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Maps: Digital maps & data

A guide to finding and using printed and digital maps.

Digital maps & geospatial data

Digital maps may be categorized by increasing complexity:

  1. Static maps. Most maps on the internet are of this type. They cannot be edited but may be printed or inserted into a document - they may be jpg or tif format, and the qualty can be poor.
  2. Editable maps. The file format for these is eps (or sometimes pdf) and they can be edited with the right software eg. Adobe Illustrator. They are usually better quality than (1)
  3. Online atlases. These may have different layers which you can choose, so as to create your own personalised map
  4. Geospatial data. This is raw data which can be downloaded, but must be processed with a Geographical Information System eg ArcGIS to produce a map

Google Maps are easy to get hold of, but should not be used for academic work unless there are really no alternatives.  They also have restrictions on use meaning content should not be copied - see Google permissions guidelines for Google Maps and Google Earth.  If you need a map of Britain, use Digimap which is Ordnance Survey official mapping.  Elsewhere check the websites tab in this guide to see if other sources are available.

 

Journal of maps

The Journal of maps is a peer-reviewed, inter-disciplinary, online journal that aims to provide a forum for researchers to publish maps and spatial diagrams. Mapping is a fundamental tool of geographical enquiry yet there has been a decline in the published form - "the Journal of Maps is an attempt to redress the balance and provide an outlet for publication of maps of all types; an antidote to the malaise in map publication" (Smith, 2005).  In this journal the map rather than the text is the main focus, although it is accompanied by explanatory information.  It contains an enormous variety of types of maps on a huge variation of themes. Recent examples include:

  • The Spanish population during the twentieth century and beyond
  • Extreme rainfall relationship in Mexico
  • Mapping the visual landscape quality in Europe using physical attributes
  • Mapping car ownership in Great Britain over four decades

Smith, M.J. (2005) The Journal of Maps: an electronic journal for the presentation and dissemination of map based data. Journal of Maps, 1, 1-6.

Digimap

Digimap logo

Digimap is a key resource allowing you to view, annotate and print maps of Great Britain.                  

  • Ordnance Survey data can be accessed for academic use, including both location maps and very large scale detailed plans. 
  • Older large-scale Ordnance Survey maps (1846-1996) of Britain can be accessed through Historic Digimap
  • Geological maps can be accessed through Geology Digimap. 
  • Land cover data from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and 1930s land use maps are available through Environment Digimap. 
  • Getmapping aerial imagery can be accessed through Aerial Digimap
  • Lidar Digimap allows you to download Lidar data for use in GIS and CAD applications

All the maps (except Lidar Digimap) may be accessed and printed out at a variety of scales.  Alternatively, geospatial data can be downloaded for use in a geographical information system (GIS).

Digimap is available online from any PC, but an Institutional login is required plus an initial registration to use the service. For more information and to access this resource see our Digimap page.

Geology Digimap example                                 Historical Digimap example

Digimap Blog

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