Study Tips & Tools

Concept Lists

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A great tool to develop critical thinking

Running concept lists are handy tools for learning new concepts. But they are even more helpful for learning the connections between concepts . . . thus developing your critical thinking skills!

Concept lists are also called connection pages because they help you see connections.

How to make a running concept list

list graphicChoose a concept, such as “plasma membrane functions,” that you see show up frequently in your reading or class discussions.
(Also use concepts that your teachers mentions “will come up again.”)

Put the name of the concept at the top of your list.

Write notes on everything you know about this concept so far.

Be brief but direct and clear.

Draw pictures if that helps you understand the concept better.  (copy the pictures from your book if you need to)

Make a separate list for each concept.

How to “run” the concept list

Keep each concept list with your notes, perhaps a separate section started from the back of your notebook.

Whenever the concept appears again, add the new information or the new example to your concept list.

For example, list each new function of the plasma membrane as you run across it.  When you see the same function appear in new contexts, add that to your list, too.

How to use the list

Just by making the list and keeping it current, you will be learning to see applications and relationships . . . important “critical thinking” skills that will help you later.

This exercise will help improve your skills in noticing which concepts are the more important ones.

When it is time to prepare for a test or exam, you will already have a list where comparisons are apparent . . . you will see information that would not be easily seen in your notes or the textbook.

When you need a “cross-referenced” glossary to check on information for a test or class discussion question, your concept lists may help.

When you need to summarize (such as reviewing for a big exam) or in reviewing your material before taking another course that uses these concepts, you’ll have a handy “connected” list of concepts.

Don’t forget

Run a separate concept list for EACH important concept.

Watch me do it

This video walks you through the concept list process.

Example concepts

Here are some examples of concepts for which you should keep a “running list”

Sodium and potassium



Membrane receptors

Signal transduction

Membrane transport


Negative feedback

Positive feedback

Membrane potentials

Surface area relates to function

Body membranes

Layers of organs

Lock-and-key model of chemical interaction (complementary fit)

Other resources you may find useful

Lion Den Study Tips & Tools Concept Maps light bulb

The A&P Student Running Concept Lists blogger icon

Concept mapping, mind maps, graphic organizers, visual learning models  General list of links related to graphic organizers in studying, but does not address “concept lists” by name

Have a link to suggest?  Click here to send it to me!

Submit YOUR concept list!
Help yourself and other students worldwide by submitting your concept list. If it works, I’ll add it to this website!Click here for how to submit.

Last updated: November 25, 2016 at 9:16 am