Lesson 1: Understanding Geospatial Data

Nicolas MalloyAuthor: Nicolas R. Malloy


1.1 Overview


Lesson 1 introduces the primary and secondary geospatial sciences. These are the roots and branches of geospatial science and determine how we create, represent, manage, and display geospatial data. Geospatial data has very specific properties, distinguishing it from other types of information. We use it to solve problems and answer questions related to geographic location, distribution, extent, changes over time, and geographic relationships. Commercial enterprises, governments, non-profits, and the average person on a day-to-day basis use geospatial data.

A phrase familiar to computer science that says, “Garbage in, garbage out.” It means that the results of your work depend upon the quality of data that goes into it. This phrase also applies to geospatial science. Understanding geospatial data will ensure that a project, analysis, or procedure will result in producing quality work. This lesson covers the concepts, structure, data types, file types, and management of geospatial data.

Learning Outcomes


Students who complete Lesson 1 reading and activities should be able to:

  • Explain the relationship between the primary and secondary geospatial sciences
  • Describe the properties of geospatial data
  • Summarize general geospatial data classification methods
  • Discuss the difference between precision and accuracy
  • Recognize sources of uncertainty and error
  • Compare the differences in geospatial data models
  • Demonstrate proper file management practices
  • Acquire geospatial data from a public source

Navigating Lesson 1 Page Sections


The table of contents menu on the right outlines individual pages for this lesson. While reading, you may also navigate through pages using the numbered pagination links at the bottom of each page.