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SSI2-101: Musical History of Tacoma

Concept Map Overview

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

How to Create a Concept Map

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.
  • For each of your focus subtopics, add related terms/concepts to your map.





  1. Based on a preliminary investigation of your topic, create a concept map of a potential research question. Branch out with arguments, controversies, or issues.
  2. Evaluate your concept map and revise as needed. Maps that are too thin indicate that the research question needs to be contextualized or enriched. Maps with too many branches indicate that the research question needs to be more focused.
  3. Once you’ve refined your concept map, develop a research question. As you uncover new information during the research process, you will want to alter your research question accordingly, until it is workable and supportable.

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?

Example of Topic to Research Question:

African American Women in Film (huge topic!)

Stereotypes of African American Women in Film (still huge topic)

African American Women in Films about the Civil Rights Movement (focused)

Why are African American women activists invisible in films about the Civil Rights Movement? (research question)