Blueprint Map Essay

If you don't have time to read all this, here's what you need to know...

  • Explain the production process of an evidence-based essay with the help of this bold boardgame style visual.
  • Get the paper version to use as a straight-forward poster for display

... or...

  • get the fabric version to use as a poster, scarf, bandana, wrap for items (including bottles), etc.
  • While it won't come mounted on a board, you can get it as a game: the fabric version PLUS 20 'chance' style cards (10 themed on Research and Analysis, 10 on Writing and Review), 6 coloured pencil top erasers to use as tokens, 1 dice and a set of rules.
  • and there are also pdf versions of a handout!

If you want to know more details, here's the story:

In the beginning...

In 2015 I decided to collect the strategies I used in teaching first year university students how to write basic evidence-based essays and put them into a workbook called Writing Essays by Pictures. I started a Kickstarter campaign (have a look here) that was successfully funded and allowed me produce 120 risographed copies of that book and distribute them all over the world. This book was well received and people started asking how they could get copies for their students, friends and family. As I didn't really have that many spares, I decided to 'remake' the book with an independent publisher (incidentally one of my Kickstarter backers) and a new and improved version came out in September 2016. It had 16 more pages, particularly adding more space for students to write in, turning it into the workbook it was always meant to be.

However, one of the things I never really addressed in either version of the book was an overview of the process of researching, drafting, re-researching and rewriting an essay. Not because I wasn't aware of it, but because it didn't quite fit into the format of a book. A book is linear, but this process is not only linear (in a way), but also circular. A page, or even a spread, didn't give me the right format to show this properly. Rather than explaining it with too many words, I decided to leave it out.

And then, I came across a visual way of explaining this that did work: the boardgame.

The Boardgame Blueprint - Visualising Process

After this realisation I started to work on what could be considered the next chapter of Writing Essays by Pictures (although it is quite independent of it): The Boardgame Blueprint. As the name suggests it is designed in the style of a simple boardgame using the image of the iceberg to show the visible work over the waterline (drafts and finished essay) as well as the work that goes on (or should go on) out of sight of the official outcome (research, structuring, more research, restructuring, even more research, etc) - and how this process is cyclical in a way.

This is something my students seem to struggle with - they barely make it round once! They also often don't understand the relationship of the sessions we do in class, guided tasks (homework) and the independent work of researching and writing the actual essay. So I made a version of this boardgame visual showing sessions in class, tasks and independent work - and through colour coding showed how this was more scaffolded at the beginning of the course, for example.

I also made a version of just the process as a handout for my second year students to remind them of the stuff I taught them the year before.

Some of my students really loved it, two even mentioning it as part of the module feedback process as really helpful. So I thought: let's do this properly and share it on a larger scale!

I defined my designs and got some help to turn them into a digital format, and we came up with this mock up (so far printed on paper):

(Please note that this is not quite the finished thing. There might be tweaks in the design - and the colour will almost certainly come out lighter, the printer we used for this prototype is always on the dark side.)

The Gaming Aspect

Initially I only wanted this as a visual, but since it looks like a boardgame I thought it might be nice if it could actually be played like a boardgame as well. So I have also designed 'Chance' style cards (availble as part of the 'Game' reward options and printed by as rounded corner business cards), points and rules - and I want to use the time this campaign is running to have some people test-play it to see if anything needs to be tweaked (or significantly changed).

A Boardgame without a board?

While this is modelled on a boardgame, I decided not to produce it on a board. There are a number of reasons for that, the most obvious is technical: mounting prints on a board that folds is quite tricky if done to a high standard and would have been very time consuming for me (not to mention included numerous false starts); having somebody else do it (or print it onto board directly) would have been quite expensive. The other main reason not to go for a board is that it becomes more difficult to transport - you end up with weird dimensions and something that is heavier, which makes posting it more expensive. Just leaving it as a print on paper, however, doesn't quite work either. While that is perfect to display, transportation is potentially awkward and needs a cardboard tube to protect it. When playing on it there are potential problems with the paper wanting to roll back up into transportation mode.

