All You Need to Know About Concept Maps

Concept Map Template

Some ideas need to be carefully mapped! These might include a string of ideas gathered during a brainstorming session, mapping out a process or organizing tacit knowledge. Concept maps play an important role in managing this type of information.  This article will explain all you need to know about concept maps and how to construct them for effectively mapping information.

What is a Concept Map?

A concept map is a graphical representation of concepts or ideas. These concepts are linked in a concept map in the form of nodes and connected using lines or arrows, usually in a hierarchy. The nodes are presented in circles or boxes labeled to spell out parts of the map.

A concept map can be constructed using three components, including shapes, arrows and text. Combining these three components is used to map out thoughts and ideas in a form that makes it easy to understand for someone viewing the visualization. This makes concept maps handy for a wide range of purposes, including note-taking, brainstorming, software design when communicating complex ideas, lexicon development, mapping symmetries, and organizing team knowledge.

Concept Map Circle Diagram Example
Source: 7+1 Item Mindmap PowerPoint Template by


Most concept maps use circles or squares (nodes), however, different types of maps might use different shapes, such as flowcharts, where different types of shapes define the chart from start to end.


Another essential part of a concept map are the lines or arrows that connect the map. A single node in a map might connect to one or more nodes. This helps identify the relation one node represents with another connected node.


Nodes come with text that helps describe the node. As the map moves from one node to another, the relationship between the nodes can be understood using the text labels.

History of Concept Maps

Concept mapping was the brainchild of American educator Joseph D. Novak. During his research at Cornell University during the 70s, Novak used concept mapping to represent scientific information before his students. Novak’s work had its roots in the works of American psychologist David Ausubel.

What Is A Concept Map

Concept Maps have their origin in the theory of education called constructivism that implies that learning entails constructing new understanding and knowledge by integrating with what is already understood. Novak taught children as young as 6 years old to help represent their responses. His book, ‘Learning How to Learn’ explains his views on learning through existing cognitive structures assimilating with new concepts.

How to Create an Effective Concept Map?

Making a concept map is half the journey. To make it effective, you need to carefully consider a number of factors, including identifying the core objectives of making the map, the medium used for drawing your map, and carefully connecting the dots (so to speak).

1. Identify and Define the Basic Elements of Your Topic

Defining the basic elements of your topic is essential for the concept map to be meaningful. You might want to focus on the primary topic and the objective of constructing your map.Before you start working on your concept map, it is important to understand what is exactly that you intend to achieve. So, if you are making a flowchart, each part of the chart will have to be defined using a specific type of shape, representing the flow of the visualization. Similarly, if a concept map is based on a brainstorming session, you would require gathering the ideas and putting them in perspective. You might also want to decide whether you would like to complete this task during or after the brainstorming session.

Phases of Project Management Concept Map
Source: 5-Step Petal Mindmap Concept for PowerPoint by
2. Pick a Method to Design Your Concept Map

There are severalways you can construct a concept map. It can be drawn on a blank page with a pencil, or you can opt for using online tools, desktop, or mobile apps to construct a more elaborate map. Not only are there a number of free and premium concept map-making apps, but you can even use a concept map template for PowerPoint to create your map in the form of a single slide or to spread it out across your presentation deck.

If you wish to construct your concept map using an app, you can use various cloud-based tools like Lucidchart or Visme. You can also use cross-platform applications like Mindmiester or Mind Master. The latter is available across all popular formats, including use via the web, Android, iOS, Windows, Mac and Linux. You can even use a simple app like the Paint app in Windows or start constructing your app using a stylus pen and a tablet.

Concept Map Example PPT Template
3. Draw Your Map from the Top to the Bottom

Concept maps often have the most inclusive concepts listed at the top, followed by exclusive concepts, as you start mapping out the finer details of the visualization. Therefore, drawing the map from top to bottom makes sense. This will allow you to branch out the map from the more general to the more specific and exclusive concepts. 

4. Carefully Connect Your Map

Connecting your map is one of the key elements of constructing a concept map. This is because one or more nodes might be related to a single or multiple other nodes. The visualization should be able to capture this linkage between nodes to make the relationship understandable for the viewer. Therefore you must ensure that all relevant nodes in your map are linked neatly with other relevant nodes and can be easily identified by following the strings that laid out in your map.

Concept Map Example in PowerPoint

To construct a concept map in PowerPoint, you can use Shapes or SmartArt via the Insert tab.

Concept Map Example Template
Source: Screenshot from PowerPoint

When making your concept map, you can use a hierarchy to add information to your map. You can add shapes and connect them using lines and arrows according to need.

Concept Map PowerPoint Example
Source: Screenshot from PowerPoint

Below is an example of a simple concept map in PowerPoint. The map shows how living things can be divided into plants and animals, where the example of the animal includes a cow that eats grass. The map can be further elaborated by segregating carnivores, herbivores and, omnivores and linking them in the food chain.

How To Make A Concept Map
Source: Screenshot from PowerPoint

The video given below provides a brief overview of constructing a concept map in PowerPoint. You can make your concept mapping task easy by using ready-made PowerPoint templates for building your concept maps. You can check out our post on the Best Concept Map Templates for PowerPoint to find a few useful templates that can help you create a neat-looking concept map in no time.

Final Words

Concept Maps are a great way of mapping knowledge and weaving it with the current understanding of an individual or a group of people. You don’t necessarily need to be an expert to understand a concept map; however, each concept map relies on the prior knowledge of an individual to help in the process of learning and comprehending ideas and concepts. For example, a concept map to help a K12 student understand the water cycle would require using his/her capability of grasping the concept. 

New ideas and knowledge can be assimilated by making use of existing cognitive structures. Similarly, more complex concept maps used for software design or to synthesize information would require prior knowledge related to the concept for the map to make sense for the individual involved in the mapping or learning process.

Circle Infographic Concept Map
Source: Circles Infographic Concept for PowerPoint by

Concept maps can have a variety of functions other than learning and teaching new concepts. Businesses use concept maps to map out the customer journey and understand the user flow that leads them to their product. For example, concept maps can be great for understanding sales conducted through e-commerce platforms, the response of customer services and the gap between the customer and the service provider. As e-commerce continues to grow in the era of COVID-19 exponentially, we are likely to find many uses for concept maps to understand better the flow of sales, customer experience and the customer journey. Suppose you also seek to create another type of diagram, seeking to compare the relationship between concepts. In that case, you can also use Venn diagrams as a parallel or complementary part of an analysis.

Regardless of how you intend to use a concept map, you should ensure that you get the basics right. This includes clarity regarding your map´s purpose, making sure that you use a suitable medium to construct your map, connect the nodes and ensure that every node is placed appropriately. Misconstruction of the linkage between the nodes in a concept map can defeat the purpose of the map. If linkages aren’t clear, it is good to use labels that explain the lack of clarity regarding a node´s linkage. For instance, this might be needed when synthesizing information related to new research that might require additional vetting, before it can be validated. This might also be necessary when concept maps are being used to gauge trends and forecasts.

1. 5-Step Petal Mindmap Concept for PowerPoint

The 5-Step Petal Mindmap Concept for PowerPoint is an infographic template designed for a wide range of topics. A mind map visually organizes information in various hierarchical order.

Use This Template

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