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GIS For Dummies® by Michael N. DeMers

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Chapter 2

Recognizing How Maps Show Information

In This Chapter

Familiarizing yourself with the basic elements of a map

Knowing when to use reference versus thematic maps

Understanding how mapmakers flatten the Earth and measure it

Navigating around your maps

Maps are a compact and elegant method of communicating information. Most folks have used maps in one form or another for a variety of purposes. You’ve probably used road maps to help you find your way from one town to another and street maps to get around in a city or town. The maps in newspapers show what’s happening in different parts of the world. An atlas may be just the key you need to figure out the name of a mountain for a crossword puzzle. If a map is designed correctly, you can find much of what you’re seeking without any help at all, and you can interpret the data with little effort. This chapter sets you on course to understanding the sometimes complex, but usually intuitive, language of maps.

Knowing How Maps Represent Geography

Like with any form of communication, you must apply some basic standards before a map can effortlessly communicate the information it contains. Even when you sketch a simple map on a piece of paper, the first decision you must make is how much space you need to create the map. You can think of this area as your map extent. When you use a GIS to either create a map or analyze map data, you make decisions about how much area you want to work with. The area of your digital map is related ...

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