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Today I’ll tell you mine on concept maps: what they are, how they are built, and what they can be useful for.
I’m willing to bet you already know about concept maps.
They are such a basic element of the Study Method that sometimes their use is even explained to middle schools! So, it wouldn’t be strange at all if I had any reminiscence about it.
But even if your professor never told you about it, for sure you have read about it cooked and raw online. Concept maps are talked about a lot, perhaps even more than mind maps, and everyone has a little vision of him, not always completely precise.
So today is my turn, I’ll tell you something – what they are, how they are made, what they are used for – so then you can draw your own conclusions and decide if they are right for you.
What is a Concept Map?
In the 1970s, university professor Joseph Novak (Cornell University), engaged in the research of learning processes, came to a brilliant conclusion.
To be able to remember things with real effectiveness it is not enough to limit yourself to memorizing the bare concepts, but it is instead necessary to understand the relationships that connect the concepts to each other.
From this intuition and the desire to find a way to organize and represent knowledge in order to memorize it more easily, the idea of the concept map was born.
A graphic tool that allows you to physically outline the main concepts of a topic and their secondary interrelations on paper.
Thanks to the effort that your mind makes in representing the relationships between the various concepts, you are able to understand and memorize the information contained in your concept map.
How to Make a Concept Map?
We said that the concept map allows you to graphically represent on paper the main and secondary concepts of a topic and the relationships that connect them to each other.
Now let’s see how to proceed to build a well-made concept map.
1. Highlight the Concepts in the Text
Before jumping headlong into your map, you need to do some work on the text.
Read it carefully and highlight the main and secondary concepts. Do not forget to indicate as you see fit – perhaps with arrows or notes in the margin – what are the relationships between the concepts themselves.
In this phase, you must be able to discern information based on its degree of importance and to do this you must face the reading of the text in a reasoned way.
This part of the work can create difficulties. Maybe while you read it all seems equally important and in the end, without knowing how, when, or why, you end up with an entirely phosphorescent yellow page.
Since this is a decisive phase for the creation of the concept map it is important to do it well!
So if you recognize the compulsive underliner that I have just described in a part of you, I suggest you take a look at this article in which I explain how to underline a university book in a useful and reasoned way.
2. Write the Concepts on the Sheet
After highlighting the main and secondary key concepts, with their relationships, it is time to put them on paper on your map.
These elements – concepts and relationships – within the map materialize into two types of graphic content:
- conceptual nodes, ie the key concepts represented by a single word or a sentence of up to five words, enclosed within a geometric figure. Usually, the circle is used to enclose the main concepts and the rectangle for secondary ones. Then you can choose the figures you prefer to enclose the third and subsequent level concepts.
- associative relationships, that is the connections between the concepts graphically represented by arrows that connect the geometric figures.
Once you understand this distinction, your concept map develops from top to bottom, so you will start by inserting the title, which is the central topic of the map, at the top of the sheet, in the center.
Subsequently, according to the logic I have explained to you, you will insert the geometric figures bearing the various concepts and you will indicate their relations with the arrows.
Of course, you can adopt the techniques you prefer in the graphic realization of the concept map.
For example, you can insert all the concepts in different geometric figures for each degree of detail, or you can use the figures only for the main and secondary concepts and indicate the insights simply with arrows, or you can use a color code to differentiate the elements of your map.
Whichever strategy you choose, once you have perfected it to the maximum try to always use the same one in all your concept maps, to avoid creating unnecessary confusion.
I advise you to make your maps by hand, at least at the beginning as you have to practice. When you are a little more experienced there are many programs and applications that you can try to use, you can find them in this article on software for creating maps.
What Is a Concept Map For?
The use of concept maps is the point on which perhaps there are more theories.
Some say that it is not used to memorize (specific activity instead of mind maps), but only to understand and learn a topic. Someone else, on the other hand, claims the contrary that it is just for memorizing.
In fact, the mind map is constructed in a different way, but still follows the same principle of information hierarchy. In this article, if you want, you can learn more about mind maps.
In both cases, the strength of the maps lies in the graphic and general representation of the topic, thanks to which you can study and memorize with extra gear, an overview that you would hardly have without this kind of support.
It is therefore up to you to experiment and choose the instrument with which you find yourself best. Of course, for that, you need to have time, which is hard to come by as a student. If you ever feel like you’re under too much pressure from assignments, just get help with the phrase “Write my essay!” and real specialists will make your life much easier.