Guide to Citing Geospatial Data

Recommended Citation Elements

The BTAA Geospatial Data Project recommends creating citations using elements identified by the International Association for Social Science Information Services & technology (IASSIST) Quick Guide to Data Citation. How you style or punctuate these elements will depend on your chosen citation style (e.g. MLA, APA, Chicago, etc).

Here is a general layout that includes all of the elements:

Creator (Date). Title. Publisher. Identifier

Example: Dane County Land Information Office. (2019). Buildings Dane County, WI 2018. University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The Elements


Name(s) of each individual or organizational entity responsible for the creation of the dataset. This is also called “Author.”


Year the dataset was published or issued.


Complete title of the dataset, including the edition or version number, if applicable.


Organization that makes the dataset available by archiving, producing, publishing, and/or distributing the dataset. If the Publisher is not clear, look for an organization described in the metadata as the Distributor.


Electronic location, web address, or unique, persistent, global identifier used to locate the dataset (such as a DOI). Append the date retrieved if the title and locator are not specific to the exact instance of the data you used.

Suggestions on where to find information for citation elements

Within the BTAA Geoportal, each item view page should contain sufficient metadata to construct a citation. However, some of the displayed records may not offer enough information for a complete citation.

  • Look for a “View Metadata” option under the Links toolbar. If present, supplemental metadata will display in the geoportal.
  • Download the dataset. There may be detailed metadata embedded within the file itself or attached as a separate document.
  • Click the “View Source” button to visit the data provider’s website, which may include the needed metadata.
  • Email the data provider. The original data provider will have a contact listed on their website.