How to draw concept maps and mind maps for sensemaking

Concept maps are for mapping concepts. Abstract concepts go to the top, and concrete concepts sink to the bottom. Concepts are connected by linking phrases. Concepts and linking phrases make up a proposition. Concepts are interconnected and you must aim for the densest linkages across concepts.

When you read something, use a concept map to capture the meaning. The first reading will yield a very dense and complicated map with lots of independent roots and nodes; you will then read the concept map carefully and then redraw the concept map so that it will resemble a tree or a complex network.

You can build mind maps out of concept maps.

Here is a concept map:

Concept map of student motivation. You need to read the map from top down and along all arrows or lines connecting the boxes.

Note that the concept map is organised as:

  • All high level concepts are in the top half
  • All bottom level concepts (actionable words, concrete expressions) are in the bottom half of the map
  • Anything in between
  • You can connect as many boxes as you can.
  • You need to start with the concepts that are single words (or as few words as you can) and they are ideally adjectives, or nouns, or gerunds.
  • You need to use connectors that are verbs or prepositions (other connecting words are also allowed)

What’s the problem here?

  • First, you cannot really make sense unless you know the context. It’s my map and I know the context that makes sense to me. You will learn something out of the concept map, but your concept map is not necessarily my concept map. You can start with the same set of boxes but with your unique set of connectors, you can create your own message.
  • Second, if you are looking for a narrative, it is difficult to build.

For this we need another visual presentation, and that is mind map. Here is a mind map of the same information:

This is a mind map of the same information. See you can now see the base question and if you see, you see that the main concepts are in the radius immediately out of the stem, and now you can build a narrative

Now you see that the structure or intended structure takes a more concrete shape. You can or I can write my narrative out of it and embellish with figures, tables, analyses and so on.

I will continue to explore and write here more on mind maps and concept maps and sensemaking on the different types of maps.

Now, what questions you have? Comments?

Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Environmental Health at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. Also in:

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store