Apr 28 2011

Know Your Data


More often, success in business and government is tied directly or indirectly to an ability to use, interpret and integrate geographic information and geospatial processes.

Jim Farley, GeoWorld Magazine

Since data is the foundation for any study or design, knowing a little something about the data you use should be a priority.  We don’t all have to be experts in every aspect of data collection, processing, and all the different formats, but we should have a basic understanding to work from so we know what to ask for, know when it’s quality, and know when it’s not.

What Kind of Data?

To start it’s helpful to separate data into three categories.

  • Imagery
  • Vector
  • Elevation

Within each category there are five key pieces of information to know before working with the data.

  • Format
  • Type
  • Acquired (how and when)
  • Coordinates/Datum
  • Accuracy/Resolution

To help think through how these fit Imam together the following table lists some of the more common options for each box.


With this grid it should be easier to know what we need to know before diving into a project.  Of course this is just a starting point.  The level of knowledge you should have of the data you use depends on what role you play in a project.

Before starting up your next project make sure you get educated on the data you need, or find someone who is.

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