Creating concept maps, which are also known as graphic organizers, is a powerful study strategy because it helps you see the “big picture” of your learning.

Making one is simple. Take out a sheet of paper and following the steps below:

  • Identify a concept
  • From memory, try creating a graphic organizer related to this concept. This is an excellent way to assess what you already understand and what you need to review.
  • Go through lecture notes, readings and any other resources you have to fill in any gaps.
  • Your completed concept map is a great study tool.
    • Elaborate (out loud or in writing) each part of the map.
    • List related examples, where applicable, for sections of the map.
    • Re-create your concept map without looking at the original, talking through each section as you do.

Examples of Concept Maps

There are generally four types of concept maps, although many more exist. Take time to review the ones below, identifying how they are different and how you might use them to study.

Example 1: This example illustrates the similarities and differences between two ideas, such as Series and Parallel Circuits. Notice the similarities are in the intersection of the 2 circles.

Example 2: This example illustrates the relationship between ideas that are part of a process, such as a Food Chain.

Example 3: This example illustrates the Causes and Effects for an event, such as The Civil War.

Example 4: This example illustrates the relationship between main idea, such as Climate Change, and supporting details.

While creating concept maps by hand can be a great first start, there are existing technology tools that allow you to make maps digitally.

Here are a few that stand out:  InspirationMindmeister, and Coggle

Download PDF: Using Concept Maps

REMEMBER: The UNC Learning Center is a great resource! Both Peer Tutoring and Academic Coaching can help you create a balanced approach to succeeding at Carolina. Our friendly staff is ready to help – drop by or make an appointment!

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License. You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Learning Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.