How to Make a Tree Map

Like a tree, a tree map has many branches that come from one
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A tree map is an effective way to visually show the hierarchical nature of some types of information and how they relate to each other. The map gets its name from its branch-like appearance. It starts at a single point with the main classification. Then, branches diverge from the starting point into different subgroups. You can then branch into even smaller subgroups. The branching stops when all subgroups have been exhausted. When you are done, all the information will be interconnected through easily traceable branches.

Write down the topic you want to map at the top of a piece of paper. This will give you plenty of room to map out the information. For example, if your topic is dogs, write down "Dogs" at the top of the paper.

Use a pencil to branch out as many subgroups as you can think of. A subgroup is a subordinate group that exists within the main group. The best way to figure out what your subgroups should be is by determining what the next major groups are after the main group. If your main group is American cars, for example, the next major groups, or subgroups, should be the car companies. You would create branches for Ford, GM, Chrysler and so on.

"Dogs" is the current main group for the tree map example. The next major grouping after "dogs," or the next subordinate group, would be "dog groups." Examples of dog groups are hounds, terriers, sporting, toy and herding.

Branch out even farther by creating subgroups within the subgroups. Using the dog tree map example, you will need to determine the next largest subordinate group within each of the "dog groups" you created branches for. The next largest subordinate group would be "breeds." If you were to branch out the terrier branch of the map, you will have to extend a branch for West Highland terriers, rat terriers, Jack Russell terriers, bull terriers and so forth. Use the same method for all other subgroups you intend on mapping out.

Repeat the process of determining subordinate groups within each of the subgroups until all the subordinate groups you can think of have been exhausted.

  • A piece of paper may not be sufficient for your tree map depending on the complexity and the comprehensiveness of the information you are going to map out. You may want to use poster board for complex information.
  • A tree map can be designed multiple ways. The most common way is to branch down as described above. You can also branch to the side. Any style is sufficient as long as all the subgroups can be traced back to the main classification.

David Montoya is an attorney who graduated from the UCLA School of Law. He also holds a Master of Arts in American Indian studies. Montoya's writings often cover legal topics such as contract law, estate law, family law and business.