In this resource guide you will find basic information about Group Concept Mapping (GCM), in an easy to use format. We also provide links to external resources to expand on the information provided in this guide.
This information will help researchers:
Please click on items in the left hand menu to review the information and links in that category.
Group Concept Mapping (GCM) is a reliable method and tool for participatory research. For nearly 30 years, GCM’s mixed methods tools and approaches have helped researchers and organizations to articulate issues, solve problems, and develop results that support measurable progress. GCM’s structured yet flexible method values the voice of those related to the issue, and captures and organizes the ideas of a group on any topic of interest and represents those ideas visually in a series of interrelated maps. It combines qualitative data collection approaches with quantitative analysis processes and tools.
GCM seeks and values the voices of stakeholders and applies rigorous analytics to opinions, beliefs and values to yield a visual framework. The results are a mirror to the stakeholders’ perceptions and values and support the organization’s priorities results that are relevant and immediately usable.
A brief introduction to the method can be found on Wikipedia.
Once you decide to learn more about Group Concept Mapping, a good place to begin is with any of the four primary texts.
The main text on the method and how to apply it is:
To understand the components necessary for a high-quality GCM study, review:
Rosas, S. R. & Kane, M. (2012). Quality and rigor of the concept mapping
methodology: A pooled study analysis. Evaluation Program Planning,
35(2), 236-245. doi: 10.1016/j.evalprogplan.2011.10.003.
An early primary text is:
Trochim, W. (1989). An introduction to concept mapping for evaluation and
planning. Evaluation and Program Planning, 12(1), 1-16.
For an updated methodology explanation and examples of GCM’s application in very different environments, see:
Researchers use GCM to:
As a flexible but structured process, GCM helps examine any content area or problem where the knowledge and opinions of stakeholders are paramount to the research.
Since GCM is scalable, a small group or a very large global organization can use GCM. Although its roots are in face to face group work, for almost 20 years GCM’s use in large, distributed communities is the norm; with GCM web-based platform GroupWisdom.tech™, the reach is expanded nationally or internationally.
Inclusively valuing the voices of those affected by, or knowledgeable about, an issue is a key tenet of GCM, and participants can be involved in many different ways. Democratizing participation helps to foster good results, ready adoption and buy-in.
GCM converts the ideas and opinions of people to data, and produces visual outputs—concept maps, pattern matches and reports that display the group’s thinking on the issue at hand.
There are 6 steps to Group Concept Mapping which are elaborated on in the book Concept Mapping for Planning and Evaluation.
Group Concept Mapping is a statistically rigorous methodology that has been used in over 400 published projects.
There are three levels of foundational publications for Group Concept Mapping:
Methodology Publications: These publications, build on the four primary texts to add further knowledge about the Group Concept Mapping methodology and the best practices associated with its conduct.
Statistical Analysis References: These publications describe the statistical components used in the conduct of Group Concept Mapping.
Application Publications: These publications describe applications of Group Concept Mapping in specific situations or in conjunction with other methodologies.
Using technology to do Group Concept Mapping is essential. Contemporary web-based platforms have expanded GCM participation and conduct. The process of conducting a GCM inquiry includes three major task sets:
The 4 primary texts mentioned above describe the basic methodology. Nearly 300 publications from 2010-2017 referenced the use of technology, the great majority (80%) of which reference the use of the Concept System® or its versions between 1989 and 2018. Other technology is used or adapted for GCM. Additional information about the technologies used to conduct GCM can be found in Appendix C of Kane, M. & Rosas, S. (2017). Conversations about group concept mapping: Applications, examples, and enhancements.
The Concept System® web-based software is a proprietary software developed specifically to conduct and analyze Group Concept Mapping research. This software was developed by Concept Systems, Inc. (CSI). CSI is the world leader in Group Concept Mapping (GCM), a process and technology that produces Group Wisdom for organizations, agencies and communities.
Research requires the support of both stakeholders and funders. Researchers are frequently asked for their reasons for using certain methodologies. It can be helpful to know how a method has been used before in similar topic areas.
Group Concept Mapping bibliographies by major topics have been compiled to assist researchers in reviewing studies that have been completed in their area of focus.
One bibliography contains publications using The Concept System® which can be keyword searched. This can be helpful for researchers conducting research in topic areas that do not have a topic specific bibliography. Concept Systems also provides contact information on that page if you would like more information on a particular area of research.
The Concept System® web-based software is the only software specifically designed to support the collection of Group Concept Mapping data and analyze that data within the same cloud-based platform. The program supports participant idea generation and the subsequent sorting and rating of the ideas collected. The system allows researchers to review the data collected to perform quality checks. The Concept System® then completes the necessary steps to develop similarity matrices of the sort data needed to complete multidimensional scaling to develop the point maps and the hierarchical cluster analysis to help researchers determine the best cluster solution and make their final cluster map. The system also allows researchers to analyze their participants’ sort pile labels that were most similar to the final clusters. Then the system allows the researcher to overlay the participants’ average rating information to make pattern matches and go-zones.
Concept Systems, Inc. is a full-service company that will work with researchers to ensure quality projects are completed. The leading experts in Group Concept Mapping can be hired to consult on your project. Support is available at a variety of levels from those needing assistance with project design to those who would like to use innovative methods to reach stakeholders or interweave other methods with Group Concept Mapping.
There are several opportunities to increase your knowledge of GCM:
You can attend a 1 hour live introductory webinar, held monthly, that introduces attendees to the basics of the GCM Methodology and the software. The Introduction to Group Concept Mapping and CS Global MAX™ webinar provides an opportunity for hands-on experience with The Concept System® web-based software and gives attendees the opportunity to ask questions.
You can access a free self-directed learning course entitled Introduction to Group Concept Mapping. This self-paced course provides a basic introduction to the GCM methodology.
CSI also offers intensive workshops that completely describe the methodology and technology, and provide both practice and project coaching events for attendees. CSI conducts the workshops several times a year at their office in beautiful Ithaca, NY; and at client or group locations as well. Stay tuned to the training website, because workshops are also often coordinated along with prominent national conferences.
To start your Group Concept Mapping Project, licenses can be purchased from Concept Systems. Helpful sales people will ensure that you purchase the features and support you require to complete your project. With pricing options for graduate students, not-for-profits, and commercial entities – there is a price range that makes this methodology accessible to all researchers. Licensees are supported with recorded technical webinars and software guides.
You have completed a successful GCM project using The Concept System® and now you want to share it with the world. Publications have word and figure limits and you have a lot of information and figures from your study. This is when it is especially helpful to review other GCM studies, especially those published in the journal you are intending to submit to.
Essential components of describing GCM data collection are:
Essential components of describing GCM Results are:
Most projects cite one of the four primary texts we discussed at the beginning of this guide. Typically, proprietary software is also cited. Please note the build number will change and can be found at the bottom of the screen. The current citation for The Concept System® is:
The Concept System® Global MAX™ (Build 2017.328.13) [Web-based
Platform]. (2018). Ithaca, NY. Available from
The Concept System® Global MAX™. Build 2017.328.13. Web-based Platform.
Concept Systems, Incorporated, 2012. Browser based statistical platform, available from http://www.conceptsystemsglobal.com.