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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 sparking 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 use in conducting research.
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:
- Can you clearly write a statement that conveys the main idea of your question?
- 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.
- 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.
- Do you know that there is evidence to support your question? AND Is it available and can you find it?
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.
- Based on a preliminary investigation of your topic, create a concept map of a potential research questions or topics. Branch out with arguments, controversies, or issues.
- 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.
- 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.
Tools for Concept Mapping
You can create a concept map with pencil and paper or use one of these free online tools:
Use Padlet to create an online bulletin board to display information for any topic. You do need to sign up for an account to use this tool, but you can use the free version to create up to 3 boards.
Jamboard is a google product that you can log into with a personal or Puget Sound account. It works sort of like a virtual whiteboard. You can upload photos, or use the 'post it note' feature to make notes.
Coggle is an online tool for making concept maps. You do have to create an account by signing in with Google, but it's free.