Searching for online sources of geospatial data that you need to help answer a research question can be daunting without a well formed plan for using the data. Will it be used to make a map with GIS software? If so, what level of spatial generalization is acceptable? Will it be used for spatial analysis? What is the project study area and what extent will the data need to cover? How do you plan to develop your symbology and what attribute information will your symbol styles be based on? What organizations or agencies are likely to have the data? Of those potential sources, are some more reliable than others?
This guide is intended to help you find the geospatial you might need to carry out a research project or to create a map. While we are fortunate that the advent of the internet and switch to digital record keeping among cities, counties, government agencies, companies, and organizations has made it much easier for these entities to share their data with the public than ever before, most do so through their own organization specific data portal. This has led to a proliferation of data portals, that utilize a variety of different user interfaces and all of which have a different selection of datasets. This multitude of portals to browse can make it difficult to find all of the relevant data you might be interested in for a particular area.
The best way to browse for data is to look through a list of data portals that may offer relevant information. Unfortunately, maintaining an up-to-date and comprehensive list of the thousands of data portals being managed by governments, companies, and organizations all over the world can be extremely challenging due to the constant public release of new portals and changes in URLs to existing portals. Consequently, this guide provides links to the best lists of open data portals on the internet rather than attempting to recreate the work that others are already doing so well. The data portal lists provided by this guide are the best available on the internet, but that does not mean that they are perfect. In order to make sure UT students, faculty, and staff are able to find data for the Austin area and Texas more broadly, this guide provides a highly detailed list of local and state data portals. It also provides recommendations for using search engines like Google, Bing, or Duck Duck Go to search for geospatial data as that can in some cases be easier than looking through open data portals. This is particularly true, if you are not sure which organization might have the data you are looking for or if you are just interested in finding one very specific dataset quickly rather than browsing for it in data portals that may also have other relevant data
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