Map meaningful places in your community

Design your project

Before you start finding places, you'll need to plan your project, defining what you want to learn and how. This process is called project design. There are three main steps to project design:

  • Formulate a research question.
  • Decide what data to collect and how much you'll need.
  • Write survey questions to collect the data.

Data collection needs to be done in the context of your project and with a purpose. To start, you’ll need to formulate a research question that summarizes this purpose. Your research question should address the following: Why are you collecting data? What do you want to know?

  1. Write a research question to guide your project about important places in your community.

    For example: What places in my community have social, economic, and political value and add to my community’s identity?

    A simpler example might be: What places in my community contribute to its identity?

    Now that you have your research question, you’ll need to think about the kinds of data you need for your project. What do you need to answer your research question? In this stage of the project design, you’ll plan out all the questions you’ll need to ask to gather your data. Consider who, what, when, where, and why.

  2. Write five sample questions that you can use to collect data to answer your research question.

    See the following examples:

    • What is the name of this place?
    • Why is it important to you?
    • What activities do you do at this place?
    • How often do you visit here?
    • Who is there with you?
    • How many people are typically there with you?

    Now, you’ll focus on the data types.

    Depending on how you want to use the data after it’s collected, you can choose to use formats such as numbers, text, dates, rating scales, images, or others. Each of these allow you to interact with the data in different ways. For example, the name of the place needs to be stored in a string field, or a text field. But if you want to count how many times you visit that place each week, that should be stored as a number.

    As you write your questions, think about the type of data each should be. Writing questions that allow you to collect data in as close to its intended form as possible will save you from having to change the data later.

  3. Write 5-8 survey questions, keeping in mind your research question and the types of data you want to collect about each location.

    Feel free to use or adapt the sample questions provided below to your own project design. The sample survey provided with this tutorial includes all but the first and last of these questions.

    QuestionOptionsData type

    What is this name of this place?


    Where is this place?


    What kind of place is this?

    • School
    • Neighborhood
    • Park or open space
    • Library
    • Market
    • Shopping center
    • Religious space
    • Community center
    • Memorial or historic site
    • Restaurant
    • Performing Arts space
    • Other community space

    Single choice

    How do you interact with this space?

    • To spend time with family
    • To spend time with friends
    • To exercise
    • For recreation
    • To shop
    • To learn
    • To worship
    • Other

    Multiple choice

    How important is this place to you?


    How many times per week do you visit this place?


    What kinds of threats might this place face?

    • Climate threats and adaptability
    • Funding challenges
    • Land use change and development
    • None

    Upload a photo of this location


    Finally, you'll consider how many responses are needed to answer the research question. If everyone in your class contributes one location, is that enough data? Or another way to think about it, how many different perspectives do you need?

  4. Decide how many data points you need to collect and from how many different people.

    As you decide how much data you need and who you need to ask, make sure to consider data bias. Data bias is when the data doesn’t represent the population accurately.

    For example, if you’ve surveyed just your class of seventh graders, your data will tell you what kinds of places in your town may be important to seventh graders, but it may not tell you what places are important to eighth graders or adults.

    Depending on the types of data you’re collecting, and the scale of the conclusions you want to draw, you must be aware of data bias. When sharing what you've found, you'll want to state who provided the data and how you collected it.

  5. Set a goal as a class for how many data points you need to collect and how many people you should survey.

Now that you have your data collection project planned, you can move on to building your survey.

Create the survey

Next, you will use ArcGIS Survey123 to turn your questions into a survey.


If you don't want to build your own survey and collect data, you can fill out the sample survey, then skip to the Analyze data section and use the sample survey dataset provided for this tutorial.

  1. Go to the ArcGIS Survey123 website and sign in with your ArcGIS organizational account.

    If you don't have an organizational account, see options for software access.

  2. Click New survey.

    Open a new survey.

  3. For Blank survey, click Get started.

    Choose the blank survey.

    Before you start adding questions, you'll name the survey and add some information for people taking the survey.

  4. On the ribbon, click the Edit survey info button.

    Edit the survey title.

