Desk Research

1 week
Toolbox Themes
  • Socio-spatial inclusionReduce socio-spatial inequalities by promoting the even distribution of basic urban services, quality public spaces, affordable housing, and livelihood opportunities.

Gather existing data of the city and generate spatial base maps needed to support the analysis and the plan development.

  • Repository of existing data (literature review, existing surveys, etc.)

  • Maps, diagrams and data visualisations


In the desk research activity spatial, qualitative and quantitative data is collected regarding the current conditions of the city. While the Contextualisation Block A provides a general understanding of the context and the existing planning documents, this activity aims to gather and compile more detailed data required to analyse the city. Information at national and regional level should also be collected and analysed to understand the wider context the city is inserted in and how the various aspects and existing conditions of the surrounding area impacts the development and functioning of the city. 

This activity considers information at different scales (national, regional and local/ city level) related to planning frameworks and processes, governance and administrative boundaries, the natural environment and agriculture, demographic and social aspects, historical and current climate trends, the built environment, mobility and transportation, basic services provision, migration trends, etc. 

Usually, some data is already available in the government and institutional websites, or in the municipality offices as a soft or hard copy. The technical team should consult all the available sources, including cartography gathered in the previous activities, open source shapefiles, satellite images, historical pictures, climographs etc. UN-Habitat recommends using an open source Geographic Information System (GIS) software to adopt an evidence-based approach for urban development. Whenever some data is not available or outdated, it is worth conducting the following field research activity to produce new data. The information is then digitised and consolidated in a single digital project. The data is then compiled into a series of spatial base maps and diagrams that describe the current conditions of the city regarding different topics. 

  1. Define the area of analysis and different scales of work.
  2. Set up the initial broad analysis framework or topics of investigation.
  3. Define the content list of the analysis.
  4. Review existing cartography and plans gathered during the contextualisation Block.
  5. Collect data from municipal, sub-national or national offices, academic institutes and/or open-source websites.
  6. Organise the data according to the themes presented in the T14 Desk and Field Research - Maps and Data Checklist.
  7. Consolidate and digitalise all the data into a single GIS database (T14 Desk and Field Research - Maps and Data Checklist).
  8. Identify the missing data that should be purchased and/or gathered in the Field Research (Activity 13).
  9. Compile different spatial base maps (T14 Desk and Field Research - Maps and Data Checklist).