What Should I Do For My GIS Project?

Blog Post created by jkerski-esristaff Employee on Apr 1, 2011

Many of us have encountered the following question from students: “What should I do for my GIS project?” Or, perhaps you are that student looking for a GIS project. While the best project is the one that students come up with themselves, sometimes, suggestions are helpful to get started. If you choose to provide suggestions, below are some that I have provided to GIS students at many times in the past.


I always encourage the student to discuss his or her thoughts with me or their peers rather than me providing a simple list. I encourage students to start with issues that they are most passionate about.   Don't pick something where you can easily find data, or even something your professor is interested in... pick something that you are interested in. 

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals provide a good framework and starting point, because these goals that address poverty, health, education, and others can all benefit by the spatial perspective and spatial analysis through GIS (http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/).


Along the same lines are issues raised by books in particular fields, such as the book Essentials of the Environment. Another rich source of ideas is the annual Esri Map Books: http://www.esri.com/mapmuseum. Each 2-page spread in these books features a problem solved through the application of GIS—anchored in hundreds of disciplines from agriculture to zoology. Along similar lines are the Esri industry pages (http://www.esri.com/industries), which give a good sense of the fields in which GIS is used with additional details through written stories and videos.


I encourage students to read scholarly and trade journals, and to skim GIS blogs, Facebook pages, and investigate ideas on GIS web news services such as Directions Magazine, GIS User, GIS Café, www.esri.com/news, and others. I encourage students to read local, regional, national, and international news to get a sense of issues of critical importance. In my local community, the top issues at the moment are deciding which schools to close in the wake of budget shortfalls, and mitigating and dealing with the aftermath of recent wildfires in the mountain foothills. In my state of Colorado, top issues include pine beetle infestation, designing urban greenways, extracting natural gas and oil shale, and an issue that has been with us for 150 years—water quality and availability. Just look around you. Current events from political instability to natural disasters to economic inequality, energy, water, and many more are valid foundations upon which to build GIS projects.



How do you respond to the question “what should do for my GIS project?”  Some of my best ideas come from when I am out in the field, such as here in Utah. 


- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager