Spatial Concept Perspectives

We have gathered ~300 excerpts from published works about fundamental spatial concept terms. These have been cross-referenced with the concept lexicon appearing on the left. Those terms were drawn from the U.S.National Science Education Standards (NSES 1996) for topic areas B - Physical Science, C - Life Science, D - Earth and Space Science, as well as from the 1994 U.S. Geography Teaching Standards for grades 9-12. Those standards can be browsed here.

spatial concept terms

disciplinary perspectives on "overlay"

map overlay

...Two or more layers are combined in various ways to produce additional new combined layers...Areas in the composite layer each have multiple attributes derived from the attributes of their "parents"...(p. 21)


O'Sullivan and Unwin (2002)

Geographic Information Analysis


Topic AM4-2. Explain why the process 'dissolve and merge' often follows vector overlay operations; Explain what is meant by the term 'planar enforcement'; Outline the possible sources of error in overlay operations; Exemplify applications in which overlay is useful, such as site suitability analysis; Compare and contrast the concept of overlay as it is implemented in raster and vector.


DiBiase, et al. (2006)

Geographic Information Science and Technology Body of Knowledge


Inferring spatial associations by comparing mapped variables by locations. Superimposing maps to describe and analyze relationships between different features of the same location or geographic space. Intersections and unions of areas, lines, and points to identify patterns and relationships; mashups of different data registered to the same locations or areal units; merging, aggregating, and disaggregating areas based on joining areal units.

Social Science

Janelle and Goodchild (2011)

Concepts, Principles, Tools, and Challenges in Spatially Integrated Social Science