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Create a Concept Map

Once you've done some preliminary research, begin to "map out" significant ideas to create a concept map.

A concept map is simply a way to visually display the concepts and relationships among ideas.

This will help you to further organize your ideas and define your topic. Let's look at how a concept map on "sustainable development" is developed.

  • First, write down the main idea in the center.
  • Draw a circle around the idea. This will be the starting point for the concept map.

Here, "sustainable development" is the central theme.

Central Theme logo
  • Next, think of some issues related to the central theme.
  • Link these issues around the central theme, and draw lines connecting them.
  • Here, three possible research issues relate to sustainable development
    • agricultural issues
    • environmental issues
    • ethical/social issues

Only one of these possible sub-issues will be fully explored.


Possible sub-issues are Agricultural, Environmental, or Ethical/Social issues

For each issue, think of sub-concepts that relate to it and connect them to the appropriate issue. 

Here, each of the three issues have sub-ideas for possible research exploration.

Continue to brainstorm possible ideas. Not all will be included later, but this approach lets you see the relationship among possible topics.

Like this sample, your concept map will grow.

Come up with two or three concepts for each sub-issue to explore further

At this point, select the issue that you are most interested in and/or has the most potential for further research.

In this example, we'll develop the section on Ethical/Social Issues.


Only one subset of the brainstorming concept map will be fully developed

Here, only this sub-set of the brainstorming concept map will be fully developed.

Think of sub-issues that will support each concept.


subset of the brainstorming concept map to be developed

Here is the fully developed concept map. Each element of the map will help you to:

  • generate a list of research questions, and
  • develop a topic definition statement.


Keep developing your Concept Map