5 Elements of any Map

Maps contain lots of information. Most maps will have the five following things: a Title, a Legend, a Grid, a Compass Rose to indicate direction, and a Scale. The Title tells you what is being represented on the map (i.e. Austin, Tx). The legend (also know as the key) explains the symbols used on the map for various features like mountains or rivers and other major landmarks. Next, there is usually a grid made up of longitude and latitude lines to precisely locate specific locations. Then, there is the compass rose indicating the cardinal directions of North, South, East, and West as it relates to the map. Finally, the scale compares the distances on the map to actual distances (i.e. 1 inch = 10 miles). Knowing about these 5 things will help you better understand information when using maps.

5 Elements of Any Map

5 Elements of any Map

Some maps may contain more than this just basic information, but any map should contain these five elements.

1) First is your title. The title of your map should tell basic information about the map, such as the area represented. So you could have a map of the Whichita Falls city area, or you could have a map of Texas, or you could have a map of the United States, or you could have a map of your backyard. The map could be anything, but the title is going to tell you what or should tell you some basic information about the map and the basic area represented by that map.

2) The next element is the legend, which is also known as the key, and it explains what symbols that are used on that particular map represent, such as symbols for major landmarks. So you may see little peaks to equal mountains, or squiggly lines to equal rivers. Those would be symbols that you could find on the map. They stand for mountains or rivers, so you would know if you saw an area with little peaks, there would be mountains there, or an area with a little squiggle, that would be a river in that area.

3) The third element is the grid. Most commonly represents the geographic grid system, or latitude and longitude marks used to precisely locate specific locations. So on a big map or a map of an actual place, you would often have criss-crossing lines that are going to represent the latitude and longitude of your area in space. You may just have a map of your backyard split up like this, but then you could tell someone in this first square or the second square or the third square where they should find something. And sometimes your grid is set up with letters and numbers. So if I said that there was a tree in this square, you could say in cell C3 on your map, you can find a tree. So that is how the grid would work. But these would be your lines of latitude and your lines of longitude. Latitude is flat, longitude is long, up and down.

4) Your next element would be directions. A compass rose which looks similar to this, or some other symbol, is usually going to be present on the map to indicate the cardinal directions of north, south, east, and west. Sometimes a map is set up the way you see it, but north is really off to your right instead of being straight ahead, so having the cardinal directions on the map in the form of a compass rose or some other symbol is helpful to make sure that you are reading the map correctly.

5) And the last element of any map is going to be a scale. And a scale shows the relation between a certain distance on the map and the actual distance in real life. For example, one inch might represent one mile. Or ten miles. Or even more depending on the size of the map. So if I drew this little picture, I could say one inch might actually equal ten feet in that backyard. So a scale is just going to tell you what the measurement that you can do on that map, in centimeters or inches, is going to be equal to in terms of real life measurements of feet or yards or miles depending on how large of an area your map is representing. So the five elements that you should see on any map and be able to identify, are the title, legend, grid, directions, and scale.



by Mometrix Test Preparation | Last Updated: August 14, 2019