Document Type



American Studies

Publication Date



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 computerassisted, 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 upon 32 mental sketch maps and the interviews during which they were drafted, this paper 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 MSM to continue to extend the method while growing from the body of knowledge already produced. This paper contributes a deeper understanding of how the mental maps can inform qualitative studies of people, place, and space across the social sciences.


Post-print provided by Trinity College Library in accordance with publisher distribution policies.

Final published available:

2013. Gieseking, J.J. Where We Go from Here: the Spatial Mental Mapping Method and Its Analytic Components for Social Science Data Gathering. Qualitative Inquiry. 19(9): 712-724.

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Psychology Commons