A concept map is a cluster diagram that illustrates how abstract ideas are related. This type of graphical visualization tool typically uses circles or boxes to represent concepts and connecting lines to map relationships. Concept maps are often created to help users organize their thinking, brainstorm new ways to connect concepts and share information, helping viewers to understand how one concept relates to other concepts.
When used as a visual analtyics tool, concept maps are often presented in a hierarchical fashion, with more general concepts toward the top and more specific subtopics below. Hierarchical structures are often used for brainstorming and typically illustrate a problem within a specific context; therefore, having a focus question can help the map’s creator specify the problem or issue to be addressed and make it easier to identify relevant concepts.
Some complex concept maps also include sidebars with relevant, instructional information and include cross-links to show relationships between different parts of the map.