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Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

This guide provides an introduction to GIS software, data, and resources.

GIS at Brown

Brown has several points of contact for supporting GIS education and research. Feel free to contact Frank Donnelly, GIS & Data Librarian, with any questions you have about GIS software or geographic / demographic data sources.

What is GIS?

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) visually organize information around the concepts of location and place. Data is tied to actual locations on the earth, and geographic features are represented as points, lines, and polygons (vectors) or as continuous gridded surfaces (rasters). There are several different GIS software packages that can be used for geographic analysis, map making, database management, and geospatial statistics. You can use GIS to:

  • Study the distribution of populations
  • Study physical features of the earth and natural phenomena
  • Find the optimal location for an event, service, or business
  • Identify geographic patterns and evaluate the distribution of features
  • Measure distances and determine optimal routes or paths
  • Tie together separate pieces of data to create new information
  • Create maps