Spring-Summer 2005

Software Review
ArcView and TerraSeer Data Analysis Software

Technology Assistance and Resource Centers, CTCs, and other community organizations provide persons with a variety of needs with technology access and training and other technology-based social services. By using geographic information systems (GIS) and exploratory spatial data analysis (ESDA) to identify clusters of activities, community practitioners can better plan for supports and services. ESDA provides good descriptions, often in the form of maps, of available data. By using ESDA, stakeholders in organizations improve their ability to detect patterns and relationships. Using GIS and ESDA provides the ability to identify clusters and aids in deciding whether to allocate or reassign additional resources and supports to areas of high use.

Two relevant software packages for performing this kind of research are ArcView and TerraSeer. ArcView software supplies the framework for conducting the analysis by providing the address mapping information. The TerraSeer software provides the ESDA with the ability to analyze the data from ArcView. Use of this begins by collecting data at the individual consumer level and is often available in the organization's database. The address matching function, available within the Arc View software program, generates the two geographic coordinates (longitude and latitude) to represent the person's address on a map. After plotting these coordinates, we assess clustering by applying spatial autocorrelation analyses available in the TerraSeer software package in order to determine the degree of clustering.

Because these software programs can be difficult to use when you begin and are comparatively expensive (though under $1,000 each), look for assistance at the company websites or through colleges and universities. Urban planning and geography departments can provide valuable resources. While each will be different, many university departments, including graduate level social work and urban planning programs, can arrange internships for college credit. Most universities with urban planning programs will have access to these software packages. Many faculty members will provide pro-bono assistance especially if your organization's project can provide the basis for classroom assignments and possibly lead to publications.

Michael Wolf-Branigin, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Social Work at George Mason University in Virginia, teaches courses in research methods, and social policy and social justice. His areas of specialization include disability studies, consumer-choice models, and quality of life outcomes.


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