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GIS and Data Visualization: GIS Datasets

Pearl of Wisdom

A map is the greatest of all epic poems. Its lines and colors show the realization of great dreams.Gilbert H. Grosvenor, Editor of National Geographic (1903- 1954)

About GIS Data

      GIS data can describe features across many areas of interest, including political and administrative boundaries, infrastructures, terrestrial features, land use and environmental resources, census blocks and demographic statistics, and much more.

      When selecting GIS datasets for analysis or display, there are some important considerations to keep in mind. The answers will of course depend on the specific needs of the user:

Snell GIS Specialist

Please contact Bahare Sanaie-Movahed for further assistance. 

GIS Resources at Northeastern

Northeastern's site license to ArcGIS includes access to the ESRI Virtual Campus (for current students, faculty and staff on campus computers).  Please inquire for details.


ArcGIS is a GIS software suite published by ESRI, and is both the leading commercial GIS software available and the software of choice for use at NU. It consists of several different components which work in conjunction with one another to make geospatial data management easier. The predominant components are:

- ArcMap, the graphical interface for displaying geospatial data

- ArcToolbox, a selection of geoprocessing capabilities for analysing geospatial data

- ArcCatalog, a means of storing and organizing geospatial data for analysis and display

ArcGIS also has a free online version for quick and easy mapmaking, as well as a year-long home-use license available for purchase.


      Workstations with the ArcGIS suite can be found on the side of the Digital Media Commons with Windows computers on the second floor of Snell Library (to your right as you exit the stairwell), or in the GIS lab in 70 Holmes. Additional access to ArcGIS can be set up through remote-login access.

GIS Resources in the Libraries

      Search the "library catalogs" portion of Scholar OneSearch for books at Northeastern University; search the full Scholar OneSearch for articles, books, and other resources about geographic information systems.

Example use of GIS

Image courtesy of Kathy Herrlich, Research and Instruction Librarian, Northeastern University

GIS layers

Image courtesy of National Weather Service   

ESRI data

Northeastern's site license to ArcGIS includes access to the ESRI Virtual Campus.  

Three ways to browse ESRI Data:

Datasets provided with ArcGIS --list by country and type, expandable folders in the left column

List of ESRI datalayers --easy to browse with most recently modified layers listed at the top

ESRI Data and Maps 10 -- an ESRI White Paper, PDF summary list/description