Cartographic Techniques

Refers to AQA A2 Geography, Unit 4A (last question on paper)

What are the main forms of cartographic techniques? What is their purpose? What are their practical applications? What strenghts and weaknesses does this method have?

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  • Cartographic Techniques
    • Choropleth
      • Purpose
        • Identify and show spatial patterns/ relationships
        • Classifies data into categories
        • Enables analysis or evaluation
      • Practical Applications
        • Population studies e.g. percentage or ethnic groups in areas of Manchester
        • Distrabution of popualtion by population density.
      • Usefulness and limitations
        • Easy to read and see patterns/ anomalies. Strong visual impact.
        • Works well with 4/5 categories. With more it is harder to see a pattern.
        • Tends to give impression of uniformity within an area even though there will be variations.
        • Time consuming to construct
        • Gradual changes between two areas may appear abrubt.
    • Sketch Maps
      • Purpose
        • Gives an impression of the features of an area within a locality.
      • Practical Applications
        • Sketch map of location of study area e.g. to show Jugger Howe Beck's setting for river work (show valley/ tributaries etc.)
      • Usefulness and Limitations
        • Useful in showing the location of a case study or fieldwork area.
        • Every detail does not need to be shown.
        • As accuracy is not essential, can be drawn fairly quickly.
        • Lack of accuracy so may miss vital details.
    • Dot Maps
      • Purpose
        • Identify patterns and relationships
        • Show spatial distributions/ variations across and area.
      • Pratical Applications
        • Showing population densities e.g. of Australia, showing incidences of crime and disease etc.
      • Usefulness and Limitations
        • Each dot represents the same value so it is possible to estimate numbers in an area (advantage over choropleth maps)
        • Accurate indication of a distribution.
        • Easy to draw
        • Where density is high it is difficult to count dots, so estimation difficult.
        • Scale an issue. Some areas may have values below dot value, so will falsely appear empty.
        • Additonal info required to place each dot e.g. atlas
    • Isoline Maps
      • Purpose
        • Identification of patterns/ spatial patterns.
        • Lines on a map to represent points of equal value.
      • Practical Applications
        • Many different types e.g. isotherms to show temperature differences across the UK, contour lines to show height on a map.
      • Usefulness and Limitations
        • Useful for looking at patterns of distribution over space. Avoid 'unreal' effect of boundaries on choropleth maps
        • Large amount of values needed to produce accurate maps.
        • Unsuitable for 'patchy' distrabutions.
    • Maps with proportional symbols
      • Purpose
        • Identify paterns/ spatial patterns, identify relationships
      • Practical Applications
        • HIV Prevalence Globally
        • population characterisitcs of places.
        • Changes downstream along a river e.g. bedload.
      • Usefulness and Limitations
        • Useful to compare data between localties
        • Can show wide variety of infromation.
        • Proportioal circles time consuming to construct. Scale must avoid overlaps.
    • OS Maps
      • Purpose
        • Identify patterns/features of an area.
      • Practical Applications
        • Gives detail info about a given area, land use, height of land etc.
      • Usefulness and Limitations
        • Show variety of areas at variety of scales.
        • Key provided, although may be difficult to read/ follow.
        • Can quickly become outdated (updated regularly)
        • Only applied to the UK


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