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Finding & Citing Maps

Libguide to provide researchers with search tips and tools to locate, use, and cite historical maps in your research.

Citing cartographic resources

Citing Maps, Atlases, Aerial Photographs

Citing your sources is a fundamental part of scholarly research. Maps can be either primary or secondary sources, and they can be used in conjunction with books, articles, archival materials, to perform scholarly research. If you use a map in your research project, you should cite the map in the body of your paper and in the bibliography.

Here is a quick guide on how to cite maps in a bibliography. Map Collection staff are available to help you figure out how to identify some of these elements for your map.



Definition A single map on a single sheet, not part of a larger set.
Structure Author. Title [format]. Edition. Scale. Place of publication: Publisher, Date.
Example Automobile Association of America (AAA). Street map of the San Fernando Valley [map]. Approximately 1:24,000. Los Angeles, Calif.: The Association, 1949.


Definition A map on multiple sheets that, when assembled together, make up a single map with shared border and margin areas. While individual sheets may have separate title designations (ie, NW sheet, sheet no. 3), generally only one sheet displays the main map title, publication, and legend info. The individual sheets may have incomplete borders and margin areas. Main map title (not sheet designations) should be used for citations.
Structure Author. Title [format]. Edition. Number of sheets. Scale. Place of publication: Publisher, Date.
Example United States Post Office. Post route map of California and Nevada [map]. 2 sheets. 1:760,320. [Washington, D.C.] : Post Office Department, 1942.


Definition A set of maps (topographic or non-topographic) covering a specific geographic area that share a collective title, scale, issuing body, legend, and consistent cartographic symbolization. Each individual map within the series/set portrays the shared collective information, but tends to stand alone as an independent map, with its own distinct sheet name, collective sheet number, and with a complete border and margin area. Publication dates may vary across the series/set.
Structure Author. Sheet title [format]. Edition or revision statement. Scale. Series name/number. Place of publication: Publisher, Date.
Example United States Geological Survey (USGS). Zelzah [map]. Edition of 1932. 1:24,000. Los Angeles County 6-Minute Series. Reston, Va: The Survey, 1929.


Definition A book of maps on a particular theme, subject, or geographic area and usually bound together.
Structure Author. Title. Edition/Volume if applicable. Place of publication: Publisher, Date.
Example Turner, Eugene. An atlas of population patterns in metropolitan Los Angeles and Orange counties, 1990. Northridge, Calif. : California State University, Northridge, 1991.


Definition If individual maps within an atlas have separate creators/cartographers, may cite a single map from an atlas.
Structure Map author. Map title [map]. Scale. In: Atlas author. Atlas title. Edition. Place of publication: Publisher, Date, page #.
Example ...


Definition ...
Structure Map author. Map title [format]. Scale. Place of publication: Publisher, Date (if known). In: Book author. Book title. Edition. Place of publication: Publisher, Date, page #.
Example ...


Definition A historical map, plan, or survey that is generally unpublished and drawn, drafted, or surveyed by hand. If part of a larger archival collection, the collection name and number should be noted.
Structure ...
Example ...


Definition A reproduced or facsimile version of an original historical or previously unpublished manuscript map. A reproduction / facsimile map will generally appear like the original and will generally display the original creation date, but should also display a reproduction statement with any new publishing info. A photocopy or photostat map may not display reproduction info but would be considered a facsimile.
Structure Author. Title [format]. Scale if known. Original place of publication: Original date of publication. As reproduced by, Place of publication: Publisher, Date.
Example ...


Definition Either a static map from a website, or a physical map that has been digitized and is now found on a website or institutional repository. The citation should note both the map's bibliographic info as well as the website URL info from which it was accessed.
Structure Author/creator. Map title [format]. Scale if known. "Title of complete document or site." Date of revision or update if available. <URL> (date accessed).
Example ...
Example Baker, George H. (lithographer). Map of a portion of Los Angeles County showing the Abel Stearns' Ranchos, 1873 [map]. Scale [ca. 1:150,000]. Los Angeles Public Library Digital Collections. <>, (April 26, 2020).


Definition Map from online map software (Google, Bing, Earth, etc). May or may not be a user-generated map with custom content published online.
Structure Map creator, if known. "Map title" [format]. Publication city: Publication date, if applicable. Map publisher. Copyright date. Web. Date accessed.
Example ...


Definition A computer-based map that is generally viewed dynamically on a local machine within a GIS software platform, that may not necessarily contain full extent of map at same time, and generally requires user interaction with data layers within software.
Structure Author. Map title [format]. Projection. Linear scale. Data from: [--]. Place of publication: Institutional/Individual publisher, Date GIS data map was generated/created. Using [GIS software name]. Edition/Version. Software place of production: Software producer name. (?)
Example ...


Definition A static map that has been exported from GIS software, portrays all data layers, displays static scale info, and shows full extent of map within a separate document, non-GIS software, image viewer, or a PDF.
Structure Author. Map title [format]. Scale. Projection. Data from: [--]. Place of publication: Institutional/Individual publisher, Date GIS data map was generated/created. Using [GIS software name]. Edition/Version. Software place of production: Software producer name. (?)
Example ...


Definition Generally an online reference tool that uses "out of the box" web-based tools to define geographic areas and specific data sets to create an interactive map within a web-based map viewer. The reference tool may or may not be the source of the data, and data may also come from outside sources. Examples include American Factfinder, Policy Map, municipal data hubs, etc.
Structure Data Producer. Name of database or source. Title of map or table [format]. Map generated by researcher name; using [software/online resource]; <URL of main/first page> if applicable. (Date map/table was generated).
Example ...


Definition A single plate or collection of aerial photographs. May be orthogonal (vertical) or oblique imagery.
Structure Creating agency. Collection name, City/town, Date of image. Flight #/frame #. [format]. Scale. Place of publication: Publisher, Date of image.
Example USDA. The San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles, 1938. AXJ-1938, 10K-125 [aerial photograph]. 1:12,000. Place of publication not identified, 1938.


Definition ...
Structure ...
Example ...

The cartographic citation styles come from the Cartographic citations: a style guide by Christine Kollen. A copy of the style guide is available at the Map Collection service desk. Some of the definitions and explanations of map formats come from the Library of Congress's Cartographic Resources Manual.

Map Curator

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Chris Salvano
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