How to Make a Concept Map


Hi, I’m Libby, and I’ll be teaching
you everything you need to know about concept maps. We’ll start with a quick overview, and then
we’ll go through a step-by-step tutorial and build out an example together. When thinking about a certain topic, several
different thoughts and ideas may come to mind. But after awhile, those thoughts and ideas
become a jumbled mess and it can be difficult to keep everything straight. That’s where a concept map comes in. A concept map is a visual way to organize
your thoughts and make connections between ideas. They improve our ability to understand and
remember concepts, because our brains process visuals faster than plain text. Before we show you how to make a concept map,
let’s talk about the tools you can use to make one. You can draw a concept map with pen and paper,
but a diagramming application is going to make things much easier. Today I’ll be using Lucidchart. And you can use it too, for free actually. Just click the link to access Lucidchart’s
website, enter your email address, and you’ll have a free Lucidchart account in just a few
seconds. It’s easy to use and you can follow along
with me as we build a concept map. A concept map is made of three very basic
elements: shapes, arrows, and text. The shapes represent concepts or ideas. Rectangles are the most commonly used shape,
but some people use ovals instead. For our example, we’ll use rectangles to
represent concepts. Arrows show the relationships between those
concepts. And text is used to identify and describe
the concepts and relationships. The first step in creating a concept map is
to identify the main concept. This might be the subject of a research paper,
a study topic, a business problem, or any variety of things. But it has to be one specific thing. For our example, we’re just going to do
something very simple. We’re going to map out everything we know
about the solar system. So we’ll drag out a rectangle, which represents
a concept, and write our main topic: “solar system.” Our entire concept map, as we build it out,
is going to relate to this fall under this main concept. But sometimes the main concept can still be
a bit too broad. Maybe we know a lot about the solar system,
like the history of its discovery, planetary physics, formation theories, and so on. Our concept map would be really big, but potentially
not that useful. We might need to concentrate our attention
on one particular topic, and to do that we could use a focus question. A focus question helps specify the problem
or issue the concept map is supposed to resolve. For our example, a focus question could be
“What’s in the solar system?” This will focus our concept map on one specific
topic and make our final diagram much clearer. Now that we have a very specific main concept,
we can start listing out any related concepts. These will eventually fall under our main
concept and form the overall map, but for now, let’s just create a list off to the
side. Some people call this a parking lot, and it
usually consists of around 15-25 key concepts. Use your main concept and focus question as
a guide, and start listing out any related knowledge. For our solar system example, we’d start
by writing out sun, planets, asteroid belt, and moons. It’s good practice to describe each concept
as briefly as possible. Try to keep each key concept to one or two
words. Otherwise you may end up with a very text-heavy
concept map that has less visual impact. For example, you wouldn’t want to write
“Pluto is no longer classified as a planet.” Yes, this is related knowledge, but you’re
better off just writing Pluto. That’s the key concept, and we can add details
later. I’ll add about 10 more concepts to my list,
and then we’ll move on to the next step. Okay, now that we’ve listed all our ideas
out into this parking lot, we can start adding them to the concept map and organizing them. You’ll want to arrange your concepts in
a hierarchical format. The map is going to start with your main topic
at the top and then get more and more specific as you move down. So let’s begin by finding our most general
concepts in the parking lot. The sun and planets seem to be the broadest,
so we’ll drag those over and put them right below our main concept. You can continue to drag out all your concepts
and place them in an approximate order, but I like to connect my ideas as I go. To show relationships between concepts, we
draw an arrow between them. Here, we’re showing a relationship between
the solar system and the sun. And typically you’re going to want to define
the relationship by adding text. It’s best to use verbs that link these two
concepts together and form a simple phrase as you move down the map. For example, we might write “includes”
on this line. As we read from top to bottom, we get a simple
phrase that explains the relationship: “The solar system includes the sun.” This is called a proposition. A proposition is just a meaningful statement
