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Module 1 Required Resources


Your course requires a textbook that must be purchased from the NU Bookstore or any other resource of your choosing (for example, on Amazon). 


  • Chapter 1: Introduction
  • Chapter 2: Techniques of Geographic Analysis

Module 1 Learning Activities: Techniques of Geographic Analysis

What is Geography?

These two short videos hosted by National Geographic Scientist, Alizé Carrère, help us understand the dynamic relationship between humans and the incredible place we get to call our home. We will find answers to some of the fundamental questions we might have along our journey in this course. Questions such as:

  • How does geography correlate with other sciences?
  • What is a geographical investigation?
  • What are some of the big questions geography helps answer?
  • How do humans impact their environment?
  • How does the environment impact humans?
  • Why is the human-environment interaction key to geographers?
  • What makes geography a spatial science?

Watch this video discussing the scope of the study of geography.

Watch this video connecting the dots between geography and Chiquita bananas.

What is a Map?

Watch this video that decodes many of the possible purposes and types of maps.

It’s impossible to conduct a geographical investigation or discuss geographical features and avoid maps. The videos and resources presented here lay out a good foundation on what maps are and how they are a crucial part of our journey through geography. Some of the questions answered are:

  • What are thematic maps?
  • What are some key map components?
  • What are some applications of maps?
  • What is one main drawback with Choropleth maps?
  • How could projection of 3D objects onto a 2D map contribute to misinterpretation?
  • What is a map distortion?
  • Why is Mercator map still used in google maps despite the tradeoffs of the projection?

The previous video discussed how maps of the Earth represent distorted perspectives when translating the three-dimensional sphere of the Earth's surface into a two-dimensional form, and made mention of maps' longitude and latitude, and how flattening them out in different ways results in different projections.

Before you can really study different map projections, check out this website to learn about longitude and latitude and how geographical locations on Earth's surface are measured.

Next, let's explore and interact with some common map projections and how they cause various kinds of distortions in size, shape, and angles. This poster created by the U.S. Geological Survey lists many common projections side-by-side, and this projection animation shows various projections transitioning into one another.  Focus on how different features and attributes (distance, direction, shape, and area) distort from one projection to another.

Finally, test yourself with this Mercator projection puzzle.  Can you overcome the area distortion to find each piece's real location?

Topographic Maps

Vintage 1903 quadrangle covering the O'Fallen, MO area (USGS)

Another type of map that illustrates the Earth's surface is a topographic map.  The U.S. Geological Survey provides a succinct explanation of what a topographic map is, and has published a handy document explaining many of the symbols commonly found on these types of maps.

To really master the concept of how topographic (or topo) contour lines work, you can build your own 3D topo model at home.

Landsat Images

The last type of map we'll explore are images of the Earth's surface produced from satellite images.  Test your ability to see what a scientist sees in Landsat images.  In this activity produced by the U.S. Geological Society, you'll be shown ten pairs of satellite images.  Figure out what changed and what might have caused it.  Pay attention to the dates the images were taken; sometimes they might be a strong clue to the correct answer!

These activities and resources are aimed at helping you acquire a clear understanding of this module's Learning Objectives.  It is strongly recommended you complete this module's reading assignment before progressing through these resources so you'll be aware of how each activity and resource applies to this course and your learning. Afterward, download and review the slide decks summarizing Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 to finish reinforcing your new knowledge.