Cartographic Method of Research

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Cartographic Method of Research


the use of geographic maps for the analysis, recognition, and prediction of phenomena. The cartographic method is used to study the rules of spatial arrangement of phenomena and their interrelationships, dependence, and development. The many procedures for analyzing and processing maps that are typical of the cartographic method can be grouped in the following basic methods.

(1) Visual analysis, which involves direct visual study from maps of the spatial arrangement, combinations, relationships, and changes in phenomena.

(2) Graphic methods of analysis, which involve the construction of profiles and cross sections (which give a graphic representation of the vertical structure of the phenomena), relief diagrams (which combine perspective representation of the terrain with vertical cross sections of it), and various kinds of charts and diagrams (for example, hypsographic curves) on the basis of maps.

(3) Cartometric work, which involves using maps to determine the coordinates, distances, lengths, elevations, areas, volumes, angles, and other quantitative characteristics of objects shown on the map (with an estimation of the accuracy of the results obtained).

(4) Mathematical and statistical analysis, in which maps are used to study any homogeneous phenomena (air temperatures, density of rural settlement, and crop yield), and their location and changes with time as determined by numerous factors with unknown functional relationships, and to learn the type and closeness of relationships among various phenomena (by computing correlation relationships, such as correlation coefficients and ratios).

(5) Mathematical simulations, the purpose of which is the construction of spatial mathematical models—that is, a mathematical description of the phenomena or processes on the basis of raw data taken from the map—and subsequent study of the models to interpret and explain the phenomena; in particular, a methodology has been developed for composing approximating equations for surfaces, both real (for example, the terrain of the earth’s surface) and abstract (the annual precipitation).

(6) Transforming maps to obtain derivative maps specially designed and convenient for specific research (for example, using a hypsometric map to make a derivative map of the steepness of slopes to study and forecast erosion processes).

The cartographic method of research usually uses various combinations of the procedures mentioned above. Many of them now involve the use of electronic computers for automatic processing of the data taken from the map “manually.” At the same time, methods are coming into use for automatic generation of the necessary data from the map and for automatic interlinked processing of the data (for example, for automatic determination of areas according to maps).


Berliant, A. M. “Kartograficheskii metod issledovaniia.” In Itogi nauki:Kartografiia, 1967–69, fasc. 4. Moscow, 1970.
Salishchev, K. A. Kartografiia, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1971.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.