Geographical Skills Essay
'Explain the importance of maps in Human Geography.'
Maps are crucial to research within Human Geography as they give context to demographic information, and through the use of both physical maps and Geographical Information Systems geographers can provide spatial grounding and evidence. Maps also enable human geographers to give visual evidence to support claims which can be manipulated into presentation techniques such as choropleth maps. In this essay I will look at the importance of maps in these ways, as well as how maps are crucial to displaying change through time of demographics or landscape.
Perhaps the most obvious explanation of why maps are such a vital tool for human geographers is their uses in the contextualization of data, specifically for locating demographic data such as age structures and employment status. The key component of a map that is so important for this is scale, as by mapping to scale a study area demographic information can be localised and expressed in terms of distance relationships. These spatial relationships are critical to any study as human geography demands research based on spatial phenomenon. An example of how this could be used is in the mapping of census data, with the information grouped by locale and these groups displayed with maps to show proximity. Ordnance survey style maps are best suited for this purpose as they also display services and infrastructure which often complements the demographic data being studied.
Geographical Information Systems are also crucial to geographical research and analysis. GIS gives human geographers the ability to transform basic maps into more specialised data visualisations, whether it be creating a 3D model of topographic relief and adding layers of infrastructure and data, or grouping data and creating choropleth maps or data distributions. These types of data plotting have brought mapping straight into the 21st century and can show innovation...
References: Clifford, N (2010). Key Methods in Geography. Sage Publications Ltd, London.
Cloke, P (2005). Introducing Human Geographies. Hodder Education, London.
Preston, S (2000). Demography: Measuring and Modelling Population Processes. Wiley-Blackwell, London.
Rowland, D.T (2003). Demographic Methods and Concepts. OUP, Oxford.
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