What I am trying to do instead is to have it printed on fabric. While this is more expensive than printing on paper, it has a lot of advantages:

  • it is more durable than a paper version.
  • it can still be displayed as a poster, particularly on a pinboard.
  • if displayed on a pinboard, you can also use pins to add information to it, for example what session you are dealing with this week, what stage students should be up to at this moment, or flags with deadlines for drafts on them. (Doing that on a poster or board would leave marks and couldn't be done more than once.)
  • transport becomes really easy, as it can be folded and packed and it is lightweight.
  • printing it on fabric allows you to think of it as a furoshiki - a Japanese Wrapping Cloth.

Going off on a tangent - a furo-what?

'Furoshiki' is the name the Japanese give to square pieces of fabric, often elaborately designed, used in a number of ways, but mainly to wrap things, either to carry or to give as gifts. There are a number of different ways of wrapping specific types of items (like a book or a bottle) just using folds and knots. For me it's a way of reminding me that this artefact is not just a poster made of fabric, or a non-board boardgame, it also makes me consider other ways in which it could be used: it could be a scarf or bandana, a tablecloth, it could transform into a bag or a dustjacket.

I have previously produced an academically themed furoshiki and given it to workshop participants instead of a conference bag.

Delegates really appreciated receiving this special keepsake, which also kept their conference pack together and could double up as a poster reminding them of one of the key theories discussed on the day.

Having designed a similar artefact before, I know a company that can produce these digital fabric prints at a high standard on cotton lawn fabric (a very lightweight cotton) with overlocked edges - and they are local to where I live, so I could pop round if there are any problems.

Wrapping it up

So, two years on from my intial Kickstarter project, I am back on here to share this next one. I've decided to do it this way because

  • the printing of the fabric gets cheaper the more you order;
  • I want to raise some money to pay Richard, who helped me turn my ideas from the back of an envelope and roughly drawn initial handout into a digital (and thus printable) format;
  • ...but mainly I hope that you will find this helpful in your own practice, whether as a teacher who teaches or supports essay writing, or as a student, who struggles with it.

What I want to produce:

The game'board' design, digitally printed on cotton lawn fabric, with overlocked edges. Size approximately 70cm x 70cm. Officially this is dry clean only, but I have washed a similar one on a cold wash and it came out absolutely fine. And they are really easy to iron if you are worried about it creasing too much. As you can see, we are pretty far already in the development of this, although the design might be tweaked slightly, depending on feedback from people who test it for me. (The colours at the moment are likely to be much lighter in the finished artefact.)

While I like the fabric format, in case people would prefer a paper poster, I am including one reward that is just that: a paper printout. The size will be approximately 70cm x 70 cm. (Again, I am expecting the colours to be slightly lighter than they seem to be at the moment.)

!Please note that if you want to display either of these as a poster, the design comes at a 45 degree angle, so will take up more wall space than 70cm if you don't want the iceberg to be significantly leaning!

An A4 handout version of the game, slightly simplified and in black and white. This is what I currently use for workshops and what I will probably make available to everybody via the Tactile Academia website at some point. As a backer, you will get this as a pdf version sent straight to your inbox.

An A4 template version of the game. Here we only keep the iceberg and empty fields on the way from the centre to the outside finish. This will be exclusive to backers, again as a pdf, so that you can customise the concept for your own context.

The Game. While you can play this as is with just a dice and some tokens, I have also designed this to work as a slightly more involved game. Here the green and purple fields can work in the way of 'Chance' in games like Monopoly. For those of you who want the game reward I will include 20 game cards - 10 themed on Research and Analysis, 10 themed on Writing and Review (e.g. fall foul of Plagiarism, USB stick failure, or improve your work by attending library workshops on referencing), these will be business card sized with rounded corners (probably printed by, who make beautiful cards). I will also include a dice and 6 colourful pencil eraser tops that you can use as tokens, plus some simple rules. And I'll put it in a box, too, so you can keep it all together.

How you could use it.

