What are concept maps made up of?

Concept maps represent declarative or propositional knowledge. Concept maps are made up of propositions or two concepts linked by a word or phrase (e.g., complex systems have simple rules)

concept + linking word(s) + concept = complete unit of meaning

Novak and Gowin, 1984

  • Concepts: regularities in events and objects
  • Relationships: linking words between concepts
  • Hierarchies: Ordering concepts from superordinate to subordinate
  • Cross links: connections between different segments of the map
  • Examples: specific events or objects

Kinchin and Hay, 2000
Spoke—radial structure with all related aspects of topic directly linked to core concept but not directly linked with each other
Chain—linear sequence with each concept linked only to those immediately above and below. May have logical sequence but the implied hierarchical nature of many links is not valid.
Net—highly integrated and hierarchical network


  • Novak, JD & Gowin DB. (1984). Learning how to Learn. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Kinchin, IM, & Hay. (2000). ‘How a qualitative approach to concept map analysis can be used to aid learning by illustrating patterns of conceptual development.’ Educational Research Vol. 42 No. 1, Spring, 2000, pgs. 43-57.