Skip to Main Content
Hunter Library
Research Guides
Western Carolina University

Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

What is GIS?

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.

GIS Support @ Hunter Library

WCU students and faculty have access to ArcGIS Online as well as the ArcGIS Pro software. To get an account, submit a ticket to the Help Desk requesting access to ArcGIS. Once you have an account and are logged in you will have access to WCU’s ArcGIS Online. If you'd prefer to use ArcGIS Pro installed on your own computer, you can download and set up ArcGIS Pro by following these instructions. If you are an instructor, you can get access for your entire class by submitting a ticket to the Help Desk as above and including the class number.

One note for students enrolled in classes in the Geosciences and Natural Resources Department: some instructors may prefer their students use a particular version of ArcGIS, and in those cases, you should check with your instructor for the best way to install the required version of ArcGIS.

GIS Sources: National

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.

GIS Sources: North Carolina

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.