As a student

  • you could review it to remind yourself of the circular way of essay production and how many steps are hidden from sight.
  • you could use it as a template for the planning of your work and to keep track of where you are.

As a teacher

  • you could use it to help your students visualise the process of essay writing.
  • you could display the poster to give students something to read while they are waiting in the corridor outside of your office. Who knows, something might stick ;-)
  • you could give out the handout (an electronic pdf version included in all the rewards) to your students so that they have a reminder on hand when doing the work. Also great colouring-in potential in case you want to colour code something, such as sessions you are teaching or deadlines.
  • you could use the handout template (an electronic pdf version included in all rewards £15+, and exclusive to Kickstarter backers) to customise the journey either for individual students or a whole class, potentially including taught sessions and deadlines.
  • you could use the handout template to customise the journey of a non-writing process - as long as it is a process it should work!
  • you could use it to get student groups to play the game while you are busy doing tutorials with some of them.

As neither students nor teacher, you might still want this because

  • you could go for the 'Twin Set' reward to start your own collection of academic furoshiki. (I might make some more in the future...)
  • you could give it as a gift to a beginning student - or use it to wrap another gift.
  • you could use it as a scarf, bandana or table cloth because you like the colour and design, rather than the message.

Thank you for your interest in this project. I hope that you support it and enjoy the game!

Risks and challenges

I think there is very little risk to this project: I already have a digital draft of this, which is backed up, so I will only be in trouble if there is a multiple file corruption.
I haven't yet tried the game mechanics, but this is something I want to test in the next months, so the rules I have initally drawn up might change, as might the game cards, but neither of this will make a big change to the concept.
The only thing that might happen is that my line drawings are too intricate for the fabric printing process. Having had work produced by the same company already, I don't think this will be a problem, however, if it turns out that I am not happy with the printed fabric versions of the game, I will send everybody who ordered one an additional complimentary paper version.

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

Blueprinting in assessment: A tool to increase the validity of undergraduate written examinations in pathology

Sunita Y Patil,Manasi Gosavi,Hema B Bannur, and Ashwini Ratnakar

Department of Pathology, J. N. Medical College, KLE University, Belagavi, Karnataka, India

Address for correspondence: Dr. Sunita Y Patil, Department of Pathology, J. N. Medical College, KLE University, Belagavi, Karnataka, India. E-mail: moc.liamg@cmnjlitapatinus

Author information ►Article notes ►Copyright and License information ►

Received 2015 May 19; Accepted 2015 Jul 24.

Copyright : © International Journal of Applied and Basic Medical Research

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License, which allows others to remix, tweak, and build upon the work non-commercially, as long as the author is credited and the new creations are licensed under the identical terms.

This article has been cited by other articles in PMC.



Written examinations are the most commonly employed method for assessment of cognitive skills in medical education. The few disadvantages of essay questions are less number of questions, limited sampling, unfair distribution of questions over topics, vague questions etc., Blueprinting overcomes these issues, increasing the validity of examinations.


To describe the process of developing a blueprint for undergraduate written examinations in pathology; and to evaluate its effect as a tool to increase the content validity of assessment.


A workshop was conducted in the Department of Pathology to sensitize the faculty about the importance of blueprinting. A blueprint was prepared for written examinations in pathology, question papers were set accordingly and administered in preliminary examinations. Feedback was collected from the students and faculty to know their perceptions about the question papers with reference to blueprinting.


The students and faculty felt that there was appropriate distribution of questions across topics (77% and 89%, respectively), appropriate weightage given to topics of public health importance (65% and 100%), examinations were fair (86% and 89%). All the faculty felt that blueprints aligns assessment with objectives and helps as a guide and to paper construction.


Students were satisfied as blueprinting helped them to attempt examination better. The faculty who validated the blueprint felt that it helps in distribution of appropriate weightage and questions across the topics and blueprinting should be an integral part of assessment.

