Concept mapping is a visual means of organizing and communicating ideas. A concept map generally describes a network of connections relevant to the research topic. Concept mapping is similar to the more popular mind mapping, but the latter is most commonly a hierarchical, tree-like structure of connections, whereas concept maps can be either hierarchical or nonhierarchical.
Below are instructions for using CmapTools (a free, nonhierarchical concept mapping application), MindMeister (a commercial mindmapping application with limited free use), and CLIMB (another concept mapping application). We generally recommend CmapTools or MindMeister.
If you’re interested in how this all applies to mapping actors and processes (following actor-network theory), see this ENVS help page.
CmapTools is a downloadable application you can run on your own computer or device, and a cloud-based application you can run via web browser; the two work together. CmapTools supports robust concept map generation and presentation. Here is how to get started:
- Download and install CmapTools (make sure to download the latest version!). It’s free, but you’ll need to enter basic info first. Here are some help files and videos for using CmapTools. Hint: start with one of the default styles in the Windows > Style palette!
- Go to Cmap Cloud, and create an account. Remember your password! Here are some help FAQs and videos for using Cmap Cloud.
- Now you need to connect your CmapTools computer application to your Cmap Cloud account. This way you can share your Cmaps (via shared Cloud folders), and embed your Cmap on your website (below). Here’s how to do this:
- CmapTools has an helpful way for you to focus your Cmap via a focus question; go to Edit > Properties and enter your focus question there. This question will show up at the top of your Cmap!
Do you want to share your Camp on your website? You can always just save it as an image, but a better way is to embed your Cmap so that all changes are dynamically updated. Here’s how to do it (with super long instructions here):
- Create a Cmap, and save it to your Cmap Cloud folder (see above).
- You should now have an embed button at lower right (see this image). Set up the embed as you want, then copy the resultant iframe HTML. We recommend you UNcheck all options except for “Draw a Border Around the Cmap” and “Scale to Fit.”
- Now follow the iframe embed instructions here to embed on a page or post. (You must activate the iframe plugin for this to work!) Note that, unfortunately, your map title and focus question do not display on an embed; thus you may want to add a box (concept) to your map with this information.
MindMeister is a good way to, collaboratively or independently, create structured mind-maps that visualize hierarchical relations. It is well integrated with Google Drive and offers device-based apps. Although it is designed to highlight hierarchical relationships, it can also create non-hierarchical maps and there are a vide variety of potential uses for the program including planning talks, assigning talks, giving presentations, and even outlining large papers.
- If you have a Google account (i.e. LC Gmail), the easiest way for you to login to MindMeister may be via Google Drive: just login with your Google, then choose Create > Connect more apps, and search for MindMeister. Then you can access it via your Gmail account like other Google apps, and your MindMeister maps will be stored on GoogleDrive. If you do not have a Google account, just navigate to MindMeister and create an account.
- The MindMeister interface is pretty straightforward; here’s their help guide, including
- You can even edit your maps offline, and access MindMeister via your mobile device!
- You can export a map as an image to share it on your site, or you can embed a live map on your site: just publish it, click Embed map…, grab the code, then follow the embed procedure on this help page. (Note: You’ll generally need to remove the portion starting with “>Your browser is not able…” to the end.) Here is an example of an embedded MM map.
- Here is info on the education version, with pricing. The free version allows you to make three maps. Lewis & Clark has a small education account; contact us if interested.
With the Google suite comes a GoogleDoc app, Drawings. This app is not a dedicated concept mapping solution, but it readily supports creation of a network similar to a concept map, and it can be used for much more as well. You can create drawings collaboratively as well as independently and have a lot more options than MindMeister for the style of your map. If you want to make a nonhierarchical (free form) or hierarchical map but are going for a very particular style, Google Draw may be the way to go.
- Drawings are accessible through Google Drive, then Create > Drawing.
- The best way to create a concept map is to first decide how you want to style your text boxes, then copy and paste the boxes. You can double-click inside each box to label it.
- Then, connect your boxes with arrows or lines. Make sure to use the connector points on your boxes so the lines will move with your boxes as your format your map.
- You can hyperlink websites to boxes or lines to provide additional resources; just click on the object, then click the hyperlink tool and enter or search for the URL.
- To share an updated image of your Google drawing on your site, go to File > Publish to the web…, then grab the embed code. Paste this code into the text (not visual) editor of a post or page.
- The embed code does not link to the actual drawing, so make sure to click Share at upper right and get a link for others to view the full drawing, including hyperlinks.
CLIMB (Concept Linked Integrated Media Builder) is a concept mapping app developed by COSEE, the Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence. CLIMB is a very simple concept map platform you access online, similar to the above; here is their help page. Some features:
- It’s free! (Like Google Draw, and unlike MindMeister.)
- It supports nonhierarchical maps (only), but you can create color-coded classes of concepts that can be shown/hidden as a group in presentation mode.
- A variety of file assets can be attached to concepts, as can simple descriptions.
- Propositions (lines connecting concepts) can be annotated.
- The resultant map can currently be exported as an image (Tools > Export as Image); soon their embed feature should be working as well. To share your map at present, you’ll need to click the Share button and send it to yourself to grab a public link. This link can then be attached to the static image so that when a visitor clicks on the image they will go to the dynamic map online; here’s an example.
yEd is a cross-platform general network diagram (graph) editor; here is the overview page, and here is their manual. You can readily create nodes and connections, and you can analyze the network (e.g., a social network) as well.