Capstone Project


A. What is the Capstone Project?

The Capstone Project for this course challenges you to create a multivariate thematic map on a topic of your choice. The goal is to create a multivariate thematic map on a subject of your choice, and work with peers to create critiques that, in turn, are used to revise the maps.

B. Objectives

By the completion of this project, you should be able to:

  • Acquire GIS data and create a map that visually communicates two or more variables related to a subject.
  • Employ cartographic theory to select visual representations and symbols that fit the logic of the data being mapped.
  • Design a layout using visual hierarchy, balance, and figure-ground of text and graphics to quickly communicate the subject and purpose of the map.
  • Interpret, evaluate and critique maps in writing with the goal of increasing discourse, understanding and appreciation of map design.

C. Guidelines

  • To be multivariate, your map(s) must show two or more data variables.

For the context of this project, your data variables (in order to be considered as variables) should show at least one attribute that varies within the map. For example, I will not consider roads, streams or point locations of cities or buildings to be variables, unless they show varying attributes that are relevant to the thematic topic of the map. If the city symbols were sized according to population and relevant to the purpose of the map, they would qualify as a data variable. Otherwise I will just consider them a data layer or features on the map that are for reference. A map would also qualify as multivariate if you showed just one data layer with more than one varying attribute. For example, a map of census tracts that shows two attributes would be multivariate, e.g. income and cancer mortality. Depending on how you symbolize the census tracts, this would not only be a multivariate map, but a map using multivariate symbols.

  • The topic you choose is completely up to you. It is likely that the biggest limitation to picking your topic will be availability of data. After picking a broad topic, I recommend that you look into what data is available before you pinpoint exactly what you will map.
  • The concepts of multivariate representation, data uncertainty and integration of maps and info graphics, presented in the Lesson 8 Concept Gallery may contain information that will be helpful while you are planning your capstone project. (Other concepts from other lessons will also be useful, e.g. symbolization from lesson 2, multivariate symbols from lesson 5, different map representations from lesson 4 and 5, etc.).
  • You can certainly incorporate GIS analysis into your project, but remember this is a cartographic project, not a GIS analysis project. I will grade the map design and ability of the map to communicate your specific topic, not what you did to get the data.

D. Project Examples from past students:

  • Redevelopment of Philadelphia's Fishtown. This map shows a straightforward example of mapping two different variables related to urban redevelopment. One is at the scale of the parcel (in Philadelphia), and the other is at the scale of the census tract. Useful reference features and labeling are included.
  • Female Operated Farms in the U.S. uses a bivariate map with two different representations layered one on top of the other, and also a bivariate dot density.
  • Quality of Life in Africa uses a bivariate choropleth map of GDP and life expectancy; and also maps the Human Development Index and adult literacy on supporting univariate choropleth maps.
  • Springsnails as Indicators of Spring Health shows custom multivariate symbols representing a number of factors that indicate the health of springs in Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Pedestrian Fatalities shows an example of layout with more than one data representation and a couple color schemes.

None of these projects are perfect. They all have things that could be improved, but in general they are successful examples of illustrating a subject with more than one variable, and in different ways. If you have questions or comments about any of these project examples, would like more examples, or would like further feedback from me about these examples, please post in the Capstone Project discussion forum.

As you work through the course you will complete a few milestones related to the capstone project (see Checklist below for details).

E. Capstone Project Checklist

Below are the milestones required to complete the capstone project. See course Calendar in Canvas for exact due dates. See the pages linked below for more details.

Step Activity Access/Directions Due Date
1 Project proposal Write a proposal for the course capstone project. See Writing the Project Proposal for directions. At the end of Week 6
2 Submit two peer reviews of proposals See Writing the Project Proposal for directions. Sunday after proposals were turned in (middle of Week 7)
3 Screen capture of data See Submitting the Screen Capture of Data for details. At the end of Week 8
4 Submit complete draft of map for peer review Complete a draft of your map. See Submitting a Draft for the Class for more details. At the end of Week 9
5 Submit two peer reviews of draft projects See Submitting a Draft for the Class for more details. Friday after drafts were turned in (middle of Week 10)
6 Submit final revised project and write-up Make improvements to your map project based on feedback from Week 9. See Submitting the Final Draft for more details. At the end of Week 10


Writing the Project Proposal

The first task for the capstone project is to write a project proposal.

Picking a topic: The subject of the map can be anything, just so it is a multivariate thematic map. (Refer to the Overview page for more details of the project requirements). It is likely that the biggest limitation to picking your topic will be availability of data. I recommend that you know where you will get your data, or how you will create it by the time you write this project proposal.

Craft a proposal: In at least 200 words (although it can be longer), craft a proposal that discusses:

  • the map topic (and the reason you selected it)
  • the intended audience,
  • the data variables you envision mapping
  • data sources (and if data has been acquired)
  • the type of map representation you envision using (e.g. multivariate point symbols, choropleth, dot density, etc)

Assume that the proposal will be read by non-experts. In other words, include background and context information that will allow me to understand your idea. If you were inspired by other maps or images, you can include a copy or a link in your document.

Submit/Post: Post your proposal to the Capstone Proposal discussion forum in Canvas. Name your post with your last name, e.g. "<your last name>_<your first initial>_proposal".

Proposal Due Date: This proposal is due with the deliverables from Lesson 6. See the course Calendar tab in Canvas for the specific due date.

Peer Review: Please read and review the capstone project proposals of the student that comes before you AND after you alphabetically in the course roster. (The first and last person on the list should review each other's proposal for their 2nd peer review). The course roster is available via the People link in Canvas. Review the proposal and post a response in the discussion forum thread with thoughtful comments and questions for the student who wrote the proposal.

