowledge;
  • definition of the connections between the concepts, using meaningful linking phrases;
  • if necessary, definition of “domains”: groups of concepts pertaining to the same field, sector, or discourse;
  • if appropriate, creation of “nested nodes”: sets of concepts and their connections, helping to define a hierarchy within the map;
  • if necessary, addition of new concepts, reorganisation of the map, and creation of additional “cross links” connecting different sectors of the map or different nested nodes; this is usually the moment when the new knowledge is acquired and the method unfolds its potential.

Download an example of concept map describing the ENEPLAN project here.

Other introductory materials presented during kick-off workshop held in Rome (14-18 March 2016) is available here.

Guidelines on how to use C-map Cloud are available here.

The Cmap software

The project partnership has chosen the Cmap free software for supporting the project activities. Cmap has been developed by the Florida Institution of Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC). To know more about Cmap, please visit the official Cmap website.