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Study Effectively

What is a concept map?

  • A graphical way of organizing your thoughts and showing how concepts are related or different.
  • A diagrammed series of "nodes" consisting of linked topics (core concepts) and subtopics (which include examples and evidence for the topics).
  • A series of connections labeled by cause/effect, relationships and inter-relationships, differences, or hierarchies.

What are the benefits of using a concept map?

  • An active learning strategy that helps you to think critically.
  • A good way of learning about how you learn.
  • A one-page representation of important ideas.
  • A method of promoting a richer understanding of knowledge.
  • A way to visualize gaps in knowledge and areas of oversimplification, contradiction or misinterpretation.

When should I use a concept map?

  • ​Reviewing for exams.
  • Conceptualizing processes, systems, and relationships.
  • Brainstorming, organizing concepts, principles or arguments.
  • Identifying mistakes and areas of confusion.
  • Surfacing and assessing prior knowledge
  • Generating questions and answers from a reading or writing assignment

How do I make a concept map?

See our video, How to Make a Concept Map.

  1. Identify the main topic or core concept. 
  2. Brainstorm everything you already know about the topic.
  3. Organize the information by major ideas or points.
  4. Place the information on a diagram or map. Start with core concept, then major points, then significant details. 
  5. Review course materials and vocabulary to insure everything is included.
  6. Label connecting strands with words or phrases, then use branches, arrows and other symbols (for example stop signs) to indicate the relationship.  
  7. Use colours, fonts or lines to group or distinguish concepts. 
  8. Include detailed explanations, definitions, rules, formulae, or equations.
  9. Analyze the map using the following questions: 
    • Is the core concept accurately defined and positioned?
    • How do the ideas fit together?
    • Have I considered all the related information from lectures, texts, and labs?
    • Have I noted all relevant relationships, exceptions, and conditions?
    • Does the map have adequate validity, logic, complexity, and detail? 
    • What is the muddiest point and what can be done to clarify it?
  10. Revise the map as understanding of the material improves.

Example of a simple concept map

Image of a student’s hand-drawn concept map for the theory of natural selection. The centre of the page contains a large oval with the title. Lines radiate out from the centre oval connecting other ovals detailing related concepts, which connect to subsequent ovals.

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