These tutorials assume that you have access to ArcGIS either in our computer lab or installed on your computer so there won't be any instructions on how to install. They are written for someone with basic knowledge of ArcGIS's interface, that wants a walkthrough how this tool can be used to help them ask and answer their spatial research questions.
For tutorials starting at a beginner level I recommend those on ESRI's website or if you have a New York Public Library card, they have several great tutorials for newcomers to ArcGIS on their Lynda.com portal.
The data I'll be using in these tutorials comes from felony drug arrest statistics by county that I got from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, spatial data from the New York State GIS Portal and data from the Law Enforcement Support office at the Defense Logistics Agency concerning the 1033 program. In brief, the 1033 program lets local law enforcement agencies request decommissioned military equipment ranging from office furniture, to night-vision, to weapons to Mine-Resistant Ambush Proof Vehicles (MRAPs).
While the data I'm using is real from a project that I did, it isn't going to be updated so please go back to the original sources mentioned if you'd like to explore it further. I picked these data sets because they were handy and they are large and complex enough to show how to work with different kinds of data but not too complicated to get in the way of explaining the process. The maps made in these examples are not necessarily scholarly rigorous but hopefully the process of making them will get you familiar enough with ArcGIS Pro so that when you map your own data, you'll have more time for scholarly rigor!
A basemap is the background map for your data. It can be of a scale that only country borders are drawn, or be zoomed in enough that features as small as streets and buildings can be seen. This provides the geographic context necessary to display the area of your study. In this tutorial you'll learn how to add a basemap for ArcGIS online, how to create your own basemap of an area using publicly available materials.
When ArcGIS Pro opens, in the New section of the window that opens choose Map under Blank Templates.
A Create a New Project window will open, and in this case give your project whatever name is descriptive. I'll be naming mine NYBasemap. You can also choose where it will save this project to. By default, mine goes to a Projects folder where I have ArcGIS saved on my computer, but you may decide to save it somewhere different. Wherever you save it to, take note of where it is on your computer. You will need to navigate back to it at the end of this tutorial so that you can zip the project folder along with all the other files that you have used.
Once you open your new project, by default there will be a map with topography layers as your canvas that shows mountains, and other geographical data. This might be best for our map, or we might want other options. To see the other options, choose the Map tab from the menu bar on the top of the screen and click on the dropdown arrow underneath the icon for Basemap.
You can choose from a bunch of different choices for whatever is best for your map, and any GIS data you have can be added easily on top of it.
Play around with the different kinds of maps available and think about what kind of map would be useful for what kind of information. What kind of map would look best with demographic data? What kind of map would look best to show the routes of CitiBikes?
Keep in mind though that these maps do by default draw the full extent of the planet so they can be slower to work with. These layers also don't have an underlying attribute table that you can join other data to that doesn't have its own geographic information, so any features you add will need to be marked by hand, or come from a table that already has latitude and longitude data.
I'll be choosing Streets as the basemap for my map.
If you look at sources like the US Geological Service (USGS) or different states' websites, you can find shapefiles of the boundaries and features of an area you may be interested in. These, unlike the ArcGIS basemaps, contain attribute tables, which include the name of the geographic entity (county, town, landmark) and sometimes additional data as well. The inclusion of names is handy for if you have a table that lists information about of cities, towns, neighborhoods, census tracts but doesn't contain coordinates or other spatial information. You can take that table and join it to your map if the two are referring to the same counties, cities, towns, census tracts by name, but more on that later.
So depending on the data you have, and the size of the area you are studying, you may want to use these sources to create your own basemap rather than relying on ArcGIS's basemaps.
In this exercise, I'll be using New York State as an example, but just by searching the internet for "GIS shapefile" for the state or country you are planning on studying you'll likely be able to find this data. Of course, if you're having trouble finding the GIS data for the area you want to study, please feel free to contact the library, and we'll help you look.
I've gotten this shapefile from gis.ny.gov, more specifically the civil boundaries dataset. For other kinds of research questions, maybe boundaries for counties and cities won't be what you want, maybe you want elevation data or park boundaries or census tracts. You can visit the site to download these files or use the embedded versions below.
