A dataset doesn't have to be in a geospatial file for you to map the data to geographic locations. A social science or humanities dataset can be linked to a geospatial file and mapped as long as it meets two criteria:
You don't need to use a pre-existing dataset either. You can start from scratch or join your spreadsheet data with your spatial data. For more information, see this article or this website. If you do decide to start from scratch, it may be worth consulting a resource such as Data Design for Mere Mortals to design your data to be as efficient and clean as possible.
For some training on how to use, clean or manipulate different datasets, check out Lynda.com - as a member of the UNT community, you get free access!