SIUE: Chemistry Department: Susan D. Wiediger's homepage

Susan D. Wiediger: Research Interests
Topic Maps

A topic map is a standard for organizing information so that relevant information can be easily found. Topic maps are much more than a key-word search engine such as is available on the internet because an important aspect of a topic map is that within their structures they encapuslate the relationships between topics. This makes the structure of the topic map an object of interest in its own right. Similar to the way concept maps encapuslate an individual's view of a subject in a two-dimensional picture, topic maps encapsulate a consensus of topic inter-relationships in a multi-dimensional format. One of the powers of topic maps is that they can be filtered to better meet the needs of different classes of users.

This complexity means that topic maps will require a great deal of work to design interfaces that fit the needs of particular users, to make the information accessible to them. This is of particular importance in chemistry and education, where the users will most probably perceive the topic map as a tool, and may not be willing to invest much time into learning how to use a complicated interface. However, unlike other classes of topic map users (such as doctors and lawyers) chemists and educators will be interested in the structure of the topic map as well as resources found by using the topic map. My research in the area of topic maps focuses on developing topic maps for the area of chemistry, with a particular interest in how instructors might use such a topic map in course design and imlementation.

A more manageable project size for starting topic maps is to work with concept maps, which are much more widely known in education fields. While concept maps are typically used to capture more personal views, they represent a useful starting point for synthesizing more broadly held bases for topic maps.

Current/Past Projects
  • 2009-2010, Scott Haxton: Changes in chemistry majors' understanding of atomic structure as they move through the chemistry curriculum
Useful links
  • is a clearing house for topic map information with some good resources for learning about topic maps including
  • Ontopia is the company that produces the Omnigator, which is topic map software
  • TouchGraph is an example of topic maps about web page relationships
  • Visual Thesaurus is an example of a topic map used for word relationships
  • CmapTools is a freely available program for creating concept maps

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author. The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by SIUE.
Published by: Susan D. Wiediger
Last update: 3 November 2009 by