This next part is very important for if you plan on taking your project file and re-opening it on different computers. Do not grab the shapefiles in each of these folders and drag them directly onto the map. ArcGIS Pro is very picky about file structure and if you do not keep a consistent file structure, then any layers, files, shapefiles, selections, or any other modifications that rely on being able to access those files, layers, shapefiles, tables, etc, then your project file will be defunct and all those layers will need to be added again, and any joins or other modifications will need to be redone.
Shapefiles contain information on the location, shape and qualities of geographic features. This can be points, lines, or polygons. In the case of these files, it's the counties, towns and villages, so polygon data. The file has instructions on how the polygons are shaped and where they are located on the map, but also can contain attribute tables that have additional information on these polygons such as the name of the area they represent, and sometimes other information about demographics, climate data, population, etc. When you drag them onto the canvas, they become Layers.
Layers in the Contents appear in the order they are drawn, so normally the ones representing the larger entities (states, counties) are placed towards the bottom and smaller features (towns, roads landmarks) are placed toward the top. You can change their order by clicking and dragging them into the position that you want them to be.
However in this case, because the Counties shapefile is at the bottom, you can't really see the county borders. Additionally, since the Villages and Cities_Towns layers were by default made similar colors, they are hard to tell apart. To change what colors are assigned to those layers, you'll need to change their symbology.
This results in a map where the County shapes have a thick border so they are visible over the Cities and Towns, and the Villages are a different color from the Cities and Towns. Play with the options to come up with whatever color and outline combination create a map that will be a good backdrop for your data.
If you have a set of layers that you know you'll always want to appear together, you'll want to create a group layer. This means that you can turn all three layers off and on with the check of one box, and if you have to move that layer above or below additional data you're adding you can do so more easily.
Since you'd likely want these three shape files to appear together always, let's go ahead and make them a Group layer.
You've now created a group layer with the layers that make up your basemap.
If you had any issues creating this file, and need to see how I had it set up, here is the zip file that I made.
Mapping lets you compare adjacent areas or areas surrounding a place of interest. Sometimes the comparisons you'll want to do will be quantitative. If you want to see if census tracts with high median incomes cluster together or if neighboring states with different approaches to labor laws have different unemployment rates, you are mapping quantitative data.
In this exercise you will take quantitative data related to the felony drug arrest rates in the counties of the state of New York and map that data by joining a table to a GIS layer. You'll use the field calculator to add a new kind of data to your table, then change the symbology of the map to display this data.
For this map, I'll be using the basemap created in the first exercise, and a CSV file that contains felony drug arrest statistics by county in 2020 from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.
If you've already done the previous exercise, you can just keep using that base map that you've made and will only need to download the CSV file, you won't need to download the zip.
Once you have it on the map, your Contents pane should have your new table listed under Standalone Tables. The table won't change the display on the map just yet, you'll have to join it first. The file should also exist within the NYBasemap folder in the Catalog pane.
It can be useful to create a different layer when adding data to a map. This way if you need to add new data to your map that needs to be joined to a geographic layer, the basemap won't need to be added again.
If you have one table that has data about counties or census tracts or cities or any geographic entity and another layer that has those entities' spatial information, you can join the layer to that table. This gives the layer with the spatial information the data from the table. In this case we have a table that has drug arrest rates for each county in New York State and a layer made from a shapefile that contains the spatial information about where those counties are located geographically as well as the counties' population data. If we join these, then we can take those statistics and map them to the counties.
Whenever you add data to a layer, you'll want to add information to the Description and Credits section of your layer. This is called metadata since it is data about what your data is and where you got it from. You may be working on projects with many layers, and you'll always want to know where the information on those layers came from. This is a very good habit to get into so that when you cite the sources on your map when you print or share it, you will just be able to get that information in the description of the layer, instead of digging back through your computer to remind yourself where you got your information from. Viewers will want to know where the information on your map came from.
Information on drug arrests from the Division of Criminal Justice Services, New York. (2023). "Adult Arrests 18 and Older: 2012-2021". Retrieved from https://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/crimnet/ojsa/arrests/index.htm .
