The Concept Map Notation

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes.

Why use Concept Maps?

Concept Maps are one of my standard artefacts of projects or whenever I need to understand a new area. They help to define the vocabulary by setting all relevant terms in relation to each other.

What is a Concept Map?

Such a way of defining a vocabulary is (in my experience) superior to a traditional dictionary where you find a paragraph regarding the meaning of a word. Why? Simply because I have never seen anyone reading a 10-page document of definitions without the mind wandering off. A Concept Map in contrast is something that everyone can concentrate on. And by creating verifiable sentences you can double-check each relationship simply and constructively. Just create a set of concept maps and take every new project member through each relationship. You will be able to align the meaning of the terms. What if the other person disagrees with a sentence? Great! You just hit a misalignment that might become problematic at a later stage. Align on how to use the terms. As I said, it’s a communication tool.

An outdated annotated Screenshot

Notation Definition

The Graph below describes the Concept Map Notation. Concept Maps have only two Node Types:

  1. Concepts
  2. Relations

You normally start with one or more concepts and then start expanding the map by adding more relations between concepts and by adding more relevant concepts. To emphasise a few concepts the Notation has a second Concept node: the Emphasised Concept. It comes in a different colour. If you use it sparingly you will be able to highlight the most relevant concepts.

The Concept Map Notation

Node TypeDescriptionIs Starting PointSuccessors
ConceptConcepts (or Terms) are nouns. They are explained in a concept map by putting them in relation to each other.YesRelation
RelationA verb, connecting a Concept with another. The Relation creates with the source and destination Nodes a sentence that can easily be validated.NoConcept, Emphasised Concept
Emphasised ConceptThis is a second Concept Node in order to highlight some important concepts. Use this type sparingly.YesRelation