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Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
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Guidelines for Finding GIS Data

Geographic data can come from a variety of sources, including your own database files and spreadsheets. Many federal, state and local governmental agencies make their GIS data available to the public. Commercial vendors also provide GIS data. Please conduct your own data search by following the guidelines below before consulting Branner staff.


Guidelines for Finding GIS Data

Step 1: Search Socrates to find GIS datasets available in Branner Library.  Add "geographic information systems" or "GIS"  to your keyword search.
Step 2: Explore the links we've collected for online GIS data sources. These include links to vector and raster data at local to international scales.
Step 3:

Crawl the Web with search engines like Google.
Syntax Examples:
" GIS hydrology Mexico"
"faults California .shp"
" population India .e00"

Step 4:

Search several GIS support mailing list archives at the following web sites:

  • Directions Magazine A collection of all postings to the most popular GIS discussion lists.
  • ESRI Support Center
    Users often send requests for GIS data sources to these lists and then post summaries of their findings.
Step 5: Post your own query to one of the above GIS lists. Be sure to have done the keyword search of the list archive first.
Step 6: Consult the Branner GIS Staff for help in locating data.


GIS Data Considerations

Always check for the following:

  • Are the spatial data in a GIS software format: i.e. Shapefile (.shp), Geodatabase or Arc/Info (.e00)?
  • Are the spatial files' map projection parameters defined? Does the projection match that of your other data?
  • What is the scale of the spatial data? Does it match your other data?
  • At what summary level are the tabular data (county, block group, state, etc)?
  • How recent are the data?
  • What were the sources for the data?
  • What are the copyright requirements?
  • Is there metadata associated with the data? 

Last modified: March 16, 2006

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