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SSI2-156: Justice, Arts, and Incarceration

Concept Mapping

A concept map is:

  • a visual tool for generating and organizing ideas
  • a way to explore different aspects of a topic
  • a method for triggering word associations

Use a concept map to:

  • aid thinking at the beginning of the research process
  • create a visual overview of a topic
  • develop questions on a topic
  • reveal patterns, themes, and associations between ideas
  • generate search terms to conduct research

The process is simple: start with the subject of your research question in the center, then in the space around the central concept, write words or phrases for any relevant subtopics or ideas. Then, for each of your focus subtopics, add related keywords or terms to your map.         Concept map with "research question" in the center. Four lines radiate out from the central idea, each labelled "main idea" with each of those having three smaller bubbles coming off it, all labeled "keyword"

You can use concept mapping software from Miro or Figma to create your concept map. Pencil and paper also work.

Example of a mind map on Will Smith's body in science fiction films

From Concept Map to Research Question

Review the results of your concept map to help you narrow your focus. What looks interesting? What questions does this early research raise? Ask yourself "how" and "why" questions.

Evaluate your research question using the following criteria:

  • Clear
    • Can you clearly write a statement that conveys the main idea of your question?
  • Focused
    • Can your question be adequately covered within the parameters of the assignment?
      • Avoid questions in which entire books have been written to answer this question.
  • Complex
    • Does your question require research and analysis?
      • Avoid questions that can be answered yes or no.
      • Avoid questions that can be answered by compiling a set of facts.
  • Arguable
    • Do you know that there is evidence to support your question? AND Is it available and can you find it?