Directory Calendar News Careers Alumni Giving

Concept Mapping Overview

Concept mapping is a participatory, mixed method research approach that yields a conceptual framework for how a group views a particular topic or aspect of a topic. A specific strength of the community health research method is that participants actively contribute to the research process through the generation of data, ensuring the final outcome is representative of their perspectives versus that of the researcher. Concept mapping has been used in public health to study issues such as intimate partner violence, birth outcomes, asthma, general community health, and barriers to breast cancer screening and treatment.  It is a particularly appropriate method for gaining insights into how communities view and prioritize health topics.

Six Steps to Concept Mapping

  • Preparation
    • Outline research goals
    • Determine participant recruitment process
  • Generation
    • Brainstorming and idea generation around focal question
  • Structuring
    • Sorting and rating the brainstormed items
  • Representation
    • Run multi-level analysis to create concept maps
  • Interpretation
    • Group discussions to understand meaning of maps
  • Utilization
    • How findings can be used to inform research goals
    • Policy implications
    • Interventions
Click here to view an example concept mapping point map, cluster map, and pattern match graph.

Concept Mapping Institute Overview

The University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences (BCHS) recently established the BCHS Concept Mapping Institute and became a designated concept mapping center of practice by the Concept Systems Centers of Practice (CS COP) Program. The BCHS Concept Mapping Institute is directed by Jessica Burke and has affiliated partners who are using the method in their own community health research.

The institute...

  • provides access to the concept mapping project license at discounted licensing rates
  • provides technical support for concept mapping research
  • provides basic and advanced trainings for those interested in using the method

Project license and technical support options are designed to fit the needs of each project. Each project requires the purchase of a license in order to use the software and a costs vary based on the size and scope of each project.

Concept Mapping Examples

  • Neighborhoods, Pregnancy, and Birth: Explored perspectives from community-based doulas and mothers
  • Community Mobilization: Used concept mapping to foster community mobilization related to health and neighborhood safety
  • Childhood Asthma: Examined the impact of social, psychosocial and contextual influences upon asthma
  • Community Health Needs Assessment for UPMC: Asked 13 area hospitals to identify their community's biggest health problems
  • Trust in Research: Listed factors that go into the development of trust from a community, health provider and academic perspective

Additional Resources
Overview Paper by Jessica G. Burke, et al: An Introduction to Concept Mapping as a Participatory Public Health Research Method
Concept Systems, Inc. Web site:
Pricing Information: Pricing Guide

Contact Us
If you have any questions about using concept mapping as a research method, or are interested obtaining more information about the Institute and associated resources, contact Dr. Jessica G. Burke at or call 412-624-3610.


Jessica G. Burke, PhD, MHS

Associate Professor
University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health, Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences


Jessica R. Thompson, MEd, PhD Candidate

University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health, Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences


© 2018 by University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health

Login  |  Sitemap