Keywords: Assessment, blueprinting, pathology


“It is said that ‘assessment is the tail that wags the curriculum dog.’ While this statement amply underscores the importance of assessment in any system of education, it also cautions us about the pitfalls that can occur when assessment is improperly used.[1]”

When we speak to undergraduate medical students after the examinations, not infrequently we hear them complaining in theory examinations that – Too lengthy paper, time was not enough to write; All questions were from few topics only! No questions from many other topics; Questions were too vague, What to write? What to cut?; Long questions were bouncers! They have not taught these. And in practical examinations we hear them complaining that – I had never seen this case before; Most of the theory questions, long case, short case, and viva questions, all were from one/few systems only [Figure 1]. This happens because, in the traditional assessment system in most medical colleges in India, question paper is set by one teacher/examiner and practical examinations are conducted by some other teacher, without any co-ordination and are not aligned to objectives (most of the times).[2] Often, the content of what to assess is left to the decision of the examiners. Moreover, the examiner/teacher imparts instruction according to what “she/he thinks is appropriate or important.” The intended learning outcomes are not stated clearly and therefore overlooked.[1] The assessment needs to be valid. Validity is a requirement of every assessment and implies that candidates for achieving the minimum performance level have acquired the level of competence set out in the learning objectives.[3] The validity that relates to measurements of academic achievement is content validity. Content of assessment is said to be valid when it is congruent with the objectives and learning experiences, and congruence between these pillars of education can be facilitated by using blueprinting in assessment.[3]

Figure 1

Current scenario of assessment: Students’ response many times after written examinations

In the present study, we describe the process of developing the blueprint for the undergraduate written examinations in pathology and to evaluate its effect as a tool to increase the content validity of assessment.


A faculty development program was conducted in the Department of Pathology to sensitize the faculty about the importance of blueprinting in assessment. Ethical Committee approval was obtained. A blueprint was prepared for Phase II/III term (preliminary) written examinations (theory) in pathology with inputs from all the faculty (since this was the preliminary examinations, the complete syllabus was included in preparing a blueprint and assessment. This was then validated with the help of subject experts/department faculty and necessary changes were made accordingly [Tables ​1 and ​2].

Table 1

MBBS phase II-preliminary examination: Blueprint for theory paper I (general pathology, hematology and clinical pathology)

Table 2

MBBS phase II-preliminary examination: Blueprint for theory paper II (systemic pathology)

The steps followed to prepare a blueprint were: The scope and purpose of assessment was defined; the weightage to be given to content areas, domains of learning and methods of assessment was decided. Two parameters were considered while calculating this weightage: (i) The perceived impact/importance of a topic in terms of its impact on health, and (ii) The frequency of the occurrence of a particular disease or health problem; the total weightage and number of items to be included was decided; the table of test specifications was decided and accordingly a blueprint was prepared; question papers were set accordingly (paper I and II).[1]

Written examination of a batch of 163 students was conducted. The feedback questionnaire for collecting feedback from faculty and students about blueprinting was prepared with preset questions including few open ended questions. It was validated with the help of members of Department of Medical Education. Informed consent was taken from students to give a feedback and a total of 139 students who voluntarily agreed to give feedback were included. All 11 faculty of the department who were involved in validating the blueprint provided their feedback. The feedback questionnaire were analyzed and presented as qualitative data.


Majority of the students felt that there was proper distribution of questions across the topics (77%), appropriate weightage was given to the topics of public health importance (65%), there was synchrony between multiple choice questions (MCQs) and essay type questions (68%), and that the questions tested the in depth knowledge (87%). They also felt that there were not many too easy or too difficult questions (84%) and no question was out of syllabus (87%). Overall, most of the students were satisfied with writing fair examinations (86%) [Figure 2].

Figure 2

Students feedback on question papers

Analysis of the feedback of faculty involved in validation of the blueprint revealed that, there was appropriate distribution of questions across the topics (89%), questions were aligned to objectives (100%), questions were distributed adequately as per must know, desirable to know and nice to know categories (100%), included questions that test in depth knowledge (89%), there was synchrony between MCQs and essay questions (100%) and appropriate weightage was given to topics of public health importance (100%). Faculty also felt that blueprint acts as a guide to test paper construction (100%), increases the validity of the assessment (100%), it makes the assessment “fair” (89%) and that blueprint should be an integral part assessment (100%) [Figure 3].

