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GIS Data and Websites

Where can you get data to use in a GIS? The UM Libraries have geospatial data in the collections, many websites have free data, and data can also be purchased.

How do I find GIS Data?

Finding GIS data can be tricky...but don't get discouraged!  This guide will help you find websites with GIS data available for downloading, explain where GIS data can be found in the UM Libraries' collections, and also get you thinking about where to find other kinds of data that could be put into a GIS.

GIS Data Producers

When you're looking for GIS data, it's important to think about who produces it, as well as what limitations there might be on using it...

  • Governments (federal, state, local, international) - might be free, might require purchase and licensing.

  • Libraries - have geospatial data on CD or in a repository.  They also have paper and/or online map collections.

  • Commercial data providers - will sell you GIS data.

  • Organizations - are creating GIS data, and might be willing to share. 

  • You - can create your own GIS data.

Data Quality

Garbage in, garbage out applies to GIS too.  You will need to carefully evaluate the quality of data you gather before using it in a GIS.  For example:

  • Does it have metadata?
  • Are the projections/coordinate systems compatible?
  • Does it have a location aspect, so that I can use it in my GIS?
  • Is it current, or from the right time frame?
  • Is the data from an authoritative source?