This case study is based on the research conducted as a part of a doctoral study, which aimed to explore diverse students' experiences, representations and understandings of personal development and personal development planning at one British university. The topic was particularly current and important because all universities in the United Kingdom were expected to provide opportunities for students to engage with personal development planning by the beginning of the academic year 2005–2006. This research aimed to investigate how a broad, national initiative could be translated into practice and whether it had any impact on culturally diverse students' experiences within academia. This case study focuses on the part of the project which was designed specifically to tap into students' representations of personal development, in line with an argument that in order to understand students' engagement with personal development planning, their conceptions of personal development should be investigated first. It describes concept mapping as a means of gathering data and a technique which supports reflection and provides a way to capture students' knowledge in a form of visual representation and discusses the challenges and advantages of using concept mapping in research.