what explains technical terms on a map not in english

what explains technical terms on a map not in english

what explains technical terms on a map not in english

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What Is a Map Key?

map is a symbolic representation of a particular area. A map is the best way to show spatial relationships on Earth and can be used to display thousands of different topics in a two-dimensional way. Maps can show very large areas, like an entire continent, or very small areas, like a single neighborhood. There are many different types of maps depending on the information they are conveying. For example, a physical map is used to show physical characteristics of a particular location, like mountains, rivers, and forests. Other types of maps include:

  • Street Map: displays street names and businesses or buildings in a given location
  • Political Map: displays the boundaries between areas such as states or counties
  • Weather Map: displays the predicted temperatures, precipitation, or storm warnings in an area
  • Topographic Map: displays the elevation of Earth in an area

Regardless of the topic, a map key or legend is critical in understanding what the map means. What is a map key? A map key is a set of instructions to be used when reading a map. A map key may include symbols, colors, or shading. Without a map key, it would be nearly impossible to decipher what information is provided by the map.

what explains technical terms on a map not in english
what explains technical terms on a map not in english

5 Basic Parts of Any Map

1. Map Title or Heading

The title, also called the heading, of a map is typically found at the top of the map. It tells you exactly what the map is showing. The title will be in a large font and describe in detail what the map is for.

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2. Map Key or Legend

All the map symbols are defined in the map key, or map legend. The terms “key” and “legend” are often used interchangeably, but some maps have both a key and a legend. In these instances, the key includes the symbols while the legend includes things like the scale and compass rose.

The symbols on a map make it easier to read because the map is not crowded with words. The key is usually off to the side of the map and tells you what each symbol stands for.

3. Scale Indicator

Maps are usually much smaller than the actual locations they show, so the distance on a map is also much smaller than the actual distance of the locations. The scale indicator, or scale, tells you how a unit of measurement on the map relates to units of measurement in real life.

A scale often looks like a bar or line with numbers evenly spaced out. It will tell you what distance on the map equals what distance in reality. For example, one centimeter on the map might equal one mile in the real world. You may need to know common measurement abbreviations to read the scale.

4. Grid

A map’s grid is a series of imaginary horizontal and vertical lines drawn onto the map. These lines may represent actual latitudes and longitudes or they may just split the map into smaller parts. Grid lines will be labeled at one end or each end.

5. Compass Rose or North Arrow

The orientation of a map is important to know, so a tool that shows you the cardinal directions, or at least which way is north, is included on most maps. You may see an arrow labeled “N” for north, or you may see a compass rose. A compass rose looks like a big star and shows north, south, east, and west.

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what explains technical terms on a map not in english
what explains technical terms on a map not in english

Other Common Parts of a Map

Because each map is unique, it’s hard to identify the basic parts that appear on every single map. You may see examples of the three main parts of a map or even five, six, or eight main components of a map.

Additional common map parts include:

  • border or neatline – a thick line showing where the map stops
  • map credits – information about who made the map, when it was made or the data was used to make it
  • locator map or inset – a zoomed in or zoomed out view of an area represented on the map

What Is a Map Legend?

Many sources also describe a map key as a map legend. While there are some similarities in the two, a map legend includes much more information about the map. A map legend includes all of the same information as a map key, including symbols and colors to represent various objects, but it also includes other important information about how to read the map.

  • Map Projection Name: the perspective used to view the map (spherical, conical, planar, cylindrical)
  • Map Publication Date: when the map was created
  • Map Cartographer: the individual or company responsible for creating the map

The purpose of a map legend is to show the relationship between objects on a map. For example, on a street map there may be two businesses printed on the map that are five centimeters apart. The map scale on the legend states that every centimeter represents one mile, so the two businesses are therefore five miles apart.

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world map
world map

Reading and interpreting maps

Maps are one of the geographer’s key tools for representing and explaining spatial information, patterns and processes. Reading and interpreting maps is thus central to geographical education. To effectively read maps, students need to develop a range of interrelated skills:

  • locational skills – using grid references, coordinates, longitudes/latitudes
  • symbol skills – using the key to interpret the different symbols
  • understanding of scale – using a scale to estimate distances and compare areas
  • interpretation of data – describing and comparing information shown on thematic maps. (Adapted from Biddulph, Lambert, & Balderstone, 2015)

The two strategies below scaffold students’ ability to read and interpret information represented in visual form. Geography teachers can adapt the Strategies that demonstrate how to explicitly teach the semiotic (meaning-making) systems of visual texts in Science. For a brief explanation of the types of maps encountered in Geography, including their function and a brief description of some of the semiotic systems they use, teachers can view ‘Types of maps’ produced by the Intergovernmental Committee on Surveying and Mapping.


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