What are the differences between data, a dataset, and a database?

  • Data are observations or measurements (unprocessed or processed) represented as text, numbers, or multimedia.
  • A dataset is a structured collection of data generally associated with a unique body of work.
  • A database is an organized collection of data stored as multiple datasets. Those datasets are generally stored and accessed electronically from a computer system that allows the data to be easily accessed, manipulated, and updated. 

Explore USGS data using our Science Data Catalog.

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Where can I find metadata for USGS products?

Metadata for publications authored by USGS scientists can be found on the USGS Publications Warehouse . Metadata for USGS data can be found on the USGS Science Data Catalog or on the repository serving the data. USGS data that predate 2000 might not have metadata. Learn more: USGS Data Management: Metadata/Documentation

What is the National Geologic Map Database?

The National Geologic Map Database (NGMDB) is an archive of geoscience maps (including geology maps), reports, and stratigraphic information for the United States. The NGMDB contains information on more than 90,000 maps and related geoscience reports published from the early 1800s to the present day, by more than 630 agencies, universities,...

How do I get USGS data?

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) provides data on many different science topics. Most of it can be downloaded for free from our website. Our Science Data Catalog is a good starting point. Also try using your browser's search engine and including the keyword "usgs.gov". If you are looking for a particular data set and cannot find it...

How do I contact the USGS?

For general inquiries, call 1-888-ASK-USGS (1-888-275-8747). You can also use this website to send us a message or to initiate a live Web chat with a USGS Science Information Specialist. Most of our employees are listed in our online Staff Profiles . USGS offices are located in every state. Please note, however, that most of them perform very...

How can I find publications of the USGS?

The USGS Publications Warehouse is an online catalog for searching all USGS publications and downloading free digital versions. USGS Libraries contain sets of all USGS publications plus many state geological survey publications. The public go in person to any USGS library to do research, but USGS library materials can only be borrowed by placing a...
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Screen shot of the National Land Cover Dataset
December 31, 2001

National Land Cover Dataset

A screen shot of the National Land Cover Dataset from 2001. For more information, visit the National Land Cover Database website.