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The role of the map legend is to explain the symbols on the map. Symbols are point, line, area, volume, and pixel graphic marks that represent real-world geographic phenomena. Legends explain symbols that represent natural and human-made features, such as roads, coastlines, buildings, and cities. Legends also explain symbols that represent thematic data. Examples of thematic data representations include light-gray to dark-gray shades and their associated values (ranks) showing population density, and various circle sizes representing average tuition costs at state universities and their associated values.

There are two schools of thought on which map symbols should be placed in a legend. One is to include every symbol present on the map. This often results in a complex and sometimes visually cumbersome legend if not effectively ...

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