This exposition followed one of the analytical procedures outlined in Gieseking’s study (2013). He lists 57 methods and techniques to analyse mental maps. These methods are mainly based on qualitative analysis and are well-suited to work with the heterogeneous visual information from the hand-drawn images. By reading mental maps qualitatively as the narratives of place (NOP), Gieseking connects them to production of space:
The components and techniques categorized under NOP include those analytics that help us to see how both the physical, remembered, and imagined space of the campus intersect in production of a place in how it all at once conceived, perceived, and lived (Gieseking, 2013, p. 720).
According to Gieseking, narratives of place can be explored through built environment elements and physical environment elements (in this case, buildings and outdoor elements). These two groups of elements became the main analytic lens to 'read' mental images. The digitalised mental images were coded in Nvivo using the thematic coding approach (Ryan & Bernard, 2003). The coding relied on both an inductive and a deductive thematic analysis (Fereday & Muir-Сochrane, 2006). The theory-driven codes came from Gieseking's study while the data-driven ones were identified by looking into the repetitions in the mental images. Once the codes were combined into themes, each theme was explored in more detail by referencing the visual elements to which the codes pointed.
Despite the maps being messy and sometimes unclear, my own good knowledge of the area allowed the recognition of most of the markings on the maps and their subsequent categorisation into a code-book. Additionally, notes and markings made by the students helped identify elements on the images. If the text was more extensive than a single name or location, it was transcribed into a memo and stored in connection with the map which it came from. An example of a coded image is shown in Figure 3.
In addition to qualitative coding, I analysed the morphology of the mental images — their spatial organisation. This approach is inspired by the analysis of hand-drawn maps by Appleyard (1970), who noticed that when people draw maps, they use either spatial elements (roads) or sequential elements (individual buildings or landmarks). Do understand the morphological structure, I separated roads from landmarks in individual images and looked at the resulting images separately.