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Nursing Undergraduate Student Library Research Guide: Concept mapping

Information to support undergraduate students as they become proficient users of library resources and services

Why use a concept map?

Using a concept map to develop your research question can make the transition from research question to search strategy an easy one.  Concept maps are visual tools that will stimulate your thinking as you identify specific ideas and indicate how they relate to one another.  The maps are adaptable so you can make them as simple or as complex as you want.  You can also modify them as you delve further into your subject.


Concept map basics

Concept maps have one basic principle – general to specific.

To develop a concept map,

  • Use boxes or circles for each concept or idea,
  • Use lines to link related ideas,
  • Add phrases on the lines to indicate the nature of the relationship.

Print or electronic format?

Creating a concept map using low tech requires a piece of paper and a pencil or pen.Having a few colors available can help you further refine the relationships or levels of specificity.

You can also use MindMup (, a freely available program.The developers offer good support with tutorials and tip sheets.You can master the program and get started with your map in a very short time. Functionality is sophisticated enough to meet most needs and you can convert your map to a pdf, print or publishable format.  When you’re finished, you can save your map to Google Drive for both storage and re-editing.

A short how-to video about concept mapping from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada can be found on YouTube.

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