Study areas are geographic boundaries created in Business Analyst used to define the extent of your analysis. They are typically created when starting a project to ensure that your data is confined to a specified area. Only layers within the study area are considered in an analysis, so processing time is enhanced if a study area is created.
More than one study area can be loaded into ArcMap, but only one study area can be active at a time. Its name appears in bold font in the ArcMap table of contents and on the map.
Business Analyst contains two different study areas: virtual study areas and defined study areas. A virtual study area is the current extent of your map document; it never has a defined boundary. A defined study area has a boundary.
Choosing to create a study area by continental United States will produce a study area without Alaska and Hawaii.
You can use Set Analysis Extent as an alternative to bookmarks. Any preset choices in the Bookmark menu leave the current map view of the map checked, and all analyses only work on the visible extent. For example, if you're working on a defined study area in the Atlanta, Georgia, area and used an ArcMap bookmark you created to move your map view to Detroit, Michigan, the analysis extent would still be set for Atlanta. The disadvantage of using bookmarks to navigate the map is that they don't change the active extent for analysis purposes.
The benefit of the virtual study area is that it allows you to set the current extent efficiently, rather than scrolling through a long list of bookmarks, while also updating your analysis extent.
The virtual study area is created using Set Analysis Extent in the Business Analyst menu. Use the Jump to Location option to quickly navigate the map to a state or major CBSA location and, at the same time, change the analysis extent to the area to which you are jumping.
No data is required to generate study areas.