    The Edit survey info window appears.

  5. In the Edit survey info window, for Name, delete Untitled survey and type Places of importance.
  6. Click OK.

    To make sure anyone taking the survey knows what they’re answering questions about, you’ll set the survey title and description.

  7. Click Survey title not set.

    Set the survey title.

    The Survey header pane appears in the Edit tab.

  8. In the Survey header pane, delete the existing text and type Places of importance in our community.

    Edit the Survey header.

  9. In the survey builder pane, click Description content for the survey.

    Description sentence under survey title

  10. In the Survey description pane, delete the existing text and type or copy and paste:

    What places in the community have social, economic, or political value and add to my community’s resilience?

Now your survey introduction is set, and you can start adding questions.

Add questions to the survey

In this section, you'll add questions to your survey. The Add tab lists the different types of questions you can add to the survey. Remember that there are often many ways to collect similar kinds of data. For example, both the Likert scale and the Rating question types collect data that captures a score that you determine, like four out of five stars. Likert scales are more flexible, though, and you can replace the stars with text, such as a scale of Not very much to Very much.

Because questions may vary between data collection projects, you'll build the first two sample questions in this section and add additional questions as needed.

  1. In the Survey description pane, click the Add tab.

    Open the Add tab.

    The Add pane opens and shows the many types of questions you can add to the survey. Consider what kinds of data you would collect using these different types of questions. For example, descriptions about a place can be collected as text, single choice, or multiple choice.

  2. In the Add pane, find the Singleline text question and drag it into the survey pane.

    Add a Singleline text question.

    A blank question is added to your survey and the Edit tab opens.

  3. On the Edit tab, for Label, type or paste What is the name of this place?

    The question in the Survey pane updates to show the question label. There are several other options you can set for the question. For example, you can choose to give a hint for how someone might answer the question. You can also decide if you need the survey taker to answer this question. Ask: is it worth the respondent submitting the survey if they don’t answer this question? If not, make the question required.

  4. For Validation, check the box for This is a required question.

    Set the Validation parameter to require the question.

    In the survey pane, a red asterisk after the question text indicates that the question is required.

    After asking the name of the place, the next relevant question is to ask where it's located. For this, you'll add a map question. This will collect the geographic location of the data point.

  5. In the Add pane, find the Map question type and drag it into the survey pane below the first question.

    Add a map question to the survey.

    The Edit tab opens, and the Map question settings appear.

    First, you'll give the question a name, and give survey takers a hint for how they might answer the question. When collecting data, it is important to discuss privacy needs and requirements. If you're collecting potentially sensitive data, including name, home address, and any other personally identifying information, you should have an idea of where that data's going to be stored, who'll be able to see it, and how it will be used.

  6. For Label, type Where is this place?
  7. For Hint, type or paste Keep in mind with maps that some information is personal: you probably shouldn't share your home's location nor other personal locations. But you can safely share locations like your city or a major intersection.

    Add the map question label and hint.

    Now, you can choose the type of geographic data you want to collect—a point, line, or polygon. You can also choose to ask your survey participants to share their current location or draw their data on the map. To make it a bit easier for your survey participants to start in your community, you can set the default location to your school.

  8. For Drawing tools, make sure Point is selected.
  9. For Map and extent, type the address of your school and press Enter, or zoom and pan until you find your campus.

    The sample survey default location is the Esri campus in Redlands, California.

    Find your school's campus as the default map.

  10. For Default location, choose Center of the map extent specified above.

    Center the map on a specific extent.

    Finally, you’ll decide if you need the survey taker to answer this question. Since location is key to your research question, you’ll make the map question required.

  11. For Validation, check the box for This is a required question.

    Set validation to require the question be answered.

    In the survey pane, a red asterisk after the question text indicates that the question is required.

    Survey questions 1 and 2

  12. Click the Add tab and add the rest of the questions you’ve formulated. Test various question types to see what will get you the best survey results.
  13. When you’re finished adding your questions, at the bottom of the design pane, click Save.

    You're almost ready to publish your survey, but first review your work. Ensure that everything's in the correct order, spelled correctly, is set as required or not, and so on.

