What is a MAP Key How is it Used?
To understand what a map key is, first you need to know about the legend of a map. A legend contains symbols that represent specific things. For example, some maps might have symbols for different types of vegetation or land use on them. The legend tells you which symbol corresponds with each type of vegetation or land use. Legend symbols are often located in the bottom left corner of a map.
Each legend symbol is also given a unique identifying label or abbreviation. These labels are used on the map to identify specific features in different colors, shapes, or sizes. A key is an organized list that matches symbols in the legend with labels that are displayed on the map. Usually you will find the key at the bottom of the map. Sometimes there will be two different keys on a map, one for land use or vegetation and another for political boundaries, roads, or other manmade features. The legend symbols are usually paired with their corresponding labels in alphabetical order so they can quickly be referred back to when labeling features on the map.
Now that you know about the legend and key, it’s time to learn how to use them. You can take a look at both symbols and labels on the map key and match each one up with their corresponding symbol or label in the legend. Pay close attention when matching symbols and labels so you don’t get anything switched around! If there are different colors or shapes used for certain symbols or labels, then it is important to be aware of what color belongs with certain symbols and which shape belongs with certain labels. To aid in your map labeling, try using a highlighter to mark off each symbol-label match as you make them.
If you are ever confused about what the symbols or labels on a map mean, you can always refer back to the legend and key to get some clarification.
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