Framing Experience: Concept Maps, Mind Maps, and Data Collection in Qualitative Research

  • Johannes Phillip Wheeldon George Mason University
  • Jacqueline Faubert Simon Fraser University


Traditionally, qualitative data collection has focused on observation, interviews, and document or artifact review. Building on earlier work on concept mapping in the social sciences, the authors describe its use in an exploratory pilot study on the perceptions of four Canadians who worked abroad on a criminal justice reform project. Drawing on this study, the authors argue that traditional definitions of concept mapping should be expanded to include more flexible approaches to the collection of graphic representations of experience. In this way, user-generated maps can assist participants to better frame their experience and can help qualitative researchers in the design and development of additional data collection strategies. Whether one calls these data collection tools concept maps or mind maps, for a generation of visually oriented social science researchers they offer a graphic and participant-centric means to ground data within theory.

Author Biography

Johannes Phillip Wheeldon, George Mason University
Internship Instructor, Administration of Justice