Concept Map: Definition & Examples

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Karin Gonzalez

Karin has taught middle and high school Health and has a master's degree in social work.

In this lesson, you will learn the definition of a concept map, as opposed to a mind map, and will be given examples to further your understanding of this type of graphic organizer. Following the lesson will be a brief quiz.

What Is a Concept Map

Before we go into the definition of a concept map, we should first ask, 'What's a concept?' A concept is, basically, an idea. We all know what a map is; it is an image that shows part or the whole of something. Based on these two definitions, we can gather that a concept map probably shows the different parts of an idea.

More specifically, a concept map is diagram that goes from the top to bottom of a page with the core concept at the top and associated concepts below it in bubbles or boxes, with lines or arrows illustrating the relationships between the concepts. This tool's purpose is for organization of ideas or concepts, as well as showing how they are interconnected.

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  • 0:02 What Is a Concept Map?
  • 0:46 Who Invented Concept Maps
  • 1:15 Components of a Concept Map
  • 2:24 Mind Maps vs. Concept Maps
  • 3:26 Benefits
  • 4:23 Lesson Summary
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Who Invented Concept Maps?

So, who invented concept maps in the first place? In 1972, Joseph Novak, a professor at Cornell University, was studying how kids' knowledge of science changes. He created a concept map to represent this concept. He then decided that concept mapping was not only a great tool to see a visual representation of concepts and their relationships, but if his students could create concept maps, it would show that they were understanding the material they learned in his courses.

Components of a Concept Map

There are several components of concept maps that make them stick out from other visual organizers, such as mind maps. Let's go over the typical components of a concept map:

  1. Concepts are enclosed in boxes or circles usually.
  2. Concepts go from top to bottom, in a hierarchical fashion.
  3. The main concept(s) are usually in a bigger box or circle at the top of the concept map and other concepts branch down from it.
  4. The verbs on the branches connecting concepts are called linking words or linking phrases, which denote the relationship between the two concepts.

Now that we know the components of a concept map, let's look at this very basic example of one on cows:

Notice how linking phrases depict the relationship between the concepts.
Basic Example of a Concept Map

A more complex concept map would show reciprocal relationships between concepts and have more arrows indicating various and overlapping relationships among the concepts on the map. Let's look at a concept map on depression for an example of a more detailed concept map.

Depression Concept Map

Now that you have an idea of what a concept map entails and looks like, let's look at another visual organizer that is often confused with the concept map, the mind map.

Differences Between Mind Maps and Concept Maps

Remember when you had to do mind maps in elementary and middle school? Mind maps are an easier visual organizer that teachers typically ask students to do in order to sort knowledge and information on a topic before they write a rough draft of a research paper or something of the like. There are some key differences between mind maps and concept maps.

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