Forum Replies Created
April 4, 2017 at 11:39 am #689
There’s not an easy answer as to how to do that when it comes to GIS, but I thought perhaps I should send out a link to a publication we made a few years ago for how to think about and format your data with mapping in mind:
If anyone has any specific questions, please let me know.
April 3, 2017 at 9:47 am #685
Thanks for the great links, Mike!
I thought perhaps I should chime in. I do a fair amount of work in Excel. I find pivot tables, charting, and data-driven displays to be useful and pretty intuitive. I often go from Excel to Powerpoint for final editing, as I find PPT to be more flexible with layout.
But being a geographer, I use mostly ArcGIS and QGIS. These are both very powerful programs, in that they perform complex database operations as well as giving a very wide variety of display options. ArcGIS online, though more restrictive in its capabilities, is a bit more accessible to beginners, but as it requires your data be posted in the cloud, is not appropriate for much of the work that I do here at MEASURE Evaluation, UNC. All 3 programs have wonderful base map options that can make your maps interesting and provide context and a sense of scale for the overlying data being displayed, but they all require an internet connection to stream that base map data.
I’d say the biggest disadvantage to the big GIS packages is that not only do they have a fairly steep learning curve, they require that the user understand a great deal about not only underlying data structures, but also about appropriate ways to portray spatial data. While the data display is probably the most fun for me (maps always get people excited), most of my time is normally spent formatting and exploring the underlying data, in order to best prepare it for display.
April 4, 2017 at 10:22 am #688
I agree with you on being a fan of QGIS! It’s amazing what it will do, and with no licensing fees.
I would also like to add that a basic ArcGIS online account is free. Though it does not carry the full data analysis capabilities of the paid desktop version, it is great for viewing a basic areas shapefile, such as one appropriate for choropleth shading (e.g., darker colors for districts with higher rates of disease) which can be plotted on top of ESRI’s free-to-display base map information (you can choose from a number of different background styles, and set the shaded layer to be partially transparent, on top).
It can also plot x, y and label coordinate information from a CSV file (CSV stands for “comma-separated-values”, and can be exported from Excel). These points can be viewed in various shapes and sizes, which can change according to various values stored for the points, in the same spreadsheet. For example, if you had x,y coordinates for health facilites, you could show hospitals in one symbol, smaller clinics in another, and pharmacies in another, and you could label each with its name.
A good workflow is to create and export shapefiles in QGIS, and then export them to ArcGIS online, for viewing and sharing. Though as I mentioned earlier, this would not be appropriate for sensitive or individually-identifying information.