Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Using Cartographic Resources as Visual Aids

New York Times Republican votes

Maps in the News:  New York Elections, Etc.

The Ball State University Libraries’ GIS Research and Map Collection (GRMC) provides services to assist and enhance the specific needs of students, faculty, and other researchers.  The GRMC will provide individual and classroom research assistance and instruction, and one of the most popular instructional programs involves students learning to use maps as visual aids in creative writing assignments.

This semester the GRMC has provided instructional sessions to over 500 students in English composition and other classes learning to use maps and other cartographic resources as visual aids to add emphasis, credibility, and clarity to their research papers.  The GRMC offers students information about unique maps, atlases, GIS software, and other cartographic resources—including many Web pages that use the latest mapping technology to create maps about the most pressing news events.  One of the best online resources for maps is The New York Times.

The Times and its related analytical page, The Upshot, feature detailed maps (above, click to enlarge) that display statistics and data related to the latest news stories from around the world, and these maps can be used in students’ research papers.  The Times has featured numerous maps related to the refugee crisis in Africa and the Middle East, maps updating the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Russian air space violations. 

Maps describing social issues like crime and healthcare have also been featured.  The maps range from lighthearted topics like where Thanksgiving dishes are more popular in the U.S. and how often Google users searched for the term “skinny jeans” to more serious issues like state gun laws.  And The New York Times did a comprehensive series related to drugs and created maps showing U.S. overdose deaths for 2014 and how heroin abuse in states like New Hampshire have become a campaign issue.

On today’s page, readers can view interactive maps showing the results of yesterday’s New York primary elections.  Users can zoom in to the maps to see how each block in all five New York boroughs voted, with maps showing the results of the Republican and Democratic presidential elections.  Users can click on maps showing how different demographic groups voted (race and socioeconomic status).

Researchers can use maps to convey a visual message for a seemingly endless variety of topics.  The GRMC can provide information about using and citing maps from online resources.  For more information about using cartographic resources for research and learning, please contact the GRMC at 765-285-1097.

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