I’m actually a big fan of diagrams (maps, family trees, bar charts) but I’ve always found the standard concept map (like the one below from Wikipedia) a little confusing
This is one of those concept maps where all the arrows are labeled with the relationship. Someone asked a linguistics group if they felt that the arrows should be labeled or not, and I do say not, but maybe not for linguistic reasons.
Normally when I create a diagram, I don’t label relations per se, but just for a mini experiment, I redid a concept map in two versions, one my way and one like a classic concept map, labels and all. I noticed some things that made me understand why I don’t like to label arrows/lines.
- The big one is that I think that I (and most natural map readers) are trained to infer relationships from the connecting lines/arrows. Only the labels on the objects matter. The labels on the arrows are redundant.
- Not just redundant, but distracting because they take up space in the diagram and interfere with my ability to process the concept map as a whole architecture. This is important for a diagram like a family tree where you track lines to find your first cousin.
- Not just distracting, but conflicting. In the Wikipedia concept map (of what a concept map is), the arrows are the same, but the labels may differ. I am receiving conflicting input on whether the relationship is the same or different.
- I’ll also note that there is a conflict in classic concept maps on whether shapes change depending on object properties. Normally I assume that if a shape has the same format, it’s the same kind of object. But if labels are different, I can’t make that assumption. Do I have to infer from the text? and how?
P.S.: I did find an example with different shapes but arrow labels. I think the shape cues makes it much easier to understand what’s happening.
I have to say that not all concept maps have labels on their arrows
At least I am not alone on this one. I am curious if that person was able to complete the research on arrow labeling….
The link from D. Stong goes to a research paper describing the “rules” for making a concept map including the labels on the connections. It may be good theory, but I’m still not sure about the design aspect.