Map Projection Education in General Cartography Textbooks: A Content Analysis

  • Fritz Kessler The Pennsylvania State University
Keywords: Map projection, datum, content analysis, cartographic education, cartographic history


As developments in the field of map projections occur (e.g., the deriving of a new map projection), it would be reasonable to expect that those developments that are important from a teaching standpoint would be included in cartography textbooks. However, researchers have not examined whether map projection material presented in cartography textbooks is keeping pace with developments in the field and whether that material is important for cartography students to learn. To provide such an assessment, I present the results of a content analysis of projection material discussed in 24 cartography textbooks published during the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Results suggest that some material, such as projection properties, was discussed in all textbooks across the study period. Other material, such as methods used to illustrate distortion patterns, and the importance of datums, was either inconsistently presented or rarely mentioned. Comparing recent developments in projections to the results of the content analysis, I offer three recommendations that future cartography textbooks should follow when considering what projection material is important. First, textbooks should discuss the importance that defining a coordinate system has in the digital environment. Second, textbooks should summarize the results from experimental studies that provide insights into how map readers understand projections and how to choose appropriate map projections. Third, textbooks should review the impacts of technology on projections, such as the web Mercator projection, programming languages, and the challenges of projecting raster data.


Author Biography

Fritz Kessler, The Pennsylvania State University
Fritz Kessler is a Research Associate in the John A. Dutton e-Education Institute.
How to Cite
Kessler, F. (2018). Map Projection Education in General Cartography Textbooks: A Content Analysis. Cartographic Perspectives, (90), 6-30.
Peer-Reviewed Articles