GEOG 583
Geospatial System Analysis and Design

White Paper Critique Assignment


White Papers

"White papers" are widely used in the GIS world by tool developers to showcase new software and new features that have been added to existing software. While there's no single agreed-upon format for white papers, they generally weave in bits of science among bigger bits of marketing-speak. Companies also use white papers to highlight case study applications of their tools, for example, on the use of a network analysis tool to route cargo during a crisis situation. The focus on marketing that often appears in white papers does not render them useless, however, as white papers are frequently one of the best ways to quickly find out about new GIS technology and make a judgment before you pursue further contact with a particular company. The impossible-to-kill Esri shapefile format owes much of its popularity to the fact that it is completely described in this 1998 white paper. The alternative to white papers usually involves seeing a demonstration in person or by the web, which introduces obvious scheduling issues.

For the purposes of designing a GIS system, it's important to be able to find white papers, critique them, and then make a decision regarding whether or not you will adopt a solution for your system.

Assignment Description

I want you to complete the following tasks to discover, critique, and share your thoughts on a specific GIS white paper:

  1. Find a white paper on a new GIS technology or application area that interests you (this is your chance to find something outside your comfort zone).
  2. Read the white paper carefully, noting the claims that are made by the authors.
  3. Write a short report (maximum 500 words) on your white paper. Your report should have three sections:
    • include the white paper's title, a link to the white paper, and briefly summarize its content and claims (1 paragraph)
    • critique the claims made by the white paper and describe the questions you would need answers to before you were able to make a decision on adopting the technology (1-2 paragraphs)
    • identify at least three related white papers on competing technology solutions that you think should be reviewed before making a design decision (3 bullets with links and 1 sentence summaries of the papers)
  4. Submit your short report to the Lesson 4 White Paper Critique Assignment dropbox in Canvas.

Submission Instructions

  1. Save your files in the following format: L4_assign4_firstinitialLastName.doc (or other Word compatible document format). For example, Jack Dangermond's file would be named "L4_assign4_jdangermond.doc" - This naming convention is important, as it will help me make sure I match each submission up with the right student.
  2. Submit your short report to the Lesson 4 White Paper Critique Assignment dropbox in Canvas.See our Canvas Course Calendar for specific due dates.

Grading Criteria

For this assignment, I will assign grades with the following rubric. For each of the three main criteria, I will assign points on a scale from 1-5, with 5 being excellent and 1 being very poor. I define "Impact" as the strength and logic of the arguments and analytical insights you provide with your writing. I define "Content" as the level of understanding and knowledge of relevant topics you demonstrate with your writing. I define "Clarity" as the readability and organization of your writing (including formatting and appropriate graphic design where applicable).

Writing Assignment Rubric
Criteria Excellent Very Good Satisfactory Poor Very Poor
Impact 5 4 3 2 1
Content 5 4 3 2 1
Clarity 5 4 3 2 1

Discovering White Papers

Here are a few starting points (besides simply plugging in "GIS White Paper" in Google) for finding GIS-related white papers on the web:

Directions Magazine White Papers

Esri White Papers

MapInfo White Papers

ERDAS White Papers(see link at bottom of page)

Refractions Research White Papers

OpenGeo White Papers

Open Geospatial Consortium White Papers

This is by no means an exhaustive set - this is just to get you started, and I strongly encourage you to branch out into the specialty areas that you are familiar with in your work experience. For example, if you work on Utilities/FM GIS, then, by all means, go find white papers from the consulting groups that implement those types of GIS solutions.