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This content is taken from the University of Wollongong's online course, Research Writing: How to Do a Literature Review. Join the course to learn more.

Concept mapping

What is a concept map?

At this stage of planning and developing a literature review, it can help to create a visual overview, to connect your questions and sources of information. It’s a neat way to analyse a body of literature, and design a discussion, as it helps you see not only how questions relate to sources, but also how one question relates to others, which questions should be addressed first, how one leads to another, and how your presentation might best be organised.

A concept map is a one-page diagram that gives a conceptual overview of something complex, and shows relationships between parts. The example below is from the website of a software program called ‘cmaptools’ where concept maps are described as ‘graphical tools for organizing and representing knowledge in an organized fashion’.

Example of a Concept Map

You can of course draw a concept map on paper, but using software makes it easier to make changes, because you can just drag elements around the screen rather than start again when you change your mind about where something should be positioned. There are many different software programs for creating concept maps. I personally like cmaptools, because it encourages the user to articulate - in the form of a sentence - exactly how various ideas or questions relate to each other.


In the next post on my blog I show how a concept map relates to the development of paragraphs in the written discussion.

Your turn

Choose a concept mapping method. You may want to create your concept map online. A free, open concept mapping tool, that you don’t have to create an account for can be found here: bubbl.us. You may want to use pen and paper and upload a photograph. Choose the method that works best for you. Feel free to share your concept map in our facebook community space. Alternatively, you can create and share a blog post with your concept map in the comments below.

Please note: will will be unable to add you to the facebook community unless you answer some of the questions.

Conversation starter

  • Have you used concept mapping before? What do you like (or dislike) about it?
  • Do you see a difference between concept maps and mind maps?

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This article is from the free online course:

Research Writing: How to Do a Literature Review

University of Wollongong