What is Concept Map and How to Create One?

Have you faced trouble lately while making sense of your ideas after a brain dumping session?

Say yes, and you might need a concept map maker!

Whether you are an aspiring student or a business owner, a concept map can help you. The reason is that ideas keep flowing on one’s head, and then it becomes essential to capture them and interpret meaningful information out of it to leverage it further.

While many of you have a good habit of capturing your ideas in journals, just accumulating them won’t help. You need to correlate things and carve information that makes sense to an idea or concept which can be processed more to add value in your studies or business.

Sounds confusing?

Let me simplify it by giving you an example.

If you know the programming languages C and C++, it becomes a bit easier to learn Java.


If you have experience driving your car in hilly stations, then it becomes easier to drive in other plain terrains.

What’s the reason behind it?

Because of your previous experiences, be it driving, or programming language paves the way for subsequent things. When a new knowledge integrates and connects with existing knowledge, the new one becomes easy to grasp and remember.

A concept map works in a similar way.

Let’s dig deeper into the science of concept mapping and understand everything about it.

What is the concept map?

A concept map is a diagram or visual representation and organization of knowledge. The diagram is presented in a 2D paper from the top and extends towards the bottom. The core concepts are organized at the top with keywords while its associated ideas lay below in boxes or bubbles and are connected to the central concept via connectors.

A concept map follows a hierarchical structure where the relationship between different ideas are articulated through linking phrases, explaining how the ideas are related to each other through short phrases.

The method of visualizing the relationships between several concepts is referred to as concept mapping.

This graphical tool is a gem for students as well as professionals, including engineers, instructional designers, technical writers, entrepreneurs, and more.

History of Concept Maps

The credit for developing concept maps goes to Joseph D. Novak, a research scientist and an American Educator, and his team in the 70s at Cornell University.

Concept maps emerged as the outcome of their research while understanding the way students grasp basic scientific concepts. In their study, they found that only the interview transcript in detailed formats was not enough for students to understand various science concepts.

Hence, they needed a better way of presenting things, which eventually led them to develop the Concept Map in the year 1972.

Why should you create and use concept maps?

Concept maps explain the way thoughts relate to one another, which could be a great learning tool for anyone. The maps can help you connect dots between previously earned knowledge and newer concepts in order to discover fresh relationships.

The hierarchical structure in which the ideas are arranged in a cascading manner can be a potential learning approach. It could help you identify the places where your thoughts fit into the bigger picture and to devise newer concepts during the process.

In general, you can use concept maps to:

  • Brainstorm thoughts
  • Structure your thoughts and arrange them properly to carve out meaningful information
  • Establish a relationship between different ideas that make sense
  • Showcase sub-divisions of an idea
  • Summarize and note taking key concepts
  • Create a brand new concept
  • Visualize an underlying concept
  • Find a solution to a problem in a creative style.
  • Introduce a new topic and evaluate previous knowledge
  • Learning assessment
  • Highlight the difference and/or similarity between two concepts

Are Concept maps the same as Mind Maps?

Somewhere on the internet, you got to know about concept mapping and found it could help you big time. Suddenly, the next article you see talks about mind mapping or topic maps.

Now, I bet you must be confused!

And you have all the rights to be because it really seems confusing at first.

But here’s the thing – they are different.

Let’s find out how!

Concept map

  • It represents a network of several interconnected concepts
  • Seems more on the logical side
  • Great for mapping one’s knowledge and analyzing the content gap
  • Nodes can have many-to-many relationships
  • Easy to verify with connection phrases
  • Can be challenging to modify in case it has over 20 nodes
  • Emphasizes both the topics and their connections
  • Topics could be cross-linked
  • Statement proposition; means every two nodes that are connected with linking phrases forms a particular sentence

Mind Map

  • It is a tree chart where you can organize information
  • Seems to provide more flexibility
  • Useful for brainstorming, quick note-taking, and creating ideas
  • Nodes have simple, one-to-one relationships generally
  • Non-verifiable
  • Modification is easy even with larger nodes
  • Focuses more on the topic itself
  • No cross-linking
  • No statement proposition

How can a concept map help you organize your thoughts?