This was the source I got the table from
Now that you have new attributes added to your map layer, you can use them change the counties' symbology to display the drug arrest rate data.
Different maps would require different classifications. If you are mapping high school test-scores for counties and there is some state funding penalty that kicks in for schools with an average below 60, you'd want to manually set a boundary at 60 so it was clear what high schools were above and what were below that penalty average, so you'd probably want to do a Manual. If you're mapping percentages of towns' populations that are school-age children and teens, then you might want a clearer graph with demarcations every 10% to create a more understandable graph, in which case you'd want to do a Defined Interval classification.
There are a few other options that are more complicated. I recommend checking out ArcGIS's site for more information on how choosing different classifications can skew how your data appears. But on to this map -
But as you see the scale for what the drug arrest numbers mean is a little hard to interpret as its just a very small decimal without a lot of context to it. I'll show you a different way to calculate this same kind of normalization within the attribute table in a way that you can make a clearer label. This will mean you'll be specific for your reader about on exactly what the numbers mean. You can make calculations within the table with a Field Calculator.
If you need to perform mathematical functions on values in an attribute table for a layer you can do this with field calculator.
So if you had a Revenue field and an Expense field on a table you uploaded to ArcGIS, but forgot to calculate the profits field before you uploaded it, you can create a new field for Profit in ArcGIS and subtract Expense from Revenue and put the result in the Profit column. It's an easy way to come up with new information you might want to display on your map from data you've already loaded, without having to add a whole different sheet.
Basically what you want to do is divide the drug arrests in a county by the population of that county, and then multiply that number by 100,000 to calculate how many drug arrests occur in that county per 100,000 residents. This is generally the calculation used to measure how often an event occurs within a population.
The Calculate Field window has a space that lists the different fields on the table, helper functions, mathematical functions and a blank screen below Counties.ArrestsByP= for you to put in the calculation you want to make using those fields and the available mathematical functions to appear in that window.
Now, change the symbology of your map to be displaying the values of this new field.
If you had any issues creating this file, and need to see how I had it set up, here is the zip file that I made.
You will at points want to visualize qualitative instead of quantitative data. Qualitative meaning that instead of displaying a numerical measure about the area, you're displaying the category assigned to that area or other text-related information. You might want to display is zoning data for a particular building or street. You might want to display only whether a school represented by a point on your map is public or private, or primary or secondary, not information about its budget or number of students.
For this exercise, you'll be taking the map we created in the last exercise displaying the quantitative data for felony drug arrest information and adding a layer of qualitative data to it. You'll do this by joining a table with information on which county and local law enforcement agencies in the state have obtained a certain kind of military equipment from the Department of Defense to a layer with geographic information about New York State, and then changing the visualization associated with it.
For this map, you'll be starting with the map created in the last exercise. If you didn't complete that exercise, but just want to start from this point in the exercise, the map is available here. I'll also attach below the data sheet that you'll be working from in this exercise.
It's important to note that I've created this csv file to be readable by ArcGIS. ArcGIS doesn't read csv files correctly if the headers contain spaces, special characters or numbers at the beginning of the field. So when you create your own files, be sure to do one last check for those before you upload. You will find out the error when you try to join the data to your map layers later, so it's best to get it out of the way beforehand. It's also a good idea to make sure that the names of counties and towns are formatted the same in your data table as on the Attribute Table for the shapefile you plan to join it to. When I first tried to join the table, I discovered that one had St. Lawrence listed as the county name, and another had St Lawrence without the period, so until I edited the table to match the table for the layer, it wouldn't see those two as a match.
The data sheet included is the one from a project I worked on previously concerning New York State law enforcement agencies and the request of Mine-Resistant Ambush Proof vehicles (MRAPs) and other armored vehicles from the 1033 program. It lists the city or county of the agency, the equipment they requested and the year of the receipt. What it does not include is shape files for the areas discussed. However, you do have the county, village and city shapefiles from your base map, and if you have a common field between the data in your table, and data in the attribute table for your shapefile, you can join the data from the sheet to the locational data.
