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Duncan Meyers on GIS and Geocoding

Greetings fellow AEA365 blog readers. My name is Duncan Meyers and I am a graduate student at the University of South Carolina in the Clinical/Community Psychology program. I have a strong interest in evaluation and have been an evaluator for community-based mental health services, an after-school obesity prevention program, and a project aimed at increasing walking through environmental strategies in underserved communities. Within the last three years the projects I have been involved with have utilized geographic information systems (GIS) to enhance our evaluations. A GIS is a system which consists of computer software and data; specifically, geospatial data (i.e., entities or events that can be described in a geographic fashion). These systems can be used to view and manage information about geographic places which are important to your evaluation (e.g., states, counties, communities, schools, etc.) and analyze spatial relationships.

Given the ways in which GIS has benefitted the projects that I have been involved with, I would like to share a helpful tip and point you toward a free resource that I use very frequently.

Hot Tip: First and foremost – like any software assisted analytic tool – GIS involves a learning curve and it is unlikely that evaluators will be able to sit down and use it right away without any training. However, utilizing professional contacts you may have is a great way to work around the learning curve. As long as a clear research question is identified, these contacts may be able to help you visually display your data and analyze relationships among your data and test hypotheses. If you don’t already have such contacts, many county, state, and national agencies/organizations have GIS offices that may be willing to collaborate with you. Also, if there is a University near you the Geography department can be a great help.

Rad Source: One of the most helpful – and basic – functions I have used with GIS is geocoding. Geocoding finds the latitude and longitude coordinates of an address. These coordinates are essentially x and y coordinates that you can put on a map. Here’s a free geocoder that I use a lot: http://www.batchgeo.com/

Batchgeo.com allows you to use an Excel spreadsheet to convert addresses into map coordinates, and then create maps that you can view. Download the template, add some addresses, and hit the “map now” button. Here’s a YouTube tutorial to help get you started: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQAUZqKR2cw

Geocoding is a basic yet integral step in setting up a GIS analysis. Linking the maps you create to your evaluation will take additional steps, and if you are interested in getting some ideas be sure to tune into the AEA Coffee Break Webinar on June 3rd! http://comm.eval.org/EVAL/coffee_break_webinars/Home/Default.aspx

5 thoughts on “Duncan Meyers on GIS and Geocoding”

  1. You can also use SVB Mapper downloadable at mapper.svbgroup.com.au works very well with Excel and Bing Maps,very easy to use you can run a bit of analysis on it as well.

  2. Thanks, Duncan, for your discussion of geo analysis and tools — evaluations are more and more doing this. One caveat, however. I’ve found that batchgeo.com and provide incorrect matches. I’ve used both that site and the ESRI geocoding program and found that batchgeo *will* provide xy for every item given it — even if that coordinate is simple the middle of a zipcode. Perhaps others have had better experiences with this — I hope so, because it is certainly easy to use.

  3. For members only, the screencast and recording of the Coffee Break Webinar Duncan Meyers offered on Introduction to Using Geographic Information Systems for Evaluation may be accessed here http://bit.ly/bfZSEf.

    Not a member? His handout on resources for learning more about Using Geographic Information Systems for Evaluation may be found in the AEA Public eLibrary here http://bit.ly/cfdzJh. I encourage you to consider joining and thus gaining access to AEA’s webinars archive library (as well as journals, professional development, thought leaders discussions, newsletters…). Join now online at http://www.eval.org/membership.asp.

  4. Benjamin Cohen

    This is fantastic and so useful. We are often looking to code addresses in ARcGIS, and I’ve found that converting addresses to coordinates a real difficulty. A great help….

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