  14. Click Publish two times.

    The survey may take a few minutes to publish. Once it’s finished, you’ll share it so you and your class can collect data.


    If you don’t want to publish the survey, you can fill out a sample survey. This survey includes all sample questions in the table above except the place name and the option to upload a photo. These are not included to protect minors' privacy.

Collect data

Now that you’ve built and published your survey, you’re ready to collect your data. Once you’ve collected enough data, you can map the results and draw conclusions.

  1. In the Survey123 site, click the Collaborate tab.

    Click the Collaborate tab.

  2. For Who can submit to this survey, check the box Everyone (public).

    Change the share settings to allow access to the survey.

    Depending on your share settings, your class or everyone will be able to fill out the survey.


    Depending on your organization's privacy settings and your account permissions, you may only be able to share it with your organization.

  3. Click Save.
  4. For Share this survey, copy and share the link, or click Show the QR code to allow your class to open the survey.

    Share the survey link or as a QR code.

  5. Have your classmates fill out and submit the survey.

As you collect data, keep in mind the answer to the question you thought about earlier: how much data is enough?

Once you've collected the number of survey responses you set as your goal, you can start analyzing the survey results.

Analyze data

Once you've collected your data, you can begin to analyze it. There are several questions to ask as you’re analyzing your data: how many people have taken your survey? Is there any possible bias in the data? Are there any answers that surprise you? Remember, you can go back and collect more data at any time.


If you chose not to create a survey, you won't be able to see the map view on the Data tab. After reviewing steps 1-6, you can re-join the tutorial at Step 7 to analyze the data from the sample dataset.

  1. Click the Data tab.

    Click the Data tab.

    The Data tab shows two main components—a map of the data points you’ve collected, and an attribute table. An attribute table is a table that organizes all the data about each point.

  2. Click a point on the map.

    The corresponding record in the attribute table is highlighted in blue.

    Clicking a point on the map highlights the corresponding record in the Attribute table.

    First, you want to understand the distribution of the data. Are your points spread across the map, or are there a lot of points stacked on top of each other? To answer this question, you’ll use heat map symbology. A heat map uses colors to show where there's a lot of data.

  3. On the Data ribbon, click Open in Map Viewer.

    Open in Map Viewer button

    A map window appears within the Survey123 browser.

    Map window within Survey123.

    The data currently shows as points representing the location of the data.

  4. On the Settings (light) toolbar, click the Styles button.

    Styles button

    The Styles pane appears. In this pane, you can specify what style you want to use to display the data points.

  5. Under Pick a style, click Heat map, and click Done.

    Choose the heat map symbology.

  6. On the map, zoom in to your school so that you can see the points styled as a heat map.

    The map now shows a range of colors from blue to yellow. Areas in yellow show where there’s a lot of data, and areas in blue show where there’s not a lot of data.

    Heat map showing places of importance in Redlands, California

    What does your class’s heat map look like? Does it look like a lot of students think the same places are important? Or are there many different places that are important to students?

    Now, you’ll look at how each question was answered.

  7. Close the Map Viewer window. On the ribbon, click the Analyze tab.

    If you did not create a survey, open the results to analyze responses in the sample dataset.

    The Analyze tab shows how each question was answered. Depending on the questions your class asked, the analysis may look different.

    Click the Analyze tab.

    What similarities do you notice about your class’s answers? What differences?

Now you've gone through all the steps of data collection. To decide if your project is complete, you'll go back to the research question: what places in my community have social, economic, and political value and add to my community’s identity?

Does your data answer this question?

If your answer is yes, you have successfully met your project design goal and your project is complete. If not, consider which step you need to return to and adjust. The data collection process is iterative, meaning that at any point you and your class can go back and collect more data or add new questions to the survey to better answer your research question.

In this tutorial, you developed a project design, determined a research question to collect data about places of importance in your community. You learned how to create a survey to collect relevant data and analyze it. This process can be applied to any research question, so you can complete this workflow with a new research question that is important to you and your community.

You can find more tutorials in the tutorial gallery.