Figure 3

Faculty feedback on blueprinting with reference to question papers

Among the open ended questions, there was suggestion from most of the students and faculty that blueprinting should be prepared for every examination of all phases including summative assessment.


Blueprint is a map and a specification for an assessment program which ensures that all aspects of the curriculum and educational domains are covered by assessment programs over a specified period of time.[4] The term “blueprint” is derived from the domain of architecture which means “detailed plan of action.[1]” In simple terms, blueprint links assessment to learning objectives. It also indicates the marks carried by each question. It is useful to prepare a blueprint so that the faculty who sets question paper knows which question will test which objective, which content unit and how many marks it would carry.[5]

Blueprinting helps to match various competencies with the course content and the appropriate modality of assessment.[1] In our study, majority of the faculty (100%) felt that the questions were aligned to objectives. Most of the students felt that there were no questions that were out of syllabus (87%). It makes assessment ‘fair’ to the students as they can have a clear idea of what is being examined and can direct their learning efforts in that direction.[1] In this study, feedback from the students and faculty indicated that students felt the examinations were fair (86% students and 89% faculty). Blueprinting helps the teachers in designing the instructional strategies as per the guidelines expected in the curriculum.[1] Most of the faculty (100%) involved in the validation of blueprint felt that it acts as a guide in construction of test paper. Blueprinting also ensures that the selected test items give appropriate emphasis on thinking skills and assessment of in-depth knowledge.[1] In our study, most of the students (87%) and faculty (89%) felt that the questions were included, which could test in-depth knowledge. Blueprint deals with the sampling content, competencies and tools for the assessment in a rational and balanced manner.[1] The feedback revealed that most of the students and Faculty felt that, there was synchrony between MCQs and essay questions (68% and 100%, respectively).

In general, the aim of the blueprinting is to reduce the two major threats to validity, construct under-representation (CU), and construct irrelevance variance (CIV).[5,6] CU refers to undersampling or biased sampling of the content domain or the course contents. There may be too few items to sample domain adequately.[6] CIV is a systematic error introduced into assessment data by the unrelated variables. This means inclusion of flawed item formats, too easy or too difficult questions or examiner bias.[6] For example, tendency to test favorite, or hot or trivial topics. In our study, most of the students and faculty felt that, there was appropriate distribution of questions across the topics (77% and 89%, respectively), appropriate weightage was given to topics of public health importance (65% and 100%, respectively).

To conclude, blueprinting acts as a valid tool to align objectives with assessment, helps in distribution of appropriate weightage and questions across the topics. Blueprint should be an integral part of assessment.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


1. Adkoli B, Deepak KK. Anshu ST. Principles of Assessment in Medical Education. New Delhi: Jaypee Publishers; 2012. Blue printing in assessment; pp. 205–13.

2. Sunita YP, Nayana KH, Bhagyashri RH. Blueprinting in assessment: How much is imprinted in our practice? J Educ Res Med Teach. 2014;2:4–6.

3. Coderre S, Woloschuk W, McLaughlin K. Twelve tips for blueprinting. Med Teach. 2009;31:322–4.[PubMed]

4. Adkoli B. Attributes of a good question paper. In: Sood R, editor. Assessment in Medical Education: Trends and Tools. New Delhi: KL Wig Center for Medical Education and Technology, AIIMS; 1995.

5. Hamdy H. Blueprinting in medical education. N Engl J Med. 2007;356:387–95.[PubMed]

6. Downing SM, Haladyna TM. Downing SM, Yudkowsky R. Assessment in Health Professions Education. New York: Routledge; 2009. Validity and its threats; pp. 21–56.

Articles from International Journal of Applied and Basic Medical Research are provided here courtesy of Wolters Kluwer -- Medknow Publications

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