What is GIS?
A Geographic Information System (GIS) is a program that stores data and allows users to link that data with a geographic area. GIS programs are used to generate maps as well as tables. A wonderfully clear explanation of GIS programs and their capabilities is available from the Gale Encyclopedia of Science.
GIS has a lot of acronyms and specialized terminology. The University of California's online Dictionary of Abbreviations and Acronyms in Geographic Information Systems, Cartography, and Remote Sensing is very useful for decoding GIS terminology.
There are many, many sources of both free and not-so-free GIS data online. Below are a few excellent places to start looking for GIS data.
There are many, many sources of both free and not-so-free GIS data online, including GIS data just for the state of North Carolina. Below are a some great starting places for North Carolina GIS data.