NWP105A: Use maps, plans and drawings

Using maps

Making maps

What are maps and plans and how are they constructed?

Making and using maps is not difficult once you know how, because there are some rules that are generally followed when reading and creating them. With practice, these steps will become second nature, but it is always good to know the basic rules to follow when you create maps.

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Title of map: Will give you a general idea about the information it contains. It tells you the name of the map giving the subject and place.

North point: Will give you the direction to which the compass needle points.

Legend (symbols): Are used to represent real-world things. They can include: natural features such as water flows, hills and valleys; or human features including transport systems, bridges, housing settlements and industrial areas.

Scale: Every map has a scale which relates distance on the map to the world. For example, one inch equals one mile. Using the scale of a map, you can tell the actual distance between two points for real.

Border: A line drawn around a map to keep it neat and to separate the map itself from the additional information such as the title, scale and legend.

Grid: Is used to assist the reader to locate a specific area or feature on a map. For example, lines of latitude and longitude can identify the exact location of any point on Earth; while alphanumeric grids can pin point a specific building on a local street map.

Date and edition: It is important to know when a map was produced and what edition it is. The landscape is constantly changing. For example, over time natural feature like rivers may change their course and housing settlements and roads may be built or altered. Accurate information is important particularly if you are travelling to remote areas.

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Types of maps

Maps and plans can represent a small area within your own community showing where your home is located, or can represent a landmass such as Australia, showing where the different states and territories are located.


Big shopping malls usually have plans that identify where different shops and services are located on the site. They are usually located at the main entrances, see if you can pick one up when you visit.

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Atlas map: Contain information on land forms and how land is used. It can show population density and political boundaries that exist between regions, states and nations.

Cadastral map: The cadastral map shows the boundaries between properties and records land ownership. They also provide a record of land sub-divisions.

An example of this sort of map can be used to find your way around a shopping mall.

A simple topographic map: Provides detailed information about the natural, human and industrial features in the landscape.

Road maps and street directories contain information about how to get from one place to another, using a vehicle or on foot

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Creating a map or plan


If a friend was going to visit you at home, think how you could set about drawing a rough plan to help them to find their way?

  • rough sketch of the features of a cadastral map
  • final copy of rough sketch transformed into a cadastral map including the essential elements that make up a map

1. Whether you are creating an atlas map to show the relationships between continents, or a cadastral map of your local shopping mall, a map will usually start out as a rough sketch.

When cartographers are in the field, they often sketch maps and plans as a way of recording field work data. Because the sketch map is done in the field, it is not expected to be perfectly accurate: lines are not drawn neatly, scale is only approximate, and labelling is often repeated.

2. Once the rough sketch has been created, the cartographer then begins their final draft. This is when the sketch map is converted into a more accurate, final copy.

The final map will have lines that are carefully drawn, colour shading to represent different parts of the map or plan and a legend. Compare the rough draft and the final draft of the maps on the left to see the difference.