If you are looking for online maps to be used in your research, it is a good idea to get started with a map repository or map library. There are a large number of static maps available on the Internet; static maps are images, a snapshot, of a specific geography and specific variables, such as population, trails, roads, or stereotypes. There is no interactivity and you don't need to special software to view them.
The main file formats of a static map:
- .jpeg or .jpg
The following map libraries and associations allow users to find print maps that have been digitized and added to an online repository. Many of these maps are historical; however there are more current maps available as well, depending on copyright.
Navigating the Internet for Online or Interactive Maps
With GIS, open software and free access to geospatial data, making a map has never been easier. Which means, there are a lot of online maps out there.
Interactive maps are created with specialized software and geospatial data; users can interact with the map, by adding and removing layers, zooming, panning, measuring, and exporting. The user does not need to have special software to view and utilize the map.
Most government agencies, at all levels, make their geospatial data available in both Open data websites and Interactive Maps.
Like any resource, you must critically evaluate the source, to make sure it passes the CRAP test.
Most importantly, check out the end of the url and who authored the map. Where did they get their data from?
I want to find an interactive map showing New York City's land use.
1. Open your browser, choose your preferred search engine (for the purposes of this guide, I am using Google)
2. Enter keywords New York City and Land Use AND Map OR GIS
- Don't limit to Images. By doing so, you'll get map images from any source and many are static maps
- Adding GIS or Map is recommended; this way you will find maps that have used geospatial data and mapping software.
3. The first link that shows up in the search is:
.gov informs me that this is a governmental website. Government information is a primary source.
This map was created by the New York City Planning Department; data used to populate the map is from government open data sites and other public data sources.
Conclusion: it's a reliable source.