A literature review of open-ended concept maps as a research instrument to study knowledge and learning

In educational, social or organizational studies, open-ended concept maps are used as an instrument to collect data about and analyze individuals’ conceptual knowledge. Open-ended concept map studies devoted to knowledge and learning apply a variety of methods of analysis. This literature review systematically summarizes the various ways in which open-ended concept maps have been applied in previous studies of knowledge and learning.

This paper describes three major aspects of these studies: what methods of analysis were used, what concept map characteristics were considered, and what conclusions about individuals’ knowledge or understanding were drawn. Twenty-five studies that used open-ended concept maps as a research instrument were found eligible for inclusion. In addition, the paper examines associations between the three aspects of the studies and provides guidelines for methodological coherence in the process of such analysis. This review underscores the importance of expatiating on choices made concerning these aspects. The transparency provided by this method of working will contribute to the imitable application of open-ended concept maps as a research tool and foster more informed choices in future open-ended concept map studies.”