Skip to main content
Library Research Guides

Geospatial Data Resources: Getting Started

for SNRE 531

Tips for Googling for GIS Data

Try searching for <placename> <keywords>. You may have to try different combinations to get to the GIS data site for the place you want -- if it even exists!

keyword examples:

open data


geo data


but WARNING!  there are a few places that come back on EVERY search -, (GeoCommunity) - that usually have repackaged data from government sources that are not only hard to get (you have to sign up for the service) - they are easily gotten elsewhere.  So keep moving, nothing to see there.

Your data might not be a shapefile

Keep in mind, your data might exist independently of the shapes.  For example, a table on average birth-weights by county, or average precipitation by state.  You can get tables for those data and join them to the shapes later.

Starting your search: breaking down your question and strategies for keeping track

Define Your Research Question

Try to state your research question without describing the sources or data you will use to answer the question.

Tracking your search: Create a Data Search Chart

A great way to narrow down your needs is to create a search chart.  An example of a search chart is here

Basically,you'll want to break your question down to make sure you are getting the data in the geographies you want

Data elements Geography Source
Population (for Detroit) block group (American Factfinder)
consumer expenditure on lipstick (for Detroit) block group (or zip code) Simply map
average rainfall ?? (investigate geographies available) National climatic data center

Think about Your Method of Visualization or Analysis

What sort of analysis do you plan to do? Do you need to make a map to illustrate a point? Will you be using GIS software, such as ArcGIS, ERDAS, or Geoda, to do analysis?