Study Tips & Tools

Concept Maps

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Your picture of how ideas relate to each other

Although a few 20th-century educators claimed to have “invented” them, concept maps are an ancient tool for learning.

human drawingAlso known as mind maps, these tools are simply a way to visualize a concept.

Concept maps are diagrams that related different elements of a concept to each other and/or to the main idea.  These diagrams can be simple or complex—depending on your own style of learning and what helps you understand the concept.

One easy way of drawing a concept map is to draw a box with name of the concept:

 anatomy map

Then add boxes that help define or clarify or describe the concept:

 expanded anatomy map

You can add as many layers as you need to fill out what you need to learn about the concept:

more concepts in the anatomy map

Notice that the above map emphasizes only certain aspects of the concept of “anatomy.”  It could certainly be more complete.  It could also emphasize things a little differently—in a way that would make more sense TO YOU.  The idea is to draw a map that makes sense to you—that helps you learn what you need to learn about the concept in a way that you can “see the concept” easily.

Check out this video that briefly walks you through the idea of concept mapping.

Remember, both MAKING the map and STUDYING the map will help you learn.

  • By using multiple senses (vision, touch, kinesthesia [muscle sense]). you learn more deeply and remember more easily
  • By graphically organizing your thoughts, you are learning relationships within the concepts
    • It gets you THINKING instead of just staring at information
  • By spending more time with the concept, time spent drawing it out, you will recall it more easily later

Here are just a few examples from the A&P Learning Outlines:

immunity graph Click the image for an enlarged view of a “plan of attack” using both antibody-mediated immunity and cell-mediated immunity
respiration graph The “big picture” of respiratory function

Click on image to enlarge it

breathing graph Role of medullary respiration centers in quiet and heavy breathingClick image to enlarge it

All of the examples given just above were made with the computer software Inspiration, which is available on some of the computers in the Science Resource Room at SCC (ADM 2411). There is also a web version called Webspiration.

More concept mapping tools

EDraw MindMap FREE software download

FreeMind FREE software download FREE web-based mind mapping tool

Cayra FREE software download

Text2MindMap FREE online tool turns your text (outline format) into a concept map

CoMapping subscription-based cooperative/group mind-mapping tools

This concept map was made with Text2MindMap using a snippet of the outline found at Nervous System 1

mindmap sample thumbnail
Click image to enlarge it

Having trouble getting started?

If you’ve never made a concept map, it may be hard to figure out how start. If you find yourself staring at a blank paper, try this short pencast . . .

Click the pencast screen above to open/save the PDF file to your computer.
Then click the link at the top of the PDF document
to view/listen to the pencast.

Click anywhere on the screen to go forward/back to any point in the pencast.

More benefits

More and more, students in the health professions and other disciplines are being REQUIRED to use concept mapping in their assignments. For example, client care plans must sometimes be submitted as a concept map.

If you gain concept mapping skills now, you will be better prepared for your professional courses!

Want to know more?

For more examples and how-to hints on concept mapping, check out the links in the list below.

blogger iconConcept Maps – related articles from my blog The A&P Student

Learning, Creating, and Using Knowledge: Concept Maps(tm) As Facilitative Tools in Schools and Corporations

The Mind Map Book: How to Use Radiant Thinking to Maximize Your Brain’s Untapped Potential

How to Mind Map: The Ultimate Thinking Tool That Will Change Your Life

Concept Mapping A great place to start learning about concept maps and how they work

Mosby’s Nursing Concept Map Creator is a standard guide to using concept mapping for patient care plans

Concept Maps on Various Topics has links to general articles on concepts maps as well as some examples (a few are Chinese because this source is in Hong Kong but most are in English)

Mind Maps – a powerful alternative to conventional note taking  A brief general article on how to make concept maps

Concept Maps A nice intro to concept maps from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with How-to and samples

IHMC Concept Map  This page is very long and detailed (and is written with a lot of education jargon) but gives a solid introduction to concept maps

Graphic Organizers  This page has many short, simple handouts that show you how to make different sorts of concept maps.

WriteDesign On-Line – Graphic Organizers  This site has numerous examples of different types of concept maps

Learning Skills Program – Concept Mapping Simple description of how to make and use concepts maps.

Mind Maps in Medicine  Collection of sample mind maps related to medical studies


Submit YOUR concept map!
Help yourself and other students worldwide by submitting your concept map. If it works, I’ll add it to this website!Click here for how to submit.


Last updated: December 31, 2016 at 15:33 pm