Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

Getting Started

Many GIS projects require or can benefit from a general understanding of such geographic concepts as coordinate systems, projections and datums. A great place to learn about these concepts, as well as other introductory GIS topics, is:

Free Tutorials and Presentations: the Basics

Esri Classes and Tutorials

Esri, maker of ArcGIS software, offers Ten Tips for Learning More about GIS.

The Esri Virtual Campus also offers training for Esri software. Many free tutorials and recorded webinars are available on the site. Many fee-based courses are available to the University of Arkansas community at no cost through the Arkansas Statewide Academic Site License.

To register for a course through the Academic Site License, please contact John Wilson, the campus representative for Esri.


Georeferencing is a common GIS task in which an ordinary image file, such as a JPG or PNG file, which has no geographic coordinates electronically embedded in it, is matched up with a map that does have electronically embedded coordinates that are recognized by GIS software (this is referred to as having a "spatial reference").  Once the "regular" image is matched up with the GIS-enabled image, spatial coordinates can then be identified and assigned to it, so that this previously ordinary image will now also have a spatial reference. The following resources explain this process.


Geocoding is a common GIS task. Geocoding is an operation in which the software determines the latitude and longitude coordinates of given features, such as a CSV table of schools and their addresses, and plots them in the appropriate place on a map. The resources below provide an introductory overview of geocoding.

GIS Classes at the University of Arkansas

Most GIS classes at the University of Arkansas are listed under "Geosciences". You can view descriptions of undergraduate GIS classes offered in the undergraduate catalog.

"Lightweight" Software

Professional GIS software has a steep learning curve. Depending on the nature of your project, one of the following user-friendly, cloud-based mapping sites may be more appropriate for your needs.