Information mapping

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Information Mapping is a technique that divides and labels information to facilitate comprehension, use, and recall. Information mapping is writing without paragraphs. Instead, there is a set format to guide the writer and reader along the easiest pathway to communication. Information mapping is a methodology specifically designed to make technical communication in business and industry easier and quicker. Its a method of bringing together current learning research and instructional technology comprehensive materials development and presentation technology to improve technical communication.

Development of Information Mapping

It was originally developed by Robert E. Horn.[1] Robert Horn's research evolved into the Information Mapping method. In 1965, Robert E. Horn initiated the research into and design of the Information Mapping method initially developed as both a way of visually presenting information and a method for analyzing information to make it easier to communicate.[2]


Information Mapping is a research-based method used to analyze, organize and present information based on your audience’s needs and the purpose of the information. The method is technology, subject-matter and media independent.

Robert Horn and his colleagues identified dozens of common documentation types, then analyzed them into structural components called "information blocks". They identified over 200 common block types. These were assembled into "information types".

According to Horn and his colleagues, the most common information types are:

  • Procedure: A set of sequential steps to complete a task.
  • Process: An arrangement of tasks among disparate groups explaining how the groups interact. The description of a process explains what happens during different stages of time.
  • Principle: The underlying premises and rules of function giving rise to any number of techniques. These elements remain consistent, no matter what is happening.
  • Concept: Notions, ideas, thoughts, or opinions of a topic. Simple definitions are considered Concepts.
  • Fact: A bit of information that is true and that can be observed.
  • Structure: Something which can be divided into parts which have boundaries. Explains the component parts of a structure or item and how they interact.
  • Classification: The grouping of like items together and separating them from unlike items.

The Information Mapping goal is measurable results that change the way people present information.

Horn's research-based, structured authoring methodology forms the foundation of all of his company's (Information Mapping, Inc.) services: content development and management tools, professional services, and training. Institutions such as the University of Maryland's Human Computer Interaction (HCI) program and organizations such as the Parsons Institute for Information Mapping™ have extended this methodology to include greater graphic design, visualization, technology, and knowledge management capabilities into the process of mapping information.

Information Mapping has close ties to information visualization, information architecture, graphic design, information design, and data analysis. The field has responded to advances in Information Technology to also closely tie into user experience design, graphic user interface design, and knowledge management systems.

Key principles of Information Mapping

Information Mapping is built on seven key principles. These are:[3]

  1. Chunking : Chunking means the writers should group information into small, manageable units.
  2. Relevance : Relevance means writers should make sure that all information in one chunk relates to one main point based on that information's purpose or function for the reader.
  3. Labeling : The methodology states that after organizing related sentences into manageable unit, writers should provide a label for each unit of information.
  4. Consistency : Consistency should be adhered to on two levels: Consistency in language and consistency in format and structure. For similar subject matters, writers use similar words, labels, formats and sequences.
  5. Integrated graphics : This means that writers should use diagrams, tables, pictures, etc. as an integral part of the text, not as an afterthought added an when the writing is complete.This simply means that graphics should be included wherever they are useful.
  6. Accessible detail : Writers should write at a level of detail that makes the information the reader needs readily accessible, and makes the document usable for all readers. In other words, put what the reader needs where the reader needs it.
  7. Hierarchy of chunking and labeling : the methodology states that writers should organize small, relevant units of information into a hierarchy, and provide the larger group(s) they have created with a label(s).

To conclude, the rule simply means that:

  • A document should have a title (label)
  • The document should be split into sections(maps)
  • Each section should have a title(label)
  • Each section should be split into units of information(blocks)
  • Each unit of information should have a title(label)

Step by Step procedure for Information Mapping

The step by step procedure for Information Mapping:[4]

Step Action
1 Analyze each document thoroughly:
  • Determine whether the contents of the documents are limited to policies and procedures. Make sure to separate other document types(such as templates, notes, meeting minutes, etc.) from the policies and procedures.
  • Ensure that the content is current, up-to-date and relevant.
  • Are primary and secondary topics distinguished from one another?
2 Examine the structure of the policy and procedure document. Make sure that
  • it contains all the necessary Blocks to ensure a smooth, accurate execution of the policy or procedure
  • steps or stages are presented in chronological order, and
  • if it's a procedure, it uses Step/Action tables.
3 Apply the information Mapping principles to rewrite your document
4 Review the document before deployment.

Advantages of Information Mapping

Information Mapping offers these advantages:[5]

  • Easier and quicker writing of technical materials.
  • Easier management and analysis of writing tasks in large projects.
  • Better learning materials and better referencing of technical materials.
  • Replaces the paragraph(in prose)or frame (in programmed learning) with information blocks and information map.
  • Provides a simple, comprehensive, modular, expandable classification system of information maps and blocks.
  • Can be used for different purposes with minimal changes.
  • Provides ready-to-use consistent formats for different types of presentations.

Disadvantages of Information Mapping

The disadvantages of Information Mapping are:[6]

  • The format, particularly the table structure, looks outdated and distracts from the content.
  • The block line that separate paragraphs take too much of space
  • Its not always possible to fit all types of documentation into the Information Mapping format like-

Report on specific event that has happened(as in case histories)

Propose or plan to do some particular projects

Simulate transactions or events

  • It significantly increases the length of documents because of the large amount of white space incorporated into it.

Review of Research

In this paper, Information Mapping is considered in some detail. Here, both logical and empirical evidence is presented. The results are as follows-[7] Information mapping- applies the chunking principle is at odds with the way people read texts. To understand a chunk is to understand the sentences in it and such understanding is unaffected by the number of sibling sentences that have to be read. Research in cognitive psychology - by Kintsch, Stark and others - shows that the number of sentences in a paragraph does not affect a reader's comprehension of that paragraph, contrary to the claims of Information Mapping and the recommendations found in many language handbooks.

Over the last 30 years, numerous studies focused on specific audiences and detailed variables. The research supports the application and effectiveness of the method over a wide range of:[8]

  • Content areas
  • Audiences
  • Business
  • Nurses Training
  • management report writing
  • Teacher education programs
  • Computer programming language training
  • Sales training
  • Pharmaceutical testing submissions
  • Manufacturing process operating procedures

The Information Mapping is a highly effective way of analyzing, organizing and presenting complex information in a simple and effective way.

Notable Experts


  1. Stanford University: Robert Horn Curriculum Vitae
  2. "The Information Mapping® Method" Check |url= value (help).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Information Mapping".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Information Mapping, making information network". Retrieved 23 September 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Horn, Robert E. (March 1974). "Information Mapping" (PDF). Training in Business and Industry. Vol. 11, No.3. Retrieved 23 September 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Byrd, Julia. "Evaluating the Information Mapping® Method".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Marnell, Geoffrey. "A critique of Information Mapping" (PDF). Retrieved 25 September 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "The Information Mapping® Method 30 Years of Research Research Paper & Notes" (PDF). Retrieved 25 September 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • Robert E. Horn. Mapping Hypertext: The Analysis, Organization, and Display of Knowledge for the Next Generation of On-Line Text and Graphics. ISBN 0-9625565-0-5
  • Robert E. Horn. How High Can it Fly? Examining the Evidence on Information Mapping's Method of High-Performance Communication. Note: This publication is available for download on Horn's website
    • Chapter One: [1]
    • Chapter Two: [2]

External links

  • [3] Parsons Institute for Information Mapping web site.
  • [4] University of Maryland, Human-Computer Interaction Lab web site.
  • [5] Robert Horn web site.