"Science" is used both to describe a general, systematic approach to understanding the world and to refer to that approach as it is applied to a specific phenomenon of interest, for example, "geographic information science." The scientific method is used to develop theories that explain phenomena and processes. It consists of an iterative cycle of several steps: proposing a hypothesis, devising a way to make empirical observations that test that hypothesis, and finally, refining the hypothesis based on the empirical observations. "Scientific cartography" became a dominant mode of cartographic research and inquiry after World War II, when there was increased focus on the efficacy of particular design decisions and how particular maps were understood by end users. This entry begins with a brief history of the development of scientific cartographic approaches, including how they are deployed in map design research today. Next it discusses how maps have been used by scientists to support scientific thinking. Finally, it concludes with a discussion of how maps are used to communicate the results of scientific thinking.
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