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Reference and Thematic maps

There are many reasons why someone creates a map and for this reason each map will stress a particular aspect of an area e.g. political, physical, topographic, climatic, road , etc, etc, etc.

But (in general) all of the different map designs can be allocated in to two basics types, Reference and Thematic.

Reference maps show where something is.

  • For example they could show the physical locations of mountains, roads, and buildings. They can also be used to display non physical details such as political boundaries, times zones, etc.

 A UK Ordinance Survey Reference Map.

 Reference map showing political boundaries.

Thematic maps show variations of a theme.

  • These type of maps attempt to display differences. For example a changing weather map, house price in different areas, population movement over time, etc.

 Thematic map showing pressure barometric pressure

 Thematic map where each dot represents 4,600 cases of malaria in 2017.

Note – the absence of a dot doesn’t mean there were no malaria cases, just that there weren’t 4,600 cases in a specific location.