In general, citations (i.e., references) give credit to others for their work and ideas and allow readers to track down the original work if they choose. Citing data has not always been standard practice, especially if it is data you have collected yourself, but as data becomes more and more widely shared, proper attribution is increasingly important. Citing datasets helps them become part of the scholarly record and gives proper credit to the creator of the dataset.
Citation also allows researchers to look at the underlying data supporting your research, to build upon your research, or attempt to reproduce your results. So don't forget to keep track our where you're getting your data from (as you gather it) and cite it!
The following are a couple of recommended sources for ways to cite geospatial data, maps, and imagery:
Before using a data source in your research, you will need to check if there are any use restrictions. While data itself cannot be copyrighted, any product derived from that data can. This can apply to datasets as a whole, as well as charts and graphs created by online tools. There may also be privacy concerns related to the data itself, which would limit the ways the data can be used and shared. Users should always read the terms and conditions for each data source, especially if they intend to publish their research.
For more information and if you have any questions about copyright, contact the UBC Copyright Office.