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GQS 220 | What is Queer?

What is a Concept Map?

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

Tools for Concept Mapping

You can create a concept map with pencil and paper or use one of these free online tools:

How to Create a Concept Map

Concept mapping is a great strategy to use as you develop your research question. 

Ask yourself: what do I already know about my topic? what am I curious about? what kind of information do I need, and where am I likely to find it? 

From a disciplinary perspective, think about what kind of questions scholars and experts in that discipline are interested in, how they would ask those questions and what evidence they would use to make their argument.

Finally, consider what you know about the resources available to you, the types of sources that would be most helpful for you, and where might be most fruitful for you to begin your search. Are you looking for primary sources, such as historical newspaper articles? Literature? Psychological studies? If you're following up on the scholarly conversation around your topic, do you need to look for work by historians? Psychologists? Sociologists? 


The process is simple: start with your big, broad topic in the middle of your page, then:

  • In the space around the central concept, make notes of words or phrases for any relevant subtopics.
  • For each of your focus subtopics, add related terms/concepts to your map.
  • Continue to fill out your branches with ideas or questions about your topic, or about the types of resources you may wish to start with. 

Do some background research on your topic to create your concept map. Feel free to consult the Internet, an encyclopedia, course readings, or a librarian to help explore a topic. It may be through this background research that you will stumble upon a gap that you want to explore! Keep revising your map as you learn more about your topic.