Concept maps extend benefits to both presenters as well as those who learn new information. You can illustrate any sort of system like proposing a fresh plan, training students, and more.

Look at the different ways a concept map can help you:

Quick interpretation

You can grasp ideas quicker by looking at a concept map as compared to just reading it in a book or article. It’s because your brain processes information faster when it is presented in a visual format with highlighted key points and brevity.

Helps in preparing presentations

You can create a concept map and organize ideas in a concise and logical format to showcase in your presentations. It will cast a deeper impact on the listeners.

Efficient evaluation of knowledge

Instead of opting for a traditional set of questions or multiple-choice assessments, educators can leverage concept maps to evaluate the knowledge of students on a specific topic.

Explains an idea hierarchy

You can showcase the relationship between different components in many ways. The best thing is that the map follows a hierarchical structure where you can read data from the top with particular information and how it progresses and interconnects with smaller details as you go down the lane.

Boosts team collaboration

When you can represent your ideas in a more comprehensive way through a concept map, people tend to understand it more. Hence, it becomes easier for them to collaborate easily on the plan.

Visual representations stimulate brain activity. And a concept map is all about representing ideas visually in a creative way. Hence, it can develop analytical skills as well as higher-order thinking skills. Besides, it also facilitates information processing and recall.

How to draw a concept map?

Choose your preferred drawing medium

You have two options; either you can draw the map on a whiteboard or 2D paper using a pen or a software-based tool.

Using the software is comparatively easy to create, modify, and fine-tune the diagram. Besides, you can save any number of designs you want on the web itself and come back later for edits.

Determine the central concept

Identify what the reason behind creating your concept map is. Try thinking about a problematic question that needs to be solved. Come up with a question in mind which you want to solve using the concept map.

Based on the question, extract a central concept and write it on the top.

List out all the related ideas that may help solve the problem. Rank them based on how specific or generic they are.

Describe those sub-concepts in brief, possibly around 1-2 words per concept.

Arrange elements and add linking phrases

Order sub-concepts based on hierarchy. Keep the most generic ones at the top under the main concept. Similarly, keep the specific ideas at the bottom. Connect the ideas with lines and provide a linking phrase for each line, explaining the relationship between the nodes.

Check the final look

Examine every element, whether they are located at the correct places. Check whether the linking phrases make sense or not. Find out whether the arrangement is good or not. If not, you can find better positions to locate them.

Fine-tune everything, and you have done with drawing a concept map!

Now, without any more delay, let’s find out some online platforms to create a concept map so you can save your significant time and reap other benefits associated.


Are you on a quest to understand a new concept?

Do you want to find out the relationship between complex ideas?

Whatever be the use case, Miro can help you create a wonderful concept map!

Save your time by using built-in templates of Miro instead of drawing everything from scratch. Invite teams for collaboration on the concept map as Miro lets you engage remote and co-located teams through a virtual whiteboard, which involves no constraints.

You get templates like:

  • Lean Canvas where you can outline important points regarding your business
  • Market segmentation matrix to identify key opportunities for growth
  • RACI Matrix to track responsibility while ensuring meaningful conversations
  • 5-Whys template to figure root cause of an issue
  • Strategy diamond template for a robust business strategy


Accelerate towards innovation by creating new concepts with Lucidchart.

For learning and teaching, it helps you visualize relations between ideas, notes, or events to plan their curriculum, outline projects, and create guides. Its formatting options are customizable, which provides control over your map and helps you build lessons and assessments to support learning.

For businesses, use Lucidchart’s concept map generator to create ideas that employees from different departments can understand easily, including non-techies. Use it to simplify existing relationships, find contradictions and gaps, promote creative understanding and problem-solving, and more to generate outcomes.

