Topic Maps

 Incorporated contributions
Morato (11/2009)
 Usage domain
Praxis, e-learning, Technical communication
Schéma conceptuel
 German Begriffslandkarte

[Understandable but with some grammatical missteps]


1. Standards related to Concept Maps
2. Related proposals
3. Concept map editors

A concept map is a graphic resource to represent the knowledge within a specific context. Originally, it is a learning resource to improve understanding about a process, subject or topic (Novak). Concept maps have a set of labeled nodes, linked among them. These links might be labeled, to improve the understanding of the graph.  Neither, the graphical representation nor the types of relationships are standardized.

1. Standards related to Concept Maps

Topic Maps: The standard Topic Map (ISO 13250:2003) is a scheme to formalize the representation of concepts and relationships of a domain. Concepts (called “topics”) are related (by “associations”), and referenced to information resources (“occurrences”). TopicMaps is part of the Semantic Web. These maps are expressed in XML to improve intereroperability. Despite the name, graphic representation is not the main concern of this standard.

UML and Entity Relationships Diagrams: UML stands for Unified Modeling Language, together with Entity Relationship Diagrams, it is the most popular graphical resource in Software Engineering. Their combined goal is to improve the communication between non technical clients and software developers. There are several types of diagrams: 1) Structural Diagrams: Class diagrams, components diagrams, object diagrams, deployment diagrams, and package diagrams. 2) Behavior information is represented by: activity diagrams, state diagrams; 3) Interaction Diagrams are represented by sequence diagrams. UML is supported by the Object Management Group (OMG). When compared with ontologies, a particular strength is that it is possible to specify activities and processes in a way that is understood by both software developers and their clients.

2. Related Proposals

Semantic Networks: This is a network showing semantic relationships. The main difference from concept maps is the origin. Concept maps were developed with a pedagogical goal, emphasizing graphical understanding; semantic networks had their oringins in computer engineering and artificial intelligence, stressing process like inference and codification. So the edges of semantic networks are usually labeled with weights. These weights express the closeness between the nodes.

Mind Maps or memories: This  is a type of concept map centered on a single node/concept. Related concepts or ideas are linked with this central node, in a shape similar to a star (radial hierarchies or tree structures). Brain storming sessions usually express the outputs with mind maps.

Social Networks: This is a type of semantic network, where the nodes are individuals or organizations. The Erdős number (also known as the Bacon number) is one of its metrics. This number computes the coauthorship distance between the mathematician Erdős and another author. Other measures are centrality and cohesion.

Web Concept Navigation: Navigation by web links is one of the most important developments of concept maps. This topic is taken into account when planning the site architecture and is quite close to the Topic Maps Standard.

3. Concept maps editors

Most of these editors enable the linking of several graphic resources (images, emoticons, shapes, …).

  • DigiDocMap: free tool developed by Pompeu Fabra University
  • CMapTools: developed by the Institute for Human and machine cognition (University of West Florida). It has functionalities to merge concept maps and to export to the Topic Maps standard.
  • Mindman: Allows simultaneous access for several users to the same map.
  • Inspiration


  • DigiDoc Map (Online) <> [Consulted: 1/9/2009]
  • CMapTools (Online) <> [Consulted: 1/9/2009]
  • Mindman (Online) <> [Consulted: 1/9/2009]
  • Inspiration (Online) < index.cfm> [Consulted: 1/9/2009]
  • ALLAN, M.; QUILLIAN, M.R.  (1969). "Retrieval time from semantic memory". Journal of verbal learning and verbal behavior Vol. 8, n. 2, pp. 240–248
  • CAÑAS, A.J.; KENNETH, M.F.; COFFEY, J., et al. (2000). "Herramientas Para Construir y Compartir Modelos de Conocimiento Basados en Mapas Conceptuales". Revista De Informática Educativa, Vol. 13, n. 2, 2000, pp. 145-158. 
  • JACOBSON, I.; BOOCH, G.; RUMBAGH, J. (1998). The Unified Software Development Process. Addison Wesley Longman.
  • MOREIRO, J.A.; SANCHEZ-CUADRADO, S.; MORATO, J.  (2003). "Panorámica y tendencias en Topic Maps"., 2003, nº 1.
  • NOVAK, J.D.; GOWIN, D.B. (1988). Aprendiendo a aprender. Martinez Roca: Barcelona. (Online) < k-Gowin_Unidad_1.doc>  [Consulted: 1/1/2009]. 
Jorge Morato (1/11/2009)
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Incorporated entries
Jorge Morato (1/11/2009)
[It corresponds with the first version of the article, which is now showed in the left column.]