Getting Started Questions

The following questions are helpful to consider when beginning a mapping project. They are broken down into different sections based on different potential parts of a mapping project.

Note that some questions are good to consider in multiple contexts and that you do not need to be able to answer them all to get started. If you need assistance, contact BC's Digital Scholarship Group.

General Project Questions

What are the goals for my project?

  • What is your research topic or subject focus?

  • Generally, where does my mapping project fit into the visualization - analysis - storytelling trifecta?

  • What is the timeline for my project?

  • What do I imagine the final product of my project might look like?

Spatial Data Acquisition

How can I obtain the data I need for my project?

  • Are you collecting your own data for your research or looking for data from a data provider (e.g. census or other governmental data)?

  • Are you dealing with vector data, raster data, both, or unsure?

  • Are you gathering spatial data from "pre-digital" sources, such as historical maps, that need to be digitized (the maps themselves and/or the spatial data inherent within the maps)?

  • Are you looking for spatial data for a certain time period or geographical focus?

  • Have you started searching for data sources? What are the most relevant ones?

Spatial Data Manipulation

How can I prepare my data to be used in a mapping tool?

  • What format(s) is your spatial data in (e.g. csv/spreadsheet, shapefile, kml, geojson, etc)?

  • Do you need to add qualitative or quantitative data to your vector data?

  • Do you need to clean your data (i.e. make the spatial data internally consistent, fix errors within the attributes of the data, etc)?

  • Do you need to merge your data (i.e. bring together or combine multiple data sources into one source that contains spatial data, possibly with different attributes or information attached)?

Spatial Data Visualization

How do I want people to be able to see or engage with my data?

  • How much data do I have, and is it divided into multiple layers or types?

  • How do I imagine users engaging with my data (as a pre-created fixed figure, as an interactive map, etc. Also see Sharing below)?

  • How can my visualization emphasize the argument I am trying to make with the spatial data? What is the main idea I want to convey to my audience?

Spatial Data Analysis

Is spatial analysis part of my mapping project goals?

  • What question am I trying to answer with spatial analysis (i.e. what kind of spatial analysis am I trying to do)?

  • Do I have the necessary data to answer the question I am exploring?

  • What GIS tool is most appropriate for me to use to answer that question, and do I have access to it (QGIS/GrassGIS/ArcGIS)?

Spatial Data Storytelling

Is storytelling (e.g. a StoryMap, a GeoTour, etc) a part of my project goals, where the spatial data integrated into a larger interactive narrative with different kinds of media?

  • Do you have any preferred StoryMapping tool to use (Knightlab, ArcGIS online, etc.) or do you need help with choosing the visualization tools?

  • Do you have a general outline of how viewers will move through your story?

  • What kinds of media do you want to integrate with your story (text, images, audio, video, etc)?

Spatial Data Sharing

  • What kind of mapping output is ideal for my project (static figure online or printed, interactive online figure, etc.)?

  • How will my map be tied to my larger narrative (if desired)?

  • Where should my spatial data and map project appear/be hosted/preserved? Will it be accessible to the general public?

  • Will others be able to download my spatial data to work with on their own projects?

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