Their templates are designed to illustrate thoughts clearly and quickly. You can arrange shapes and elements by dragging and dropping them while connecting the main topic and other subtopics. Organize ideas with multiple colors to make it more understandable.

You can customize every aspect of the map, including layout modification before printing, adding screenshots and images for a specific message, and more. Lucidchart features in-editor chatting and real-time updates to build ideas suggested by other contributors.

Lucidchart enables Google Workspace integrations so you can maintain and access your map online.


Brainstorming doesn’t have to be boring!

Gather eye-balls by creating beautiful concept maps with Edraw.

Get amazed at the countless templates, shapes, icons, and symbols that it offers. Just choose the elements you want to get started and customize them.

All the templates that it offers are completely customizable, printable, and editable. Some of the templates include Venn style, marketing, cycle, colorful, rectangle, thinking maps, and more.

You can summarize and organize fragmented knowledge in a particular order using the concept map builder. Facilitate better communication between two concepts with attractive connectors and linking texts. The powerful customizability and intuitive interface of Edraw Max let you craft high-quality maps.

If you love working on MS Office, I bet you would like Edraw Max in terms of usability and interface. It is user-friendly with a drag and drop feature.

As it has cloud storage and cloud-based collaboration option, you can work with teams from anywhere, anytime, and using any device. Share your work on social media or export the files in different file formats like PDF, Microsoft PowerPoint, and different image formats.


Do you want to craft a concept map that can explain complex topics to your team?

If yes, Visme can help you do that in minutes.

Its extensive range of tools helps you create designs from scratch by including shapes, connecting lines, arranging them all around your canvas, so it conveys your messages properly.

Visme has charming options for customization, which helps you change the look of everything inside your drawing. You can minimize or enlarge the shapes, keeping the connected lines intact. Get playful with colors to highlight things, change texts and fonts, and animate the map using the “Actions” tab, which you can find in the top right corner.

Visme has pre-made templates, lots of images and icons, and a wide range of design elements. You can download your maps in PDF or image files. Generate a shareable link or embed them on a web page. Incorporate graphs and charts, and Visualize your figures and statistics using their customizable data widgets.


The simplicity of Creately makes it easy to visualize your concepts. It has already helped 4+ million people and thousands of teams. With a little bit of effort, you can organize the elements and visualize them.

Drawing even a highly complex concept map is effortless, using the advanced features of Creately. It offers smart shapes, connectors, built-in styling options, image imports, and more. Share your drawings with your team to receive instant feedback.

Creately has thousands of high-quality templates for a variety of imaginable scenarios for marketing, IT, software, HR, and education teams.  Whether you use macOS, Windows, Linux, or Android, you can use Creately with ease. It also comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can try it without the fear of losing your money.


The concept map maker by SmartDraw allows you to visualize concepts without interrupting one’s creative flow. As soon as you come up with an idea, just draw a shape to the concept map. Keep adding ideas as and when it comes because the concept map is there to edit it anytime.

SmartDraw has intelligent formatting options to give your map a professional look. Get started with simple commands, add or delete an idea, realign, and arrange the shapes easily. You get professional themes like Greyscale, Everest, Calico, etc. where you can apply colors, fonts, and gradients to work as a professional designer.

Insert the maps in your reports; integrate them with tools like Microsoft Office, Google Workspace, Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, JIRA, and more. You can even connect the maps to Trello and run meetings to discuss more on the ideas. Convert the maps into Gantt charts instantly with one click.

All the changes you make on one map automatically reflects on the other. You have the option to share your files by emailing non-users of SmartDraw with a link.

Zen Mind Map

Zen Mind Map is an easy-to-use and simple tool for generating concept maps. Its workspace involves no distractions as it avoids sidebars and floating icons.

The user-friendly and minimalist interface of Zen makes it faster and easier to design thoughtful maps. They also have removed unnecessary features cluttering up and making it bulky. Make concept maps memorable and interesting by using emojis.

You have the option to download the PDF file. But, you can also publish a document live where the changes made can be reflected automatically. Different templates included are for business planning, OKR management, problem-solving, essay planning, assigning tasks, and marketing.


