Geographic Information Systems, or GIS for short, is a tool of exploration that helps us explore geographic or spatial patterns. At a minimum, it aids us in describing these patterns, but GIS can go beyond simply description to help us investigate and understand why these patterns exist, the impacts these patterns have on our life and land, and to discover potential future geographic patterns.
Types of geographic questions that can be answered using GIS include – What is at this location? Where is a certain discrete object or type of object or environmental characteristic present? What has changed since…? What spatial patterns exist? What if…? These questions examine relationships among various geographic phenomena, and you use GIS to explore and help you answer these questions.
There are two parts to a GIS: a map (or spatial) component and an attribute (or database) component. By making this link between the map and the stored attributes, GIS becomes a powerful tool for analyzing geographic data and using the results of analysis to help with planning decisions.
This information was obtained from the e-textbook GIS Commons (http://giscommons.org/), whose contents are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.