how to make a concept map

How to Make a Concept Map

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Posted by: Lucid Content Team

Concept mapping is brainstorming with a purpose. You start with an overarching concept that you break down into its smaller parts, using arrows and linking words to show how ideas are connected. Common in education, concept maps are helpful in any field by driving creative and visual thinking.

If you want more information on when to use concept maps, check out our handy concept mapping guide.

A concept map helps you gain a better understanding of complex topics, see the big picture, and discover new connections through a collaborative and visual approach. With Lucidchart’s drag-and-drop shapes, flexible lines, and real-time collaboration, you can dive into any concept and map it out in a snap.

basic concept map
Basic Concept Map Template (Click on image to modify online)

Read on to learn how to easily draw a concept map so you can communicate, problem-solve, and brainstorm more effectively.

5 easy steps for drawing a concept map

1. Select a drawing medium

Many people just use pen and paper or a whiteboard because they’re readily available, but it’s not easy to save your whiteboard scribbles or make your handwritten diagram look professional once you’re done. 

Lucidchart, a cloud-based visual workspace, has the advantage of saving your work in a digital format, so it’s easy to share, edit, and polish your diagram. Plus, you can access your diagrams with any Internet-enabled device.

2. Create a main concept

Whatever medium you choose, the next step is to determine the central idea that you want to detail. If you’re not sure where to begin, try identifying a portion of text, a classroom activity, or a tough problem that needs solving. 

It might be useful to come up with a single question, called a focus question, that clearly specifies the problem or issue the concept map will help resolve. Your concept map will consistently lead back to that question and its answer.

3. Identify key concepts

Now that you’ve selected a main concept, the next step is to write down subordinate concepts. Make a list of related ideas, and rank them from the general to the specific. This list, also known as a parking lot because you’re waiting to move these ideas to your map, should consist of around 15-25 key concepts. 

Describe each concept as briefly as possible; usually one or two words per idea will suffice. Keeping your descriptions concise will prevent your map from becoming bloated and text-heavy.

4. Organize shapes and lines

Order each of your concepts in a hierarchical format, with the most general ideas at the top of the map under your main concept and the most specific ones at the bottom. Your concept map will take form as you connect shapes with lines and pinpoint the correct location for each idea. 

Concept maps typically have text, or linking words, written on each line to make sense of the relationship between a general concept and more specific ones. The text might include a specific verb like “provides” or “encompasses.”

Once you’ve created this preliminary concept map containing the basic links, add cross-links to illustrate relationships between concepts that are on the same level of specificity.  

5. Fine-tune the map

As you add links to every concept, be sure to carefully examine the relationships you’re illustrating. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Does every element fit well in its respective place?
  • Is there a better position for this idea or group of ideas?
  • Can I use a more accurate linking word to represent this relationship?

These questions will help you improve cognitive performance and challenge your knowledge on any subject.

Remember this is a preliminary map that will likely need revising. Lucidchart makes it simple to rearrange shapes on the page, add supplementary notes and comments, and even apply attractive styling to your diagram.

With Lucidchart, you can easily create organized concept maps and other specialized diagrams right in your web browser. Start a free trial and see for yourself!

Concept map examples

Here are a few examples of what you could do with Lucidchart. Use any of these templates as inspiration or starting points for your own concept maps.

sales management concept map example
Sales Management Concept Map Example (Click on image to modify online)
nursing concept map example
Nursing Concept Map Example (Click on image to modify online)
human resources concept map example
HR Concept Map Example (Click on image to modify online)
spider concept map example
Spider Concept Map Example (Click on image to modify online)

How to make a concept map in Google Workspace

Sometimes you might find that you need to include a concept map as part of a business case, a school presentation, or other documentation. Because Lucidchart is integrated with Google Workspace, you can easily insert your concept map in Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Learn how to make a concept map in Google Docs with our free add-on.


How to make a concept map in Microsoft Office

If you use Microsoft Office and not Google Workspace, you can still enjoy all the same benefits because Lucidchart is also integrated with Microsoft Office. Add in concept maps and provide context for data in Excel, engaging visuals in Word, and up-to-date diagrams to PowerPoint. Learn how to make a concept map in Microsoft Word with our free add-on.


Make concept mapping work for you with these easy steps and Lucidchart’s integrations. You’ll be able to spend more time solving problems, improving processes, or putting your ideas into action.

Start diagramming with Lucidchart today—try it for free!

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Lucidchart is the intelligent diagramming application that empowers teams to clarify complexity, align their insights, and build the future—faster. With this intuitive, cloud-based solution, everyone can work visually and collaborate in real time while building flowcharts, mockups, UML diagrams, and more.

The most popular online Visio alternative, Lucidchart is utilized in over 180 countries by millions of users, from sales managers mapping out target organizations to IT directors visualizing their network infrastructure.

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