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Concept map

What is a concept map?

Concept maps are diagrams that demonstrate the relationships between ideas. They help you organise your research and set goals for your assignment. Doing background reading will help you create your concept map.

To create a concept map:

  1. Start with your research topic
  2. Identify relevant subtopics (whom what, when, why and how?) and link these to your research topic
  3. Identify relationships between the subtopics
  4. Develop and focus your topics from general to specific
  5. Review your concept map regularly.

Watch this introductory video for tips on developing concept maps.

Types of concept maps

There are four main types of concept maps:

  1. Spider
  2. Hierarchy
  3. Flowchart
  4. Systems

Source: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences 

It doesn't matter which type you use. You might like to try different styles.

Concept mapping software

There are a number of online tools that can be used to create concept maps, including:


  • A free online mind-mapping tool
  • Allows for collaboration and simultaneous users


  • A free mind-mapping software application written in Java
  • Available in Windows and Mac OS X 

IHMC Cmap Tools

  • A free tool that allows users to construct, navigate, share concept maps
  • Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and Solaris versions available


  • A mind mapping and brainstorming application
  • Existing mind maps can be exported to TheBrain where they can be stored and grown

  • A web-based mind mapping tool
  • Free version allows up to 3 mind maps, ability to save mind maps to image or HTML, sharing function and email support


  • Web based system designed for collaborative sharing of mind maps
  • Download in the Apple App Store or Google play


None of these take your fancy? 

Have a look at Wikipedia's list of mind mapping software.