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Mapping and GIS

A guide to mapping resources, including GIS (geographic information systems), at the UNT Libraries and on the Internet. The guide also provides links to geospatial and other data that can be downloaded and mapped.

Definitions To Get You Started

Mapping is simply showing the association between data and geographic locations on a map.

Cartography is the science and art of making maps.

GIS, or geographic information systems, is a collection of software, data, and people that supports mapping, analysis and decision making. GIS enables you to interact with data spatially in ways that tables, charts and static maps cannot achieve. For further reading, check out Penn State's open GIS textbook: The Nature of Geographic Information.

Here are some examples of what GIS can do:

  • Determine trends in desertification of an area based on rainfall data, soil samples and infrared signatures captured by satellites/aerial imagery. An additional step would be to predict relative health of plants or crops.
  • Determine from flood and traffic density data the best routes for hurricane evacuation from a coastal town.
  • Discover book publishing patterns in the British Isles during the Middle Ages using publisher data from catalogs and archives.
  • Model how an epidemic might spread through a population.
  • Predict the best location for a business based upon demographic data and trends in related businesses for the area of interest (image below shows a proposed gym location overlaid with distance/drive times and patrons (the color-coded points) that attend the two existing gym locations).

GIS has applications in almost every field of study - explore the possibilities in this library guide! You can also get started with some self-paced, introductory lessons by clicking either of the maps above. provides a video module called Real-World GIS that provides a high-level overview of GIS data and applications.

Books To Get You Started

Additional Links