It’s easy to think that the world of geospatial is just maps and data, but the truth is that it goes much deeper than that. Before your organization undertakes a GIS project, it’s important to sharpen your understanding of what it entails. While the list isn’t comprehensive, it’s a good beginning on the fundamentals.
American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII): This file format uses a set of numbers between 0 and 255 for information storage and processing.
Aspect: Aspect is the slope direction on a terrain surface measured clockwise starting north as 0° to 360° north again with flat areas given a value of -1 or 0 degrees.
Basemap: This is a background, non-editable, georeferenced image that gives a point of reference on a map, providing an aesthetic appeal.
Benchmark: Precisely surveyed points usually marked with a metal disk in the ground also genetically called survey marks, geodetic marks, and control stations.
Buffer: The buffer tool is a proximity function that creates a polygon at a set distance surrounding a selected feature or features.
Cartography: The study, aesthetics, and science of representing real-world entities on maps by communicating spatial information.
Computer-Aided Design/Drafting (CAD): Primarily used by engineers and architects to produce two and three-dimensional drawings.
Coordinates: Coordinates are pairs (X, Y) or triplets (X, Y, Z) of values that are used to represent points and features on a two and three-dimensional space.
Database Management System (DBMS): A collection of tools that allows the entry, storage, input, output, and organization of data, serving as an interface between users and databases.
Digital Line Graph (DLG): Data format used and distributed by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) with geographic features like terrain, hydrography, transportation, and man-made landmarks.
Entity: Entities represent real-world point, line, or polygon features with a geographic location such as fire hydrants, hospitals, state boundaries, roads, rivers, lakes, etc.
Feature: A cartographic point, line, or polygon object with a spatial location in the real-world landscape that can be used in a GIS for storage, visualization, and analysis.
Field (Attribute Table): Characteristics used to describe each feature in a geographic data set usually viewed as columns in a table.
Geocoding: Geocoding is the process of assigning geographic coordinates to places based on street address, town/city, province/state, and country.
Geographic Information Systems (GIS): Computer-based tool that analyzes, stores, manipulates, and visualizes geographic information on a map, good for finding spatial patterns, relationships, and trends.
Hydrography: A term describing the geographic representation of water features such as streams, rivers, and lakes.
Latitude: Coordinates of Earth locations that vary in north-south directions ranging from 0° at the Equator to 90° (North or South) at the poles.
Longitude: Coordinate in east-west directions ranging from 0° to +180° east and −180° west.
Map Legend: A visual graphic of the symbology used in a map that tells the map reader what polygons, lines, points, or grid cells represent.
Metadata: Data that describes data such as the date, abstract, coordinate system, attribute information, origin, and accuracy.
Nominal Scale: Type of measurement that indicates the difference between classes or categories of data.
Object-Based Image Analysis (OBIA): Image classification technique that segments images and classifies it using spectral, spatial, and relational properties and characteristics.
Parallax: Measures the apparent shift in relative positions of Earth features when it is viewed in different locations.
Polygon: A closed, connected set of lines that defines a geographic boundary with an area and perimeter such as lakes, forests, and country boundaries.
Query: A request or search of spatial or tabular data based on user-defined criteria, resulting in a subset of selected records.
Raster Data: A data model used in GIS which is usually regularly-size rectangular or square-shaped grid cells arranged in rows in columns.
Remote Sensing: The science of obtaining information about the Earth without physically being there, such as by satellite, unmanned aerial vehicle, and aircraft.
Slope: The change in elevation or steepness with respect to change in location measured in degrees or percent slope.
Spherical Coordinates: A system based on a sphere defined by two angles of rotation in orthogonal planes such as latitudes and longitudes in a geographic coordinate system.
Thematic Layer: A distinct spatial entity in a data layer that is usually delineated as points, lines, and polygons.
Topography: The study and mapping of Earth’s features including land surfaces, relief, natural, and constructed features.
Vector Data Model: Common GIS feature representation of spatial information based on defining coordinates and attribute information in points, polylines, and polygons.