Concept Mapping Institute

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

View an example of a concept mapping point map, cluster map, and pattern match graph.

Concept Mapping Institute Overview

In 2010, the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences (BCHS) established the BCHS Concept Mapping Institute, a designated concept mapping center of practice by the Concept Systems Centers of Practice (CS COP) Program. The  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.

Example Pitt Concept Mapping Institute Projects

  • Measurement and Intervention Development (video) 
    Concept mapping to inform local efforts to better understand the range of factors that influence children health and well-being and ability to thrive
  • Conceptual Framework Development
    Concept mapping as part of a stakeholder engaged and theory informed process for developing an assessment framework for the National Domestic Violence Hotline 
  • Issue Identification
    Concept mapping with UPMC area hospitals to identify their community's biggest health problems 

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


Director: Jessica G. Burke
Associate professor, Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences

Coordinator: Jessica R. Thompson
PhD candidate, Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences