Cmap Tools Tutorial, Level I


Other concept mapping tutorials


Concepts are units of thought (ideas) that are our mental representations of entities, processes, phenomena and other things in the real world (or occasionally, an imaginary world). Concepts are generally believed to be produced by a process of generalization from observations of these realities. That is, we observe (or sometimes imagine) several examples of a reality (e.g. a chair, a car, a dog, a unicorn) and gradually form an idea of the pertinent characteristics that define the class that includes all of these things and only these things.


Concepts are generally described and differentiated using attributes and relations. Attributes are characteristics particular to the concept itself, and may include things such as the size or colour of the entities it represents. Relations describe how a concept (e.g. "chair") is linked to other concepts in the field. For example, a chair is a type of furniture, has as parts a seat and a back, and is used for sitting on. "Is a type of," "has as parts" and "is used for" all describe relations that help to define what a chair is: specific-generic, whole-part and entity-function relations. By describing these relations, we can determine what characteristics are required for something to be a chair, and how chairs are different from other furniture such as stools (since they have a seat but not a back), loveseats (since they have two seats, and not just one) and tables (since they are not used for sitting).


Concept maps (see example) provide a visual representation of key concepts in a subject field (represented by nodes in the concept map), as well as the relationships between them (represented by arcs in the concept map). The creation of concept systems (relatively simple concept maps, usually based on one or two kinds of relationships) is a key step in traditional, concept-based terminology work, helping terminologists to understand and organize concepts that need to be described in a specialized subject field. However, concept maps can also assist with a number of other tasks, including organizing thoughts in preparation for writing, taking notes on key points from readings or discussions, and presenting key ideas in presentations.


Concept mapping tools help you to quickly and easily develop concept maps, and also make it much easier to edit and adjust these as your knowledge of a given field evolves. They also often allow you to add labels, colours and other effects to help make your concept maps easier to understand.


I.     Introduction


I. Introduction


Cmap Tools is a concept mapping tool developed by the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC). It is free for you to download and use on your own computer, and it works on Windows, Mac and Linux. (For more details, see the terms of use on the Download page.) For more information about Cmap Tools, see the documentation and help files on the Cmap Tools site. (Click the icons that appear on the nodes of the concept map for more information.)




Next: II. Getting ready