Application of literature-enhanced concept mapping to curriculum design: A case study in the domain of scholarly communication



As a field of study, information and library science (ILS) maintains emphases on a number of complex, overarching domains—for example, knowledge representation and organization; information systems and retrieval; individual and organizational behavior; and information creation, evaluation, dissemination and use—each of which has a number of dimensions and inter-relationships. The pluralistic nature of the subject matter in ILS presents a set of unique challenges to graduate and undergraduate education in this field:

  • How are educators and students able to visualize the field as a whole, understanding the depth and nuance of particular themes and the relationships between these themes?

  • In the context of a single course, how can a coherent and cumulative sequence of class sessions and assignments be derived to satisfy particular student learning outcomes?

  • In the context of complete curriculum, how can educators and students recognize and assemble a meaningful set of topics and experiences that might weave throughout multiple courses?

This poster proposes a means of addressing these challenges through the development of enhanced concept maps, considering their potential roles as boundary objects (cf. Star & Griesemer, 1989) among ILS educators and students. As an example of this approach, this poster presents an enhanced concept map for the domain of Scholarly Communication and a particular instance of student learning outcomes, topics, and assignments that can be derived from this kind of representation.

Scholarly Communication

Borgman (1990) defines scholarly communication as “the study of how scholars in any field use and disseminate information through formal and informal channels” (p. 13). In subsequent chapters, Borgman focuses on bibliometric studies, organized by three theoretical variables: “producers of the communication, artifacts of communication, and communication concepts” (p. 15). This definition and organization continue to evolve in Borgman's (2007) Scholarship in the Digital Age as there are many new complexities in this field. These complexities can be challenging for instructors of courses on scholarly communication trying to make connections between various topics including but not limited to: citation analysis, copyright, communities of practice, the nature of authorship, open access publishing, institutional repositories, and interdisciplinarity.

Concept mapping

Concept mapping was developed as a tool to “represent meaningful relationships between concepts in the form of propositions” (Novak & Gowin, 1984, p. 15). It the most simple manifestation, a concept map could contain as few as two concepts connected by the term or action that provides a valid proposition between the two (in these cases, the connector could be as simple as “is”—for example [grass]-is→[green]). However, concept mapping can also be used to represent very complicated issues, by providing a visual representation of the most salient concepts within a domain and identifying the key connections between those concepts.

Concept mapping has been used extensively for teaching, learning, and evaluation in both secondary and higher education. Todd and Kirk (1995), for example, describe one way in which concept mapping was used as part of a learning exercise for students in information science. In the majority of the cases, concept mapping has been used in the form of an assignment, given to students to assess their ability to connect and synthesize material from a unit or book. Weaknesses in the student's concept map allow the instructor to identify themes and connections that need to be revisited. Concept mapping has also been used for curriculum planning in areas such as veterinary education (Edmondson, 1995), women's health education (Hoffman, Trott, & Neely, 2002), digital signal processing (Marin, et al., 2006), Electronic Engineering (Toral, et al., 2007) and HIV/STD prevention (Mpofu, et al., 2008). The technique has been found to help elucidate the structure of complicated courses and disciplines and has been noted to be particularly useful for interdisciplinary courses and disciplines (Edmondson, 1995).


This work extends the technique of concept mapping by adding reference indicators between each concept. This provide the concept map with enhanced usefulness as a tool for course or curriculum design—not only will the instructor be able to quickly identify salient concepts and relationships related to a topic, the map will also provide literature to support those connections. Figure 1 presents an example of a concept map enhanced with references.

Figure 1.

Example of a concept map enhanced with references

The work presented in this poster is derived from a four-phase exploratory study. In the first phase, potential key concepts were gathered. This was done through a review of the literature in the field and by ranking the common descriptors associated with “scholarly communication” in DIALOG (using SSCI, SCI, and H&ACI). This process generated more than 200 words. In the second phase, card sorting was used to group the topics by general area, to identify qualitatively similar terms, and to eliminate some of overly broad concepts (e.g., “scholarly communication” itself). An initial attempt was then made to organize these groups into a matrix: the titles of this matrix attempted to map the linear progression of scholarly communication: (1) personal work practice; (2) social work practice; (3) publication/dissemination; (4) reception/evaluation; and (5) curation/preservation. In compiling the matrix, the high degree of thematic overlap in this area of research suggested that a concept map might be more appropriate for visualizations. Therefore, the third phase of this study sought to establish connections between all salient concepts in the form of a concept map. In order to enhance the map's usability for pedagogy, the final phase of the study provides references to the literature that support each concept-relationship-concept structure within the mapping.

The final product of this investigation provides an example of a how this model can be used for the creation of graduate and undergraduate courses on scholarly communication. Instructors can examine ways in which the concepts may or may not overlap concepts taught in other areas of the curriculum and chose to emphasize or de-emphasize those concepts based on their particular research and teaching specialties within the field. In addition to assisting with curriculum development, the model can also be presented to students of the created course, to provide them with an orientation of the scope of study and the existing connections within the field. In addition to detailing the process of generating the concept map, this poster provides sample student learning outcomes and course structure that were derived using the concept map as well as considering the degree to which this approach harmonizes with other models of instructional design (cf. Wulff, 2005).