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From Text to Map

Using digital tools and methods to represent your research as a map

Why a Map?

Researchers undertake digital mapping for a number of reasons. One may want to present their research data in a more accessible way. Others may seek to tell a story. Or perhaps one wants to explore a hypothesis about spatial relationships in their research.

Whatever your reason may be, there are a number of approaches and tools to consider as you begin a mapping project. This guide imagines its audience as a researcher seeking a spatial representation of a textual and/or narrative source, but can be used more broadly. It provides a workflow from idea to finished project. At the same time, someone with an existing dataset or some spatial data can use the suggested workflows and tools for their project.

Digital Mapping Approaches

Representation: You may want to represent your text as an image of a map. While storytelling and questions of space may be implicit, your main purpose is to give a visual representation of your research and conclusions.

Spatial analysis: You have questions about the relationship between space and other concerns of your research. Perhaps some comparison can help you answer questions or ask more refined questions of your research.

Storytelling: You’ve drawn your conclusions and you have a story to tell. A map or series of maps will be part of a multimodal experience, or perhaps even the driving force behind your story.

There is no right or wrong way to approach transforming your textual research into a map, but determining an approach that best fits your research questions and/or desired output can help you decide on additional methods and tools.

The Digital Map Makers Toolkit

As you prepare your data and make a map, you will find yourself using different tools throughout the project lifecycle. The list below contains key tools used throughout a mapping project. This guide will address all these tools to some degree in the following pages.

Common tools

  • Plain text files
  • Text editor
  • Geocoder
  • Visualization platform
  • Publishing mechanism