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Digital tools for research

Find information on digital tools to analyse and visualise data and text.

Introduction to GIS

What is a Geographic Information System?

"In its simplest form, a geographic information system (GIS) is a system designed to store, manipulate, analyze, and output map-based, or spatial, information."

"Although there is no single universally agreed-on definition of a GIS, GIS professionals do agree on several general principles. First, a GIS requires a combination of computer hardware and software tools. Second, a GIS requires data, and these data must posses a spatial or location component. Third, a GIS requires knowledgeable individuals to develop the database and carry out the data processing."

Source: Steven J. Steinberg & Sheila L. Steinberg (2006), 'Geographic Information Systems for the Social Sciences: Investigating Space and Place', Thousand Oaks, Sage, p. 7.

Desktop applications

Desktop GIS applications at RMIT

Support for QGIS

The Library has access to range of resources to support you with using QGIS. See below: 

Online mapping tools and applications

The following mapping tools do not require downloading additional software and offer few barriers to use and access - most only require a dataset (in an appropropriate format) to be uploaded to the platform to create a geographical visualisation.

Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network (AURIN)

AURIN is, among other things, an online platform that provides access to thousands of Australian of datasets and the ability to apply the data to create present spatial visualisations.

The AURIN Map provides access to a range of data layers and the ability to quickly build visualisations, while the AURIN Portal brings "together thousands of authoritative, spatially-enabled datasets into a single, robust online analytical platform. The Portal is the ideal tool for researchers, policy makers, and educators alike to answer the important questions about the sustainable and productive futures of our towns and cities.

The AURIN Portal is free to use for all staff working at, or enrolled in a university in Australia. It is also free to use for all employees of government departments and non-governmental (NGO) & not-for-profit (NFP) organisations across all sectors and levels in Australia."

AURIN resources


Is an online, open source mapping platform developed to lower barriers for scholars who wish to explore, visualise, edit and publish geospatial information.

Using WorldMap on ArcGIS Online

National Map

NationalMap is an online map-based tool to allow easy access to spatial data from Australian government agencies, and:

  • provides easy access to authoritative and other spatial data to government, business and the public
  • facilitates the opening of data by federal, state and local government bodies
  • provides an open framework of geospatial data services that supports commercial and community innovation


Victorian maps and spatial data

There are a range of mapping tools available from Victorian government agencies. See the Maps and Spatial website for interactive mapping tools to view environmental, urban, cultural and historical information, as well as access spatial and property data.

Data sources

Spatial data can be available from a range of sources. The links below focus on Australian and Victorian spatial data.