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Guides

Rhetoric: Mapping your Topic

Research Mindset Tip

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Successful searches for information require you to be creative and flexible. The words you use to describe your topic may be different than the words used by the person who created the information you need to find. Challenge yourself (and give yourself enough time) to search, read, discover new terms, and then search again. Research is an iterative process!

Tools - Concept mapping

You may want to experiment with online tools to help you with concept mapping. Each of these tools has a free online version that can work with Google Drive: 

Activity - Mapping your topic

Creating a concept map can help you begin to think about your topic and create a search strategy. As you begin a project, your topic may evolve, but you need to identify what you know about it and what questions you have. Concept maps include the key concepts associated with your topic, alternative terminology for those concepts, and the relationships between the various aspects of your topic.

To create a concept map:

  1. Write down your topic or question.
  2. Circle the main concepts.
  3. For each concept, list keywords, such as synonyms, examples, and other ways of describing the concept.

Feeling stuck? Here are some questions to get you going:

  • Are there other ways to describe the concept?
  • What is the opposite of the word or concept?
  • Is there a genre/overarching concept?
  • Can you think of a more specific example?
  • Can you think of who cares about the topic? Those names or organizations can be used as search terms, too!

Write down any questions you come up with during the process. Those questions may help develop a more precise topic, or determine different avenues of inquiry around the topic. 

By doing this activity, you have just created a whole list of keywords that can now be used to do a much richer and more varied search of the research databases. This means better results to work with! Good job, you!