Geographic Questions

Think about a topic or place, and identify something interesting or significant about it. Spin that observation into the form of a question, such as "Why do these particular trees show signs of stress?” or "How do the types of businesses change as we move along this street?” or "What does it matter if that whole area is cleared of trees?" By turning the interesting observation into a question, you can focus the exploration. Good geographic questions range from the simple "Where are things?" to "How do things change between here and there?" to deeper questions, such as "Why does this thing change between here and there?" or ”What is the result of this thing changing between here and there?" Thus, you might be tempted to ask "Where do songbirds nest?” or "Why is there drought in this region while that region is flooded?” or "What is the result of refugees moving from this land across the border to that place?" A good question sets up the exploration.

Use this space as your “thinking space”  Do some “spatial” thinking throughout this bootcamp and as ideas come to you jot them down.  When you have a “formulated idea” post it to the virtual post-it-note wall at:



Geographic Questions

What is the geographic focus of your research?

For what period of time do you need the data?

For what subject(s) and specific topic do you need the data?

Often, you can find the necessary geographic data quite easily, in readily available packages or down-loadable from the Internet. Sometimes you have to produce the data yourself, or convert data from one form into a more appropriate form.

As you are exploring and thinking about your geographic questions, if you come across, or already know of a good resource for geographic data, especially as it relates to the digital humanities, please include it in the public Google Spreadsheet:  

GIS Data Repositories for Digital Humanities

Making Your First Map - THATcamp LAC Bootcamp


The Geographic Inquiry Model

RESOURCES - Some of my “Favs”

Geospatial Revolution

We live in the Global Location Age. "Where am I?" is being replaced by, "Where am I in relation to everything else?"

The Geospatial Revolution Project is an integrated public service media and outreach initiative about the world of digital mapping and how it is changing the way we think, behave, and interact.

ESRI Education Community

Welcome to the ESRI Education Community - a living environment for the exchange of ideas and experiences, curriculum, software, and data between GIS educators around the globe.


A great place to start - especially for those new to GIS.  Amazing tools that do not require a software install.

The GIS 20: Essential Skills by Gina Clemmer

The GIS 20: Essential Skills is an easy-to-understand guide that emphasizes the top twenty skills most people need to master to be successful using GIS.

LEarNing Spatially (LENS)

This website highlights the projects and materials that have resulted from a three-year grant received by the University of Redlands.  The funding creates new opportunities for faculty and undergraduate students within the College of Arts and Sciences to use maps, mapping, and spatial perspectives in their teaching, learning, and research.

Spatial Humanities at the UVA Scholars’ Lab

This Spatial Humanities website is a contribution of the Scholars’ Lab to the broad community interested in GIS for humanities inquiry and in place-based digital scholarship.


Geographic Data

All data for these exercises can be found on the W: drive.

NEW to GIS - where do I begin?

Chapter 1 of Mapping Our World - Using GIS

Note:  The instructions and data for this exercise can be found at W:\THATcamp\OurWorld2

This is a GREAT introductory chapter that walks you through step-by-step with prompting questions along the way, helping you to see the results of your actions.  You will acquire fundamental GIS skills by going through this chapter.

Note:  The instructions are written for ArcGIS 9.2, but the MAJORITY of the instructions are identical for ArcGIS 10

Used GIS - I need some more practice.

Chapter 1 of The GIS 20: Essential Skills

Note:  The instructions and data for this exercise can be found at W:\THATcamp\20EssentialSkills

This chapter does a great job introducing you to downloading data from the US Census Bureau.  It also does a a nice job introducing you to labeling, and encourages you to explore labeling in more depth.  You should feel comfortable with unzipping files & navigating computer files.


Making your first Map from The Scholars’ Lab at UVA

Great step-by-step instructions walking you through making a feature map, thematic map, and dot density map.  Much thanks to Chris Gist, GIS Specialist, for sharing this resource!

I’ve got a good base - let me play!

Explore the participant THATcamp data!  Don’t see your name?  Information incorrect?  Change it!  Try geocoding the data and making new relationships from the data.  You will have to download this Google Spreadsheet as an Excel file and may even have to make a NEW dataset if you want to get really creative!

Making mapped points through Geocoding

Just for Fun

You might all enjoy this GIS puzzle, “The Left-Handed Chocolate Caper”, which encourages participants to use a GIS to uncover clues to the whereabouts of Hishe Penn.

The Left-Handed Chocolate Caper for AGX/ArcGIS