Introduction to GIS and Census Mapping: Introduction

by Frank Donnelly, Geospatial Data Librarian, CUNY Baruch College. Version 1.12

Created: March 27, 2008. Last Updated: February 1, 2010. Update Details

Introduction   Part I   Part II   Part III

Overview and Setup

This step by step tutorial was created to introduce GIS to new users using the thematic mapping of census data as an example in ArcGIS 9.2. It was originally prepared for use during the Hands-on GIS Census Workshop sponsored by the NYCRDC as part of their 2nd Annual Census Workshop series on April 8, 2008.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. You are WELCOME to copy, share, and link to this work (however you are NOT allowed to repost this tutorial on another website) and use it for non-commercial purposes as long as you cite the author. You are NOT allowed to alter or transform the contents.

This tutorial is not intended to be a complete, exhaustive examination of GIS. Rather, it is a brief and practical introduction to thematic mapping. It also does not cover the conceptual issues of how a GIS works in great detail. I iterate some of these concepts throughout, but I specifically covered this material in PowerPoint slides presented before the tutorial began - see the slides for more details. You can also look at these resources for more info about:

Conventions Used In This Tutorial:

You will need to download some datasets for this tutorial and store them on your hard drive (temporarily if you are working in the computer lab) or on a flash drive (if you are working in a lab and want to keep your work). Create a folder under C (or whichever drive may be the case) called workspace and store the file there. The files are compressed in ZIP files, so you will have to unzip them first to access the files. Once you do so, you'll see two folders - Part1_2 and Part3.

Click the following link to download the Tutorial Data.

In Part I, Intro to GIS and the ArcMap interface, we will work with a geodatabase with residence and migration data from the 2006 American Community Survey (ACS) and boundary files for states and metropolitan areas. You will be introduced to the ArcMap component of ArcGIS 9.2 and you will learn how to: use the interface, add data to a map, view the attributes for data, symbolize data in different ways, join data from a table to a geographic feature, classify data, label features, work with multiple data layers, export a subset of a data layer to a new file, and query and display data based on its attributes.

Part I focuses solely on using the Data View window of ArcMap. In Part II, Making Maps in the Layout View of ArcGIS, you will continue working with the same ACS dataset, but you will use the Layout View to create a finished map. You will learn how to: use the interface of the layout view, adjust the page size, add map components such as a legend, north arrow, scale bar, and free text, balance elements to create an effective map, add labels by hand, and export your map as pdf or image file.

Parts I and II allow you to learn and experiment with ArcMap without having to worry about the thornier issues of locating and preprocessing data. In Part III, we will tackle these tougher issues, since in reality you will seldom have perfect data sets at your disposal. In Part III, we will work with poverty data at the census tract level from the 2000 Census for New York City. You will learn how to: download census data from the Census Bureau's website, download GIS files from city agencies in New York, use the ArcCatalog module to organize and evaluate your data, use the projection tools so that your datasets will share the same map projection, process attribute data in Excel so you can use it with your GIS layers, add shapefiles and Excel tables to ArcMap and join them, add new calculated fields to a shapefile, export a subset of your GIS data out as a new GIS dataset by selecting areas by location, and use the query tools to analyze the relationships between features. You will also cover some of the steps from parts I and II in order to practice and reinforce what you have learned.

Begin Part I.

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Frank Donnelly 2008