Map Critique - Critical Thinking Example

3 pages
653 words
Boston College
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Critical thinking
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Tere is always the perception that maps are neutral and accurate representations of reality. However, the truth is that they are created by map makers or cartographers, who significantly incorporate design errors, either intentionally or unintentionally (Crampton, 2010). In effect, a as Monmonier (1996) articulates, when the errors are introduced in a map, it is often biased and does not cover all the requirements of the map when a critical analysis is done. The purpose of this papers to critique a map, and then discuss aspects that should be incorporated in the map.

The map that will be analyzed is a population density map for the U.S, as shown bellow:

Figure 1: Population Density. Source: Canvas (n.d)

The map shows the various map elements that should be included, including the maps title, legend, north arrow, a scale, the map frame, the data source, as well as the author. These map elements are essential in the representation of a map. However, despite these elements being desirable, they also encompass undesirable aspects.

The title is the first thing that a map user reads, and looking at the above map (Robinson et al., 1995), the author simply stated population density, which is vague. It did not state when the map was made, and why Alaska and even Hawaii were not included because it is part of the U.S. The title, which should be centered, is slightly off the center. Also, the North arrow is too big for the map. All elements should be sized in accordance with the importance of the map. The North arrow, for this reason, should have been slightly smaller. Looking at the data source and the author, located below the map, the text is too large, and thus, the font should have been reduced. Secondly, ESRI is not descriptive as it did not state when the data set was created. The scale bars are also problematic as one of them represents the distance regarding decimal degrees, and it is not a useful unit in measuring distances. The divisions are not appropriate, instead of 0-32, the map maker should have used 0-30, which is better. The bars are also tall and large for the map. They have been emphasized too much, and thus, should have been made smaller. Looking at the legend, titling it as a legend was not appropriate because readers already know that it is the legend. The map frame is slightly out of the center and should have been made larger to fill h space. Besides, only the southern part of Alaska has been shown making it look sloppy. The map does not have a projection or grid lines. Making it impossible to determine the location on the map. accurately. Lastly, the map does not have a neat line. For this reason, the map would have been better if a neat line and map projections, which as Robinson et al. (1995) highlight, are essential elements and should have been included. Critiquing chapter one from the book, most of the maps did not meet the criteria of perfect maps. In most instances, there were no map projections, grids, titles, a north arrow, data source or even a neat line. For example in chapter one, figure 1.5 A and B lacked most of these aspects, which makes the maps very limited and do not present the intended information accurately. It is a common problem for all the maps in the chapter. The author should have therefore included these aspects to make the maps even better.



Canvas. (n.d). Map Critique. Retrieved from

Crampton J. W. (2010). Mapping A Critical Introduction to Cartography and GI. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Monmonier, M. (1996). How to lie with maps. University of Chicago Press. (Chapter 1-7, pages: 112)

Robinson, A.H., Morrison, J.L., Muehrcke, P.C., Kimerling, A.J. & Guptill, S.C. (1995). Elements of Cartography. (6th ed.). New York: Wiley.


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