Modeling/Theory Maps

Use visual brainstorming to develop and organize your ideas.

Do you have a grand theory or an explanation for a fundamental question such as, “Do computers think?” or “How long have human beings existed?” If so, you may want to use visual language to reveal the complex details, interactions, and processes embedded within your theory.

When Are Model/Theory Maps Useful?

  • Use visual language to explore a theory or model. As your thinking evolves, redraw the theory or model. For major projects, you may want to do multiple revisions.
  • Describe how multiple processes interact within a complex, chaotic system.

Suggestions for Drawing Theory/Model Maps


A theory or model map draws on the strength of other maps, such as clustering/spider maps, time lines/flow charts, hierarchy concept maps, systems and concept maps. In other words, a theory/model map may have clusters, time lines, circles and arrows. Possible features for theory/model maps are:

  • Circles: You might have one large circle for the entire system and then, inside that, other circles, depicting sub-processes.
  • Arrows: Use arrows to illustrate how the system flows. Note when new components enter or leave the system.
  • Groupings: If a number of ideas are connected, go ahead and put a circle around them.