It's a good idea to keep a basemap that is clean of any joins or added data just so if you make any mistakes and need to start over, or if you have additional layers of data you want to add, you always have a clean copy to join it to, so make a copy of your Base Map from NY.GOV layer
In ArcGIS Pro, you can take a table that has attribute data about locations on a map and join it to locations on that map if those two tables have a field (aka column) in common. So if you have a table that has all the population data for every town in the region and one of the fields on that table contains the name of the town, and you have a polygon shapefile that has the locations and shapes of each of those towns and one of the fields for the attribute table contains the name of the town, you can join the two items together and your shapefile will now have population information about each town. You do, however, need to know which fields you'll be matching up between the table and the layer.
Now that the qualitative data from this table is attached to the layers of your map, you can change your symbology to display this data.
The values symbolized in this legend and on the map are <Null>,<Null> which means that the county wasn't listed in MRAPArmorOnly_2018-2022.csv so just had "<Null>" written there, and MINE RESISTANT VEHICLE, 2018 meaning that a county received an MRAP in 2018. There is also an entry for <all other values> which doesn't really apply here. Since we only care about geographic entities that did receive an MRAP, let's make it so only that value gets symbolized on the map.
Whenever you add data to a layer, you'll want to add information to the Description and Credits section of your layer. This is called metadata since it is data about what your data is and where you got it from. You may be working on projects with many layers, and you'll want to know where the information on those layers came from. This is a very good habit to get into so that when you cite the sources on your map when you print or share it, you will just be able to get that information in the description of the layer, instead of digging back through your computer to remind yourself where you got your information from. Viewers of your map will want to know your sources.
Information on the receipt of MRAPs by law enforcement agencies courtesy of Defense Logistics Agency, Law Enforcement Support office from the 2023 dataset "LESO Property Transferred to Participating Agencies" from: https://www.dla.mil/Disposition-Services/Offers/Law-Enforcement/Public-Information/
This is the place where I got the information that I included on my spreadsheet.
If you had any issues creating this file, and need to see how I had it set up, here is the zip file that I made.
You aren't just creating a map to see the geographical locations of your area of study yourself, you'll also want to be able to display those results to other people in a way that is clearly understandable. Though there is an option to export your map as a jpeg or to screenshot, if you create a layout, you can include not just the image of the map but items such as a legend, a title, a scale and other navigational aids. You can do so in a way that will let you easily see how it will appear at different sizes, and you can ensure the information is neatly organized.
In this exercise you'll be taking the map created in the last exercise and creating a layout for it that will include a legend, supplementary text, and other cartographic elements. You'll learn how to format it so that all the information that you're displaying is easily understood and so that it will fit comfortably on a standard sized piece of paper.
If you did not create this map in the last exercise and are just skipping ahead to see how to create a layout, the file for this map is below
A new tab will appear in your workspace labeled Layout, and when you click into it, there is blank canvas in the middle. The Contents pane on the left-hand side of your screen now has Layout at the top rather than Map. Up at the top, the options are different than they were when you were within your map. Now there are items like the Map Frame, North Arrow, Scale Bar, Legend and others that you can insert into your Layout. But first, let's add the map we've made to this canvas.
Any changes that you are making to the map in the layout will change where the frame appear in the layout, in order to actually change things like how your map is centered within the frame, you'll need to Activate it.
In order for your viewers to understand what they're looking at, your map will need a title, your listed sources, and importantly for your sake, your name.
The symbols you create won't be helpful to the viewer in understanding what your map says about your research question unless you tell your reader what the symbols mean. That's why creating and formatting a legend is very important to the presentation of your map.
I'm satisfied with how this box looks now, but remember the elements box is where you can make changes for individual aspects of the Legend and how it looks on your layout, but if you want to edit say, what things are titled or how they are symbolized, you'll want to go back and change it in the Map tab
You'll also want your reader to be able to know rough distances between places on your map, and to be able to tell if you've turned it so North is not the direction from the top to the bottom of your paper. You can do this by inserting a scale and a North Arrow.
The North arrow is also an important navigational element, less so in this case because you won't actually be using this map to drive or walk anywhere but it will still help orient the viewer.
When you've finished this, you'll have a layout that's suitable for printing or uploading to the web to display the map that you've made.