Structure information about a certain topic by drawing a concept map comprehensively in Mindomo. Give a wider wing to your imagination by personalizing and customizing your map to its fullest.

Draw everything from scratch or use any of their templates, including risk management, math divisions, fishbone diagram, and more. You can edit elements like arrows and their color, shape, pattern, and position.

The high-quality platform allows you to collaborate with your mean members in real-time to improve efficiency and conserve time. Changes reflect instantly, and you can also track all the changes made using the “Playback history”.

Mindomo also enables direct chats, so you don’t have to waste time or lose focus on switching difficult applications. It has multiple options to share maps:

  • With specific people
  • Only people with whom you have shared the link to view
  • Only people with whom you have shared the link to edit
  • Public sharing

If you want, you can convey a concept map into other forms of diagrams like Gantt charts, mind maps, and outlines.

Mindomo supports integration with Google Classroom, Canvas, Schoology, Blackboard, and more.

Visual Paradigm Online

Visual Paradigm Online or VP Online comes with a simple tool with a drag-and-drop editor to help you build stunning concept maps in minutes. As a result of its intuitiveness, you don’t have to waste time learning the software; instead, all the attention goes to designing.

Start creating maps by editing its fully customizable and free templates for social networking, data analyzing, climate change, course content, and more. It provides 1700+ templates like these, and all are of high quality.


Have no design experience, yet there’s a need to design concept maps?

No worries!

Try the free concept mapping software by DesignCap to create awesome designs. It has a wide range of map examples from nursing, science, biology, cellular respiration, and a lot more.

All you need to do is choose just one template that can meet your requirements and start exploring. DesignCap offers thousands of available resources like graphics, design elements, and colors, along with powerful editing capabilities and fonts.


Stemic is a web application for creating concept maps allowing the user to put his ideas on a digital whiteboard to schematize situations, issues, or problems in the form of a graph.

The free version allows to take notes, organize ideas, connect them to each other by drawing links like on a classical mind map.

But Stemic is not just a brainstorming tool!

Stemic pushes the limits of the mindmap by allowing users to describe the objects they manipulate, to categorize them, to define the nature and direction of the links, etc … Thus it helps the user to build analysis, to model his knowledge, to structure his thought.

The interface is minimal, the design is refined in order to highlight user analyzes. The interactions, fluid and intuitive, have been designed to facilitate data manipulation and support thinking.

Stemic has also a Pro offer for users wishing to benefit from the most advanced features of the application including collaborative editing of concept maps, copy of a shared map, use of hyperlinks, configurable export (framing, theme, title, and legend) of maps.


It looks like stellar designing is the synonym for Canva!

I mean, this website has so much potential for designing a variety of things, from marketing and business materials to social media and personal checklists.

A concept map is one of them.

Canva is where you get superior flexibility and ease of drawing brilliant concept maps for brainstorming, organizing your ideas, and solving complex issues. They offer 20+ professional graphs for you to choose along with superbly designed templates and multiple pre-designed layouts to get started quickly.

Mix things up through millions of illustrations, images, vectors, or icons to represent your ideas. Customize the templates by changing colors, text, or elements to make it captivating. Canva offers 100s of free fonts to convey your brand identity, style, and purpose.

Designer or not, it doesn’t matter!

Use the drag and drop editor to arrange things. Embed a concept map in your presentations and reports without being fussy. You can visualize data seamlessly through the intuitive interface of Canva, without having to learn complex software.

Collaborate with your teams to get new angles or ideas on your concept by sharing an editable copy of the design where they can add comments or perform edits from anywhere on the globe. After you are done with the designing part, you can save it and then download, publish, or share your beautiful and high-resolution maps.


Organized ideas make it simpler for learners or even businessmen to grasp a concept by breaking it in several parts. Leverage an efficient concept mapping tool to get started with understanding your topics more closely and use the knowledge in your further learning or business efforts.

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