GIS Reference Books and Materials

Caitlin Dempsey

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Here are some books and GIS reference resources that are valuable for both the novice and seasoned GIS user.

Geospatial analysis: free online textbook

Geospatial Analysis: a Comprehensive Guide to Principles, Techniques and Software Tools by De Smith, M. J., Goodchild, M. F., & Longley, P. 

This collection of work by an international team of academic authors is intended to provide explanations about spatial concepts and techniques independent of any particular GIS software package. Examples of spatial analysis are provided using a variety of common GIS tools such as ArcGIS, Idrisi, Grass, and Surfer.

The book originated as a set of materials to accompany the spatial analysis module for the MSc program at UCL and evolved into a larger and more detailed spatial analysis series made freely available via the web by the authors.  


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Longley is a professor in the geography department at University College London (UCL), de Smith is researcher and lecturer associated with UCL, and Goodchild is a professor in the geography department at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).

Manual for working with ArcGIS 10

Amy Hillier, a professor with the University of Pennsylvania School of Design, developed an excellent introductory manual published in 2011 entitled, Working with ArcGIS 10.

While the digital textbook was published in 2011, it still contains some evergreen introductory to GIS concepts and analysis that would be helpful to beginning GIS students.

Hillier developed the manual as a complementary teaching guide for introducing ArcGIS to her undergraduate and graduate students.  

In the introduction to the manual, Hiller explains the approach she took with developing the manual and the intended audience: “[The Manual] reflects the order and emphasis of topics that I have found most helpful while teaching introductory GIS classes in urban studies, social work, and city planning. I expect that it will be particularly helpful to people new to GIS who may be intimidated by conventional software manuals. It may also be helpful as a resource to those who have completed a course in ArcGIS but don’t always remember how to perform particular tasks. This manual does not try to be comprehensive, focusing instead on the basic tools and functions that users new to GIS should know how to use.

The manual coverages a range of topics including georectifying imagery, projections, making maps, working with attributes, geocoding, joining data, querying data, creating new GIS data, digitizing, and working with raster data.  The last section of the manual contains trouble-shooting tips to identify common problems.

Clipped image showing the title cover for a manual called "working with ArcView 10"

Mapping article series

Beyond Mapping Compilation Series by Barry, J.K.

Three hundred articles written over twenty-five years were republished as part of this online book series. The depth of the work written over a quarter of a century provides a look at the evolution of GIS as an analytical and data collecting tool.  

Prior to publishing this series of work, Berry was a longtime contributor to Geo World magazine and the principal of a GIS consulting firm. The author of nine books about GIS, Berry is currently the Keck Scholar in Geosciences at the University of Denver and an Adjunct Faculty member in Natural Resources at Colorado State University. 

The series is available both online and as a set of four printed books. The online web site is divided into four categories covering GIS modeling, map analysis, spatial reasoning, and concept, issues, and algorithms in GIS.

Map Projections: A Working Manual Available Online

The USGS has posted a scanned file of John P. Snyder’s 1987 “Map Projections: A Working Manual” online in PDF  and DjVu format.  

A medium red cover with an image of North America for a book about map projections.

The beginning of the book contains substantial introductory information about map projection families and distortions.  Each projection is started with a useful summary of the context and usage of that particular projection.  Snyder then delves into detail about the history, features, and usage before providing the mathematical  formulas used to calculate the projection.

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GIS task sheets

Iowa State University’s Extension and Outreach has over forty GIS TaskSheets available as PDFs for users to access.  Each tasksheet offers step by step instructions on completing a specific geospatial task.  The tasksheets cover a variety of GIS software products such as ArcGIS Explorer, QGIS,  Google My Maps, and ArcGIS Online.

Users can browse the list of instructions or search by keyword.  The range of short GIS tutorials covered is extensive with instructions for both ArcGIS and QGIS desktop GIS software programs, web mapping, GPS data logging, working with Google Maps, and ArcGIS Online.

Screenshot showing the GIS task sheets page for Iowa State University.

Some sample instructions sheets:

  • Getting Started with ArcGIS: Relating Attributes from Tables
  • Web Mapping: Getting started with JSON data
  • Introduction to QGIS
  • Getting Started with DNR Garmin: Saving Data from GPS Devices

Many of the GIS TaskSheets were developed to complement the Iowa State University GIS Geospatial Technology Training Program short courses but these instructions sheets will help anyone needing step by step instructions for completing specific GIS tasks.

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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.