Map Experiment Database
User studies are a cornerstone of cartographic research, delivering valuable insights into the design and use of maps, as well as the attitudes and behaviors of map users. The ever-expanding body of cartographic user studies maintains cartography as a forward-facing discipline: emerging technologies and methods are actively pursued and adopted, rather than dismissed. Alongside this growing, diversifying body of research and methods are two persistent, logistical challenges: the cartographic community’s lack of an active database of past and present user studies, and the lack of formal guidelines for the selection of appropriate research methods. My doctoral dissertation explored how these challenges affect the critical assessment of user differences, and offered a practical solution to improve the overall quality of future cartographic user studies.
User studies are a critical component of cartographic research, helping to evaluate the viability of mapping tools, techniques, and phenomena based on the performance of participants recruited for these studies. User differences, which are used to analyze and interpret study outcomes, are typically evaluated using a limited number of performance-based (e.g., completion time and correctness-of-response), skill-based (e.g., expertise and education), or demographic-based (e.g., sex and age) factors. I reviewed over 100 published cartographic user studies to examine methods of assessing participants prior to or after their involvement in research studies and focuses on the extent to which user differences are under-reported and user studies are under-designed. Essentially, researchers are not consistent regarding which user differences are accounted for, how they are assessed, and how they fit into the overall design of particular studies.
I created a prototype collaborative cartographic user study research database [CartoBase] to demonstrate the value of an all-in-one bibliographic and encyclopedic research tool which details the experimental conditions under which individual cartographic user studies were performed and reported on.