Types of Maps

The samples below show some of the kinds of maps students might created in prewriting for various kinds of assignments. Some of the map ideas were provided by Kay Hawes at the University of Memphis, who has put together an interesting set of possible kinds of concept maps at http://www.people.memphis.edu/~kshawes/cogmap/. Using the types of maps she lists plus some of my own, here are some kinds of maps which students might create:

Problem-Solution Map


A fairly straightforward map is a problem-solution map. In this, students have a problem statement, definition, causes, and effects, leading to a possible solution.

When you plan a prewriting activity in which you want students to write a problem-solution essay, you could define the terms to be used or the structure for the map. Depending on your goals, you'll provide more or less structure.

Process Development Map

A more involved assignment asks students to create a process for accomplishing a task. There is a beginning and an end, with multiple steps and alternatives at each step. One possible way of structuring this activity would be to provide a blank map structure and ask students to list the steps and alternatives, with results shown by adding text to the links.

Persuasive Argument

Here is a fairly common type of theme for students, in which they present a persuasive argument. The example shown is highly structured, but your assignment might potentially not be. Note that this type of map translates very easily to a word processing document. Using Inspiration, you can have students fill in the map, then switch to outline view (in the view menu) to export the resulting outline to their word processing program.


Here, a much more free-form map might ask students to think about the characteristics of something—say, spaghetti and meatballs. Providing the balloons makes sure that students cover all the ground, but you may want to let them work completely from a blank slate in pre-writing for a descriptive essay.

Research Topic

A more research-y take on description asks students to research a topic, adding to the map in who, what, when, where, why, how fashion leading toward the significance of a topic.

Narrative Story Line

A narrative story line might look like this, with a setting, set of characters, problem, set of alternative attempts to solve the problem, and a resolution. The map shown is a traditional setting, cast of characters, problem, attempts at solutions, and finally, resolution.


Copyright 1999, Jon Margerum-Leys and The University of Michigan.