Create a concept map

To find the most specific and current information for your assignment, you will need to use journal articles and other research.

Before you begin your search using La Trobe University Library databases, you need to develop a clear strategy.

A concept map helps you to define your research question and maintains your search logic.

Creating a concept map

  • Formulate a clear, focused research question
  • Deconstruct the question into key concepts
  • Compile a list of keywords for the concepts, including synonyms

What level of evidence is required for your question? This might require another column in your concept map for research design.

If you have a clinical question, PICO may help you to create your map (Population, Intervention or exposure, Comparative intervention, Outcome). Consider adding another column, Research design, to note which study type will give the highest level of evidence for the question.

PICOR concept map, showing the different concepts Population, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome and Research design across the top. These are linked with the Boolean operator AND. Blank spaces for keywords below the concepts are linked with OR.


For a qualitative question, PIER may help you to create your map (Population/Problem, Issue, Experience or view, Research design).

If neither PICO or PIER helps, break your topic down to concept one, concept two, etc.

Formulating your question

'Formulating your question' - used with permission from Cushing/Whitney Medical Library, Yale University