How to Create a Literature Map

A literature map has many individualized and creative applications.
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Literature maps use graphic techniques of shaping and grouping written information into categories for a research project, presentation or learning exercise. The process of mapping helps the mind visualize relationships and connections from any type of literature such as works with artistic merit or a body of reviewed texts for technology and business studies or for the social, behavioral and physical sciences.

1 Basic and Advanced Techniques

Literature maps or charts use geometric shapes such as circles and boxes connected with lines or arrows. Simple maps start with a central circle or square and connect sections of information to other boxes or circles with radiating lines that spread out in all directions. This type of simple mapping provides the basic strategy for all types of advanced mapping. More complex maps have multiple centralized areas that overlap, interconnect and use a top-down organization or a continuum with the information in hierarchies or parallel connections. Organic schemes that resemble trees, waves and other intricate designs are another way to make literature maps.

2 Maps for Teaching and Learning

Educators use literature mapping to teach young students about many subjects. For instance, students learn about characterization by writing a character’s name in a circle in the middle of a piece of paper. The teacher then guides students to add information they've observed or the narrator has described about the character’s speech and behaviors in boxes or other circles connected to the central area. This type of interactive learning project is useful for all fictional elements, such as setting, point-of-view, themes, conflicts, resolutions and consequences, tone or mood and atmosphere. Teachers also lead students in mapping exercises for the ideals and values found in historical texts and biographies.

3 Maps for Artistic Works

Adult students of literature, film and music use mapping to study a favorite musician, film or novelist for a presentation or discussion group or as a visual to include with a research paper or blog. provides interactive mapping applications that group artists according to genre and style. This mapping strategy shows how to make a map that helps viewers think about audience appeal and provides a way to make a list of potential works for a research mapping project. Mapping organizes works with closely related themes, such as what the story, song or film has to say about love, friendship or death. Another way to organize a more complex map of artistic works is to show the parallels or contrasts in themes, genres and styles.

4 Maps for Academic Research

Undergraduate and graduate college students use literature maps to organize and synthesize the literature reviewed for a research paper, thesis or dissertation. For example, a business or technology student can study how enterprises recruit and select employees and how the use of the Internet affects this process. The Research Observatory shows how to map the literature reviewed for this project into key concepts and reference texts numerically. This type of mapping saves space and allows some texts to be listed in different categories.

A native of New Orleans, Amanda Petrona holds a Bachelor of Science in anthropology/social psychology and Master of Arts in English. She taught writing, research and literature at LSU Baton Rouge. Petrona founded Wild Spirit Louisiana, an organic farm, nature conservatory, and education center for sustainable and holistic living.