Introduction to maps video

A video outlining the common types of maps used in the geography classroom and the key features associated with each type of map.

This video:

  • outlines the common types of maps used in Stage 4 and Stage 5 geography
  • provides a detailed overview of the key features associated with maps including border, orientation, legend, title, scale and source.
  • details the characteristics associated with physical maps, topographic maps, political maps, synoptic charts, choropleth maps, cadastral maps and flowline maps
  • concludes with an explanation of the difference between large and small scale maps.

Watch 'Introduction to maps' (3:39).

This episode outlines the use of the series as a supporting resource for NSW geography teachers.

[Music playing]

[Screen shows a blue sky with clouds. Text on screen reads, ‘Curriculum Secondary Learners – HSIE. Teaching geographical skills series. Introduction to maps. Presented by Melissa Ellis’.]

Melissa Ellis

Hello. In this video, we are learning about the many different types of maps.

[Presenter is standing in front of a decorative background. In the bottom right-hand corner of the screen, the text reads, ‘Melissa Ellis. HSIE Curriculum Support Project Officer’.]

Maps are used to locate, display, and record spatial data. Reference maps are used to show the location of physical features, boundaries, and cities. Thematic maps show themes, for example, the concentration of people in an area.

[Screen shows an image of a world map. The text above the image reads, ‘Globe map’.]

The best representation of a map in the world is a globe, but it's not convenient to carry a globe around. So the 3D globe is represented by projecting latitude and longitude onto a flat surface. There are some issues with these causing inaccuracies, though. For example, Mercator's projection distorts the size of the polar regions, Europe, and North America.

[Screen shows an image of a street map of Katoomba and Leura.]

A person who makes maps is a cartographer.

[The street map image moves to the right of the screen. On the left of the screen, the spoken words appear.]

Every map should have a border, orientation, legend, title, scale, and source. An easy way to remember this is using the acronym, BOLTSS.

[The screen shows an image of a relief map of the world. The text above the image reads, ‘Physical or relief map’.]

Physical or relief maps show the natural features of the Earth, like rivers, deserts, mountains, and lakes. They often use colours of the natural environment, like browns for mountains and hills, greens for land, and blues for water.

[The screen shows an image of a topographic map. The text above the image reads, ‘Topographic map’.]

Topographic maps show the shape of the Earth's surface by using contour lines. These lines join points of equal elevation. These maps also show some natural features, like lakes, and cultural features, like roads and bridges.

[The screen shows an image of a political map of Europe. The text above the image reads, ‘Political map’.]

Political maps use different colours to show countries, international borders, and often the major cities and oceans.

[The screen shows an image of a synoptic chart of Australia. The text above the image reads, ‘Synoptic chart’.]

Synoptic charts are maps that summarize atmospheric conditions, including air pressure, precipitation, wind speed and direction. Isobars are the lines on these maps that join places of equal air pressure.

[Screen shows an image of a choropleth map of Western Australia. The text above the image reads, ‘Choropleth map’.]

A choropleth map is a thematic map used to represent the density of values or objects in an area, for example, population density. The darker shading normally shows higher values, and the lighter shading indicates lower values.

[The screen shows an image of a cadastral map of Queensland. The text above the image reads, ‘Cadastral map’.]

Cadastral maps show property boundaries, as well as some information about the property for landowners and local councils.

[The screen shows an image of a flowline map of the world. Text on the image reads, ‘Movements of people: migration and tourism.’ The text above the image reads, ‘Flowline map’.]

Flowline maps are a type of thematic map that use lines or arrows to show movement between places, for example, the movement of people, animals, goods, or money.

[The screen shows an image of a world map. The text above the image reads, ‘Large and small scale map’.]

Finally, you might hear the term, ‘large and small scale map.’ Large scale maps show a lot of detail for a small area, for example, a small town. And small scale maps show a larger geographic area, like a country, with fewer details on them. The map shown here is a small scale map.

That concludes this video. Happy map reading.

[Text on screen reads, ‘References

  • Map projections by Tobias Jung, CC BY-SA 4.0,, via
  • Katoomba Leura Tourist Directory, by E. Coleman at Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0v
  • Relief world maps by OpenStreetMap-Mitwirkende at; licenced uder CC-BY-SA
  • High School Earth Science/Topographic Maps by Wikibooks, The Free Textbook Project. Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0.
  • Europe Political Map by Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository at Licensed under CC BY-SA.
  • © Copyright Commonwealth of Australia 2021, Bureau of
  • © Copyright Commonwealth of Australia, Bureau of Meteorology at
  • Cadastral map 20chain series Queensland, Sheet by Kerry Raymond,,_Sheet_2520,1962.jpg. Image in public domain, copyright term expired
  • European Environmental Agency, Movements of people: migration and tourism. eea.europa.ed/data-and-maps/figures/moving-to-work-and-escape-poverty. Licence: CC BY 2.5 DK.
  • Text BoxFreePNGIMG, <a href=””> World Area Map Free PNG HQ</a>. Licenced under CC-BY-NC-’.

Text on screen reads, ‘Acknowledgements. NSW Geography K-10 syllabus © NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales 2015. See the NESA website for additional copyright information. NSW Department of Education Curriculum Secondary Learners. Southern Cross School of Distance Education.’

Screen shows an Indigenous artwork. The artwork features a landscape with native Australian animals. It is titled ‘Our Country’ by Garry Purchase. Text at the top of the screen reads, ‘Filming of these videos has taken place on Bundjalung land’. Video concludes by displaying the NSW Government logo.]

[End of transcript]

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