As you review the proposal, consider the following questions:

  • Can you visualize the map that is being proposed?
  • Does the map's prupose seem logical?
  • Is the map's purpose clear?
  • What data will be used to communicate the map's purpose to the map readers?
  • Why is the chosen data relevant/important?
  • How will the map going to communicate the data? 

Peer Review Due Date: Your two peer reviews are due Saturday immediately following the due date for the proposal, i.e. after the Lesson 6 deliverables due date and before the Lesson 7 deliverables due date. See the course Calendar tab in Canvas for the specific date.

Please ask questions of the instructor if you are unsure how to proceed with writing your proposal or writing the peer reviews.

Submitting the Screen Capture of Data

Take a screen capture of the data you plan to use for your capstone project loaded into ArcMap or ArcCatalog, and submit the image as an attachment to the Screen Capture of Data Assignment in Canvas (Capstone Project area). Symbolization does not have to be figured out, and layout does not have to be present. If you have multiple layers or files, make sure they are visible in ArcMap's table of contents panel or in the ArcCatalog's tree panel.

This is purely a step to make sure that your project idea is feasible, and you do not get stuck at the stage of acquiring data when you should be well into designing your map. There is no feedback on this mile marker assignment, but if you have questions, you can include notes in the message of the dropbox submission.

This mile marker assignment is due with the Lesson 8 project. See the Calendar in Canvas for the exact due date.


Submitting a Draft for the Class

Feedback on cartographic work is very useful. For that reason I have introduced a peer review into the capstone project. I would like everyone to provide his/her map to the class for comments and suggestions. You will each do two peer reviews, and then each of you will use the reviews you received to revise your maps for final project submission.

A. Goals

  • Finish a solid draft of the design, symbolization, and layout of your map, including marginal map elements (title, legend, text, scale, north arrow, etc...).
  • Critique the design, layout, symbology, typography, and visual hierarchy of two peer capstone maps (see specific note below with regard to whose projects to review).

B. Deliverables

This completed draft is due at the end of Tuesday for Week 9 (as if it were the Week 9 assignment). See the calendar in Canvas for the specific due date.

  1. Export your map as a PNG
    • File > Export Map...
    • Navigate to appropriate lesson folder
    • Name it "LASTname_FIRSTinitial_CapstoneDraft" (using your name)
    • Save as type: PNG
    • In the expanded Options menu, on the General tab, set the Resolution to 100 dpi. (Recall 72 dpi is suggested for online images, but 100 dpi will make the images a bit larger when viewed at full size. This will be useful for viewing each other's work.)
    • On the Format tab, make sure the Color Mode is set to 24-bit True Color
    • Click the Save button
  2. Submit the PNG image of your map via the Create Submission link at right (must be logged in to see link). Select Capstone Project Draft for Assignment Type

    • Enter name for Author

    • Enter title of map

    • Under Map Image File, browse for the PNG file version of your draft. Click Upload

    • Click Save

  3. Review the two peer maps assigned to you. Assigned maps are of the person who is before you AND the person who is after you on the class roster in Canvas. This way everyone will get two peer reviews. To write your review:

    • Click on the Title link that is above the map image when viewing the Map Gallery page for Capstone Drafts.

    • Write your peer review in the comment box. Specifically, I would like you to critically comment - in depth - to your peer about:

      • the reading of the map as a whole; discuss what is unclear or could be better communicated

      • the layout, visual hierarchy, figure-ground and/or the graphic design of the map

      • the representation and/or symbolization, e.g. do the visual variables fit with the logic of the data?

      • the labeling and typography, e.g. are text sizes consistent and logical for page and visual hierarchy?

      • other comments, thoughts, ideas, suggestions that might not be touched on in the above bullets

    • Click Save

  4. Look through other submitted Capstone Drafts, and comment with suggestions or compliments as much as you like or have time for. It is very useful and important to get outside feedback on a map. You can also ask questions for others about your own map, and reply to comments made by others on your own map. Use a critical eye when reviewing, but also please remember that we all have different levels of experience with cartography, the software, and the subject domain of these maps.

Submitting the Final Draft

Congratulations! You have reached the final set of deliverables for this course - and, for some of you, the last step in the GIS Certificate Program. This week is dedicated to revising your capstone project based on peer reviews (and completing the peer reviews if you haven't already done so). Once your map project has been thoroughly reviewed by at least two peers, and the instructor, revise or rework your map accordingly. You may not take all ideas or recommendations for changes from reviewers, for example, if you do not have the data, or do not agree with the recommendations. In addition to completing the map, you are also asked to write a review of your own map for the capstone project. In this document discuss the decisions behind making your map, what you changed from the draft as a result of the peer reviews, or if you did not incorporate recommendations, the reasons why. Also discuss strengths and weaknesses of map, and how the project may be improved, e.g. with more time or better data.

A. Goals

  • Finalize the design, symbolization, and layout of your map, including the marginal map elements (title, legend, text, scale, north arrow, etc...).
  • Critique your own map for strengths and weaknesses, and discuss changes made through the review and revision process.

B. Deliverables

The final capstone project is due at the conclusion of Week 10 and the course. See the Calendar in Canvas for the due date.

  • Capstone Map Project
    Create a PDF version of your map (with fonts embedded and marker symbols converted to polygons).
  • Written review of map project
    Include 1) a written description of what you changed as a result of peer feedback, or if you did not incorporate some recommendations, the reasons why. 2) strengths and weaknesses of your map, and 3) what you could or would have done differently under ideal circumstances or with more time. No more than one page, please.

    Submit these two documents into the Final Capstone Project Assignment in Canvas.

Reminder - Complete all of the Capstone Project tasks!

You have reached the end of the Capstone Project! Double-check the to-do list on the Capstone Project Overview page to make sure you have completed all of the tasks listed there.