Different Types of Maps – Classified Using Scale and Purpose

In this article, We will learn several important concepts related to different types of map. After you read this article you will understand following concepts.

  • What is a Map?
  • How Maps are Classified?
  • Explain different types of maps classified based on Scale and Purpose?

What is a Map?

A map can be defined as 2-D representation of a part or complete surface of the earth and is used for representing geographic information. A map makes use of various types of graphics such as symbols, figures, lines. colors etc for showing different types of geographic details.

How Do  We Prepare a Map?

Earth is 3-Dimensional covered with highly undulating objects and phenomena all over the surface.  Map is flat and planar representation of earth surface. Irrespective of whether we treat earth as a sphere or spheroid, the earth surface must be transformed into a 2-Dimensional planar surface for preparing the map.

Cartographers use projected coordinate system for converting and transforming 3-Dimensional terrain into a flat map. There are also different types of coordinate systems for preparing the map.

Depending on the context i.e., purpose of map and types of mapped features coordinate system is selected. Finally, the objects and feature on the earth are projected and the map is prepared as per the rules of coordinate system.

Different Types of Maps:

Maps can be classified in to different types using different criteria. In this article, 2 important criteria used for preparing different types of maps are:

  1. Scale of Map
  2. Purpose of Map.

Classification of Maps Based on Scale:

Scale is an important factor which controls the amount of details that can be represented using a map. A mere figure with lines and symbols cannot be called as a map with out scale. Scale can be defined as the representative fraction by which the actual features are enlarged or decreased in size for preparing a graphic diagram(map).

One can classify maps into 2 types depending on the scale used for producing the map.

  1. Large Scale Maps
  2. Small Scale Maps

Large Scale Maps:

Large scale maps have higher representative factor. Hence, features in large scale map appear bigger compared to small scale maps. In other words, large scale maps show more details of the given area. As a result these maps represent relative small areas with greater details. These maps are prepared based on the requirement as they are difficult to prepare due to less generalization and more details.

Large scale maps may be further sub divided into following categories

a. Cadastral Maps:

These maps are prepared by revenue authority to collect the taxes, and generate revenue estimates etc. These maps show land ownership details with boundaries at field level. Scale of these maps may be in the range of 1:5000 to 1:10000.

A village or mandal map prepared by revenue department or MRO office is a good example for cadastral map.

b. Topographical Maps:

These maps represent topographical details of an area such as drainage network, forest cover, elevation, roads, monuments etc., with the help of symbols, colors etc. These are prepared on a relatively larger scale compared with cadastral maps. In India, Survey of India prepares topographic maps, in United States USGS takes the responsibility for same.

The scale of these maps may be from 1: 5,000 to 1:2,50,000. The scales used for mapping are standardized by dividing the entire India into a series of uniform grids by Survey of India.  These scales are followed uniformly for production of different types of maps.  (Read More)

Small Scale Maps:

These maps are opposite to large scale maps and have relatively smaller scaling factor. These maps show lesser amount of details but cover larger areas in a single map. More generalization of details occur as large area is shown in a single map document.

Following are different types of small scale maps.

a. Atlas maps and Wall maps:

These are the maps which we commonly see in class rooms, offices etc. These maps are prepared with a very large scale such as 1:1,000,000. Atlas maps are very generalized and represent very large amount of area i.e., in some case whole country or continent. However, if one can read lot of useful information such as relief, road networks etc from these maps also.

Classification of Maps Based on Purpose:

Maps can be classified into different types depending on their usage also. Following  different types of maps based on their purpose.

  1. Physical Maps
  2. Cultural Maps

The above 2 categories are broadly based on their purpose and can be further subdivided into several other types of maps depending on usage.

Physical Maps:

Physical maps shows the natural features of the terrain such as drainage, geology, forest cover, soil cover etc. Depending on the features that are mapped in physical maps, they are further divided into different types as below.

a.Geological Maps:

Geological maps show different types of rocks and geological features such as faults, folds, minerals etc., of a terrain.

b. Relief Maps:

Relief maps show the presence of mountains, valleys etc., they represent the  natural variation of terrain in terms of slope and elevation.

c. Other Maps:

Other types of maps include climate maps, soil maps, drainage maps etc. These maps represent details such as temperature, rainfall, drainage pattern and soil type etc.

Cultural Maps:

Cultural maps are made of man made features such as road networks, monuments, boundary lines etc. Often these maps are also used for illustrating certain details such as population, economy, literacy etc.

Following are different types of cultural maps.

a. Transportation Network Maps:

As the name says these maps represent details of different types of road and rail network present in the area. Ex: National highways, district roads along with railway network is mapped.

b. Political Maps:

Political maps show the details of administrative boundaries, headquarters and capitals of countries, states and districts.

c. Other Maps:

Other types of maps include population maps, literacy maps, economic maps, export maps etc. These maps are prepared based on the specific application at that point of time and details tend to vary at every time of mapping.

Resources for More Details on Classification of Maps:

  1. https://is.mendelu.cz/eknihovna/opory/zobraz_cast.pl?cast=60067
  2. http://resources.esri.com/help/9.3/arcgisengine/dotnet/89b720a5-7339-44b0-8b58-0f5bf2843393.htm
  3. https://nptel.ac.in/courses/105102015/46
  4. http://earthsci.org/education/fieldsk/Map_Scales/geo_scales.html
  5. http://ncert.nic.in/ncerts/l/kegy301.pdf (Recommended)
  6. https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/what-a-topographic-map

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