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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Geographic Information Systems (GIS): What is GIS?

General information about GIS resources at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

What is GIS?

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is a sub field of geography that enables users to manage, visualize, and analyze spatial data. It has become an essential tool in the Geographer's tool kit for understating spatial relationships about places and features on the Earth’s surface.

GIS is composed of two distinct parts: geospatial data and computer software. Geospatial data is collected or downloaded, then it is imported into GIS computer software that allows users to visualize and analyze that data.

Globe with various GIS application icons tagged around it.

Image retrieved from:​


If you have interest in adding to this guide please contact James Whitacre.

What can we do with GIS?

GIS is a powerful decision-making software that has a limitless range of application possibilities. For instance, GIS can be used to examine geographical change, plan effective transportation routes, conduct risk assessment, site selection, and map habitats for endangered species, just to name a few. 

GIS Consultation at the Library

Need help with GIS in your research? We are here to help! 

Request a GIS Consultation Appointment

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Subject Expert

James Whitacre's picture
James Whitacre
Scholarly Commons
306 University Library, MC-522
1408 W. Gregory Dr.
Urbana, IL 61801 USA
(217) 333-0531