made up of two concepts and a linking description. By the time your concept map is finished,
you’ll have several sets of propositions about a certain topic. Let’s create another proposition over here. We’ll draw a line between solar system and
planets, and then write “includes” again. Another proposition is formed: “The solar
system includes planets.” Not every relationship has to move downward. You can also create cross-links between concepts
in different domains of the concept map. For example, you could draw a line from planets
to the sun, and then write “orbit” on the line. When you read in the direction of the arrow,
you see that “planets orbit the sun.” Cross-links are a great way of visualizing
how different concepts throughout your map relate to one another. Before we finish building out the rest of
this concept map, I want to quickly explain the difference between a concept map and a
mind map since many people get those confused. As we’ve just shown, a concept map works
downward from the main topic, and you add text to your lines to describe relationships. Mind maps, on the other hand, have the main
topic at the center and then extend outwards in all directions. Also, mind maps put far less emphasis on identifying
the relationships between ideas. They’re both great for visualizing knowledge,
but it’s good to know the differences. To complete this concept map, I’m going
to continue to pull concepts from my list and place them in an appropriate place. I can pull out mercury, venus, earth, etc.
and put them all under planets. Before I start drawing lines, however, I realize
that there are two main categories of planets – inner and outer – and I want to represent
that knowledge in this concept map. I’m bringing this up to show how creating
a concept map can remind you of additional concepts as you go along. We didn’t have inner and outer planets in
our original list, but that doesn’t mean we can’t add them now. I’ll create two more shapes for those new
concepts. I’ll place them below planets. And then I’ll put mercury, venus, earth,
and mars under inner planets. And the rest will fall under outer planets. You can see how we’re getting more and more
specific as we work our way down the concept map. Same as before, I’ll draw out connections
and write descriptions. Again, you’re going to want to keep all
your text to a minimum. You won’t want to write much more than I
did here. You can see we still have several concepts
left in our list. We can add as many as make sense for the particular
concept map we’re building. There’s no rule that says you have to use
them all. For our example, let’s just say that the
only concepts that I want to add are moons, asteroid belt, and pluto. For the sake of time, I’ll put all of those
under an additional concept that I’ll call “other celestial bodies.” Remember how earlier we wanted to represent
our knowledge that Pluto used to be classified as a planet? Well this is a great example of how a cross-link
can describe that knowledge in a simple way. We’ll simply draw a line from Pluto to Outer
Planets. And then write “used to be” on the line. Another cross-link could go from planets to
moons. We’d write “planets have moons.” Once you finish building out your concept
map, you can do several things to fine-tune it. Sometimes it can be nice to add color to help
organize ideas, or to just give your entire map a more polished look. Lucidchart has a number of additional styling
options if you really want to take it to the next level. You can also refine your map by looking for
areas of improvement. Is there a better position for a certain concept? Are there better words you can use to describe
concepts and relationships? Revising your concept map is a part of the
process, and you’ll find that Lucidchart makes it very easy to move shapes, redirect
arrows, and change text. Thanks for watching this tutorial on concept
maps. Please subscribe to our channel to see more
helpful tutorials. Leave a comment if you have any thoughts or
questions. And lastly, click the link to try a free Lucidchart
account and start making your own concept maps today.

40 thoughts on “How to Make a Concept Map

  1. Oh wow, this helps so much! Now I know the difference between a concept map and a mind map. 🙂

  2. Thank you so much for this, it was super helpful! I'm not used to thinking in diagrams but this helped me get started and helped me organize my thoughts a whole lot better!

  3. Let us know what you made your concept map about or if you have any questions!

  4. Excellent presentation, you have helped to complete my concept easily after having no knowledge of it before.

  5. Do you have a video on activity diagrams ? Love the way you guys explain the videos

  6. Thank you so much for making this really helpful videos. Very nice explanation. Please make videos of Normalization, function dependency, Optionality, cardinality.

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