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Types of Concept Maps

A central concept map with showing types of social media.

Central Concept Map

This format is ideal when the idea you want to get across has a single and unifying theme. However, this can become messy if you want to depict relationships among offshooting topics.


Social media chart by Yoel Ben-Avraham. Used under CC BY-ND 2.0

A Hierarchical/Chronological Map showing the different ways of tackling a specific program.

Hierarchical/Chronological Map

This format is suitable for when the idea you want to get across follows an order but also includes multiple products, outcomes, or thoughts.

2014-01-07 Map for learning Org Mode for Emacs by Sacha Chua. Used under CC BY 2.0

A flowchart/linear map showing the singular process in which a plant photosynthesizes.

Flowchart/Linear Map

This format is ideal when the idea you want to get across is a specific process or something that follows a rather straightforward series of events.

kinchin_map6.png by Laura Dahl. Used under CC BY-NC 2.0

A system map showing multiple philosophers  theories and histories interconnected by themes and the authors own thoughts.

System Map

This format is suitable when you have a lot of data with a lot of interconnecting points. Typically if you have more than one overlapping process or concept, this is the go-to format. That said, this is the most time consuming and challenging to read of map types.

concept map titled ? by Andrew Luke. Used under CC BY-NC 2.0

What Are Concept Maps?

As visual representations of connected ideas, concept maps find a wide array of uses in higher education. Students use concept maps to put structure around a topic, generate search words for research projects, establish connections between ideas, organize main points from assigned readings, etc. For faculty, assigning concept map activities is a great way to deepen and assess student comprehension of a given topic and its component parts.

Organizing Your Concept Map

The most common organizational schema for concept maps is center-to-periphery. This means that a general concept is situated at the center and any associated ideas, questions, processes, or typologies branch out from there. Below is a great example of a center-to-periphery concept map about concept mapping (meta, I know).

CC Image: Elina Hill Concept Map. By Elina Hill, 2013, via  




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