This week some of my fellow grad students and I participated in a workshop to learn a new tool to organize and communicate our research: Concept Mapping. Some folks from the Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence (COSEE) of University of Maine came to the MSC to help us learn to use this exciting resource.I had used concept maps before, but only in basic ways, maybe in elementary or middle school to map out a short essay before writing it. Therefore, before the workshop, I wasn’t really sure how I could use a concept map effectively in my own research. The structure of the workshop was a bit different that I was expecting. While I thought we would be constructing concept maps of our own research projects, we actually worked with faculty members to construct concept maps of their research. In addition they paired us with faculty members whose research we might not be familiar with, so I was working with Dr. Rebecca Rosengaus, who studies the ecology and evolution of social insects: bees, ants and termites to name a few. The particular research question we were mapping was: How do social insects cope with disease? While it was not what I expected, it was actually really useful to apply the tool to someone else’s research. In addition to learning cool facts about disease resistance in social insects it was also helpful to be forced to think about how to organize and present research that I was totally unfamiliar with. Now I feel more confident about creating and using concept maps in my own research. I think it is easy to fall into a pattern of how I perceive and present my own research, and concept mapping might be a great tool to discover new ways of looking at my project that had never occurred to me. I am excited to create maps to help me organize my project for writing my thesis and also to provide a quick and attractive tool to share my research with others.
The CLIMB concept mapping software is super easy and FREE to use for anyone. Check it out and make a concept map of your own!