Concept mapping as a promising method to bring practice into science

Objective: 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.
Method: 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.
Results: 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.

M.J.H. van Bon-Martens, 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 | 2014
Public health : the journal of the Society of Community Medicine, ISSN 0033-3506 | 128 | 6 | juni | 504-514