How to Locate Places on the World Map

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  • 0:00 Continents And Regions
  • 1:52 Countries
  • 2:25 States, Counties And Cities
  • 3:31 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

After watching this video, you will be able to explain what continents, countries, states, and counties are, and use them to locate a particular place on a world map. A short quiz will follow.

Continents and Regions

Humans love to draw lines and boundaries. They love to name things and categorize things. And we do the same thing with the Earth itself. We split it into continents, regions, countries, states, counties, territories, and cities. Today we're going to talk about how you can locate the place on the world map using these boundaries and geographical areas.

When you're trying to find a place on the world map, the first thing you need to do is ask yourself, 'What continent or region is it in?' A continent is one of several large landmasses on the Earth, usually separated by oceans. While Asia and Europe are not separated by an ocean, this is still the most common method. But continents are not really a scientific way of separating the different parts of the Earth. Rather, they're more a matter of historical convention. The words people used to describe areas of land have stuck over time, and now we officially recognize them as continents.

The Earth contains anything between four and seven continents, depending on who you ask. But the most common seven continents the Earth is divided into are: North America, which is here. South America, which is here. Antarctica, here. Europe, which you can find here. Africa, here below Europe. Asia, on the other side of the Pacific Ocean to America. And Australia over here.

Map showing the continents
World Map

Some areas or regions don't quite fit into these categories. Is the Caribbean part of North America or part of South America? Perhaps the Caribbean is its own region. And then there's the Arctic, which is mostly made up of ice, and so the Arctic isn't a continent either.

But regardless, if you're trying to locate a place on the world map, your first step is to find the continent or region it's inside. For example, if you're trying to find San Francisco, you would look at North America, since San Francisco is inside North America.


Inside each continent, there are countries. A country is a nation with its own government, occupying a particular territory. The continent of North America contains 23 countries, but the most well-known ones are probably the United States, Canada and Mexico. Wars are usually responsible for the present borders of countries, many of those wars having occurred hundreds of years ago.

When trying to locate somewhere on the world map, once you have homed-in on the continent, your next step is to find the country it's in. So, going back to San Francisco, that's in the United States.

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