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Exploring the anatomy of Geographic Information Systems and Technology (GIS&T) textbooks

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Transactions in GIS

Published online on


Choosing a textbook is among the most important decisions instructors make in preparation for an academic term. Geographic Information Systems and Technology (GIS&T) textbook development has been influenced by a unique set of circumstances, mainly the rapid development of the discipline within an interdisciplinary environment, which has resulted in a continuous state of evolution. We examine the anatomy of GIS&T textbooks through a comparison of their organization, content, and depth of coverage. Specifically, utilizing the Geographic Information Science and Technology Body of Knowledge (BoK) as a comprehensive reference, we categorize the content of 26 of the most widely used introductory GIS textbooks. Our results show that there has been consistent coverage of topics over time, with analytical methods and geospatial data being the most prominent topics covered in texts. However, individual textbooks place varying emphasis on the BoK knowledge areas, which is potentially useful to instructors seeking books that emphasize particular knowledge areas. Additionally, long‐term trends indicate a shift toward an emphasis on new forms of geospatial data (e.g., social media). Ongoing efforts to expand and revise the BoK reflect how the discipline continues to manage its own evolution as new geographic research linked to GIS and GIScience emerges.