I am to be submitting a shapefile for review but the first two requirements have me confused. Are these requirements conflicting or am i just not understanding the question?


  1. The shapefile must have an assigned projection w/accompanying .prj file.

  2. The shapefile must use an unprojected (geographic) WGS84 geographic coordinate system.

I will be converting the original data from a .kml file which is automatically set to the WGS 1984 coordinate system when exported to the shapefile. Is there a way to assign a projection?

2 Answers 2


It is confusing and you might ask clarification from the professor. It may be that the professor wanted each requirement to be distinctly one thing. He/she could have written:

  1. The shapefile must have an assigned projection w/accompanying .prj file and that assigned projection must be an unprojected (geographic) WGS84 geographic coordinate system.

However, I think part of the confusion is the use of "projection" in the first requirement. In the misty past, ArcInfo Workstation used the term "projection" when it should have used coordinate system or the now more correct coordinate reference system. That terminology has persisted in some places in the ArcGIS software, particularly in the use of .prj for the file that contains coordinate reference system information and in the Define Projection Tool.


Using the Project (Data Management) tool, should yield you results! If you need to assign a known coordinate system to a dataset with an unknown coordinate system, the Define Projection (Data Management) tool does that.

  • 1
    If the two requirements refer to the same shapefile, the Define Projection tool would be better?
    – mkennedy
    Feb 25, 2015 at 19:00
  • Even if I was to project the data to WGS_1984_Web_Mercator_Auxiliary_Sphere or a state plane then wouldn't it be considered that the shapdfile is using a projected WGS84 georaphic coordinate system?
    – Jared
    Feb 25, 2015 at 19:04
  • 1
    Yes, although a clearer statement could be: the shapefile is using a projected coordinate reference system that's based on the WGS84 geographic coordinate reference system.
    – mkennedy
    Feb 25, 2015 at 19:06

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