Concept mapping as a promising method to bring practice into science

M.J.H. van Bon-Martens, L.A.M. van de Goor, J.C. Holsappel, T.J.M. Kuunders, M.A.M. Jacobs-van der Bruggen, J.H.M. te Brake, J.A.M. van Oers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Concept mapping is a method for developing a conceptual framework of a complex topic for use as a guide to evaluation or planning. In concept mapping, thoughts and ideas are represented in the form of a picture or map, the content of which is determined by a group of stakeholders. This study aimed to explore the suitability of this method as a tool to integrate practical knowledge with scientific knowledge in order to improve theory development as a sound basis for practical decision-making.
Following a short introduction to the method of concept mapping, five Dutch studies, serving different purposes and fields in public health, will be described. The aim of these studies was: to construct a theoretical framework for good regional public health reporting; to design an implementation strategy for a guideline for integral local health policy; to guide the evaluation of a local integral approach of overweight and obesity in youth; to guide the construction of a questionnaire to measure the quality of postdisaster psychosocial care; and to conceptualize an integral base for formulation of ambitions and targets for the new youth healthcare programme of a regional health service.
The studies showed that concept mapping is a way to integrate practical and scientific knowledge with careful selection of participants that represent the different perspectives. Theory development can be improved through concept mapping; not by formulating new theories, but by highlighting the key issues and defining perceived relationships between topics. In four of the five studies, the resulting concept map was received as a sound basis for practical decision-making.
Concept mapping is a valuable method for evidence-based public health policy, and a powerful instrument for facilitating dialogue, coherence and collaboration between researchers, practitioners, policy makers and the public. Development of public health theory was realized by a step-by-step approach, considering both scientific and practical knowledge. However, the external validity of the concept maps in place and time is of importance.
Keywords: Evidence-based public health, Concept mapping, Public health policy,
Public health practice
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)504-514
JournalPublic Health
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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