Where We Go From Here: The Mental Sketch Mapping Method and Its Analytic Components

Jack Jen Gieseking

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


The mental mapping method affords a lens into the way people produce and experience space, forms of spatial intelligence, and dynamics of human-environment relations. Mental mapping is the representation of an individual or group's cognitive map, hand sketched and/or computer-assisted, in drafting and labeling a map or adding to and labeling an already existing map. Despite its long-term, rich, and multifaceted use across the social sciences, I found that the method's development has been uneven and its analytics ad hoc and piecemeal. Drawing on 32 mental sketch maps and the interviews during which they were drafted, this article provides an extensive review of the method, and details a total of 57 analytic components and techniques drawn from the literature and my own work in this study. I address these analytics from a critical geographic perspective in four categories to follow trends the data reveal. In my discussion, I offer some future guidelines for research with mental sketch mapping (MSM) to continue to extend the method while growing from the body of knowledge already produced. This article contributes a deeper understanding of how the mental maps can inform qualitative studies of people, place, and space across the social sciences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)712-724
Number of pages13
JournalQualitative Inquiry
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: I am thankful to the Mount Holyoke College Alumnae Association 1905 Fellowship for financial assistance that supported this research.


  • cognitive mapping
  • context
  • geography
  • mental mapping
  • sketch mapping
  • space and place
  • spatial mental sketch maps
  • spatial methods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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