Thematic map analysis is a complex and challenging task that might result in map user failure for many reasons. In the study reported here, we wanted to search for differences between successful and unsuccessful map users, focusing—unlike many similar studies—on strategies applied by users who give incorrect answers. In the eye-tracking study, followed by a questionnaire survey, we collected data from 39 participants. The eye-tracking data were analyzed both qualitatively and quantitatively to compare participants’ strategies from various perspectives. Unlike the results of some other studies, it turned out that unsuccessful participants show some similarities that are consistent across most analyzed tasks. The main issues that characterize bad solvers relate to improper use of the thematic legend, the inability to focus on relevant map layout elements, as well as on adequate map content. Moreover, they differed in the general problem-solving approach used as they, for example, tended to choose fast, less cautious, strategies. Based on the collected results, we developed tips that could help prevent unsuccessful participants ending with an incorrect answer and therefore be beneficial in map use education.
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