Skip to Main Content

StoryMaps: Design a Dynamic and Spatially-Driven Narrative

Outline your StoryMap

Just like you would outline a research paper, it's important to think about how you order text in your StoryMap. With a range of dynamic visual options available, you should think about what mapped locations/images/videos should appear, when, and how. 

Once you've chosen a layout, it's a good idea to create an outline. Make a list of sections and decide how this information will be presented in the StoryMap. If using the mapping feature, identify which place(s) will appear and when; decide if you will show an image/video alongside the text. Depending on the design of your StoryMap, some of these sections might not pertain to you. For example, you might list out subsections in your outline, but exclude their titles in the actual StoryMap. You might design a Full-width Annotated Map if you are less concerned with a sequential narrative and readers can peruse sections in any order. 

The example outline below could work with a StoryMap using Large Immersive Map, Large Immersive Images, or Large Scrolling Images format -- in other words, any of the Quick Start Templates you see on ArcGIS Online:

                                                                 Screenshot of the Quick Start options on ArcGIS Online, which include Sidecar, Guided map tour, and Explorer map tour.

However you approach planning, keep asking yourself: how am I using StoryMaps' features to strengthen my argument/narrative? 

Section Title Summary Location Image/Video
Name the section. Be descriptive! Think about this like a website. There might be an introductory/overview paragraph, but its title offers some contextualization for the reader.  Briefly describe/list what you're going to say in this section.

For example: What's your main idea? What evidence/ examples will you discuss? In what order? 

As you plan your summary, you might discover some of its contents needs to move to a different section. 

What location will the map show?

If one section will show multiple locations, I recommend indicating a "subsection"

What image(s) or video will appear? 

Using the sample outline, I've begun drafting a StoryMap about the gentrification of Kelly Square in Worcester, Massachusetts:

Section Title Summary Location Image/Video
Gentrification of Kelly Square

Introductory sentence problematizing the transformation of Kelly Square

List my categories of examples + types of datasets

Main idea/thesis statement about gentrification gradually shifting the culture of Worcester.


Kelly Square none
The "Old" Kelly Square Summarize interview data about pre-2000's Kelly Square, focusing on large homeless population and local music community.    
subsections: Green Street Green Street (mapped as a line) none
  Dive Bar Divebar location Exterior image of Divebar

Mid 2000's Transformation

Discuss the different business ventures on Water Street during the mid-2000's. Discuss Dzian Gallery's efforts to increase foot traffic on the street. 


Water Street (mapped as a line) none
The "New" Kelley Square Discuss the different food and art businesses in the area and their efforts to integrate themselves into existing urban architecture.    
subsections: Crompton Collective Crompton Collective location Multiple images of Crompton Collective exterior and interior
  WooSox Stadium WooSox Stadium location, maybe with the footprint outlined? Image of WooSox exterior