Research Guides

Mapping Data

This is a guide to various software and web applications that let you create maps.

Guide to Mapping Data

This guide was developed as part of a series of workshops on "Data for Social Justice."

Related guides:

Finding data

Analyzing & visualizing data

Workshops and training

Introduction to GIS using Open Source Software is a day-long workshop offered at Baruch each semester. Current graduate students, faculty and staff from throughout CUNY can register. Visit the GIS practicum page for eligibility, registration, and course details.

Basic mapping applications

The National Map Viewer USGS tool creates multi-layered maps incorporating a wide variety of social and environmental/geological data. Maps can be emailed, printed, or saved.

Mapping the Measure of America allows state- and county-level mapping of demographic, health, education, income, and security data. A project of the Social Science Research Council.

SEDAC Map Client lets you create global and regional maps on themes ranging from poverty and governance to sustainability and conservation.

NASA Worldview allows you to interactively browse global satellite imagery. Users can overlay and visualize a subset of social/political map layers in conjunction with satellite images.

Social Explorer  Graduate Center/CUNY licensed resource allows you to create thematic maps and download current and historical data.

Advanced mapping applications

ArcGIS Explorer free, downloadable GIS viewer lets you fuse local data with existing map layers to create custom maps.

Google Fusion Tables allows you to combine data values and KML polygon boundaries from your own or other data sources.


ArcGIS is the industry standard proprietary GIS software package and is produced by Esri (formerly ESRI, or Environmental Systems Research Institute). It is a Windows-only suite of programs:

  • ArcMap: for making maps and conducting analyses
  • ArcCatalog: for organizing data and metadata, similar to "My Computer" on a Windows PC
  • ArcScene: incorporates 3D visualizations of terrain into maps
  • ArcGlobe: for 3D visualizations of very large raster or vector data sets

ArcGIS 10.1 Desktop is available on all workstations in the Graduate Center Library. From the Start menu, choose "All Programs" then navigate to ArcMap.


Quantum GIS (QGIS) is a user-friendly open source GIS software package licensed under the GNU General Public License. QGIS is an official project of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo). It runs on Linux, Unix, Mac OSX, Windows and Android and supports numerous vector, raster, and database formats and functionalities. It is available for download from the QGIS Project website.

GRASS GIS is a free and open source GIS software suite used for geospatial data management and analysis, image processing, graphics and maps production, spatial modeling, and visualization. GRASS GIS is currently used in academic and commercial settings around the world, as well as by many governmental agencies and environmental consulting companies. It is available for download from the GRASS GIS website.

Spatial data

New York City
MapPLUTO - NYC tax lot data and features
BYTES of the BIG APPLE - boundary, zoning, and streets data
Baruch's GIS Data Repository - includes a mix of public and Baruch/CUNY-only data

New York State
NYS GIS Clearinghouse
Cornell University Geospatial Information Repository (CUGIR)
Neighborhood Data Portal

United States
Census Bureau TIGER Products Includes shapefile boundaries for Census geographies.
USDA Geospatial Data Gateway from the US Dept. of Agriculture

Data by Country From DIVA-GIS
UNEP GEO Data Portal from the UN Environment Programme

Themed mapping sites

NPL Superfund Footprint Columbia University-based project lets you "visualize and understand the characteristics of vulnerable populations, built and natural features, and environmental exposures near the National Priorities List Superfund sites"

CHANGE Viewer allows the exploration of climate science, human and socio-economic datasets.

NY Times Mapping America allows you to browse and map census tract-level data related to race/ethnicity, income, housing/families, and education from the American Community Survey from 2005-2009.