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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Geography

Undergraduate Course: Principles of Geographical Information Science (GEGR10137)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course provides an essential background for students with limited knowledge of Geographic Information Science and as a foundation for other courses. More broadly, the course seeks to develop student¿s transferable skills, to develop practical techniques in geographical information science, and to provide training in critical analysis and in written presentation combining results from quantitative analysis.
Course description Principles covered include co-ordinate reference systems, map projections and the different models that GIS employ to represent real-world entities through the use of both vector and raster modelling. Also considered are the effects that these models and the analytical functionality of systems have on the information that can be derived. Vector and raster data models are explained and there is an introduction to representing and analysing 3D, terrain data. Various case studies are used to highlight various types of analysis typically performed using GIS. Basic elements of graphic design and communication are reviewed to ensure that output from GIS is comprehensible and effective. The module concludes by addressing the wider social and economic factors that influence the success or failure of GIS in an institution. The lectures are complimented by a series of computer based practicals in which a series of hands on exercises enable students to gain first hand practical knowledge of how to use a GIS.

There is a set of weekly tutorials associated with the course to support various learning outcomes. Collectively these activities are then used to complete a degree assessed GIS project. The course is assessed through 1) participation in tutorials, 2) essay assessments and quizzes, 3) a computer based exercise using GIS combined within a report that presents and critiques various outputs.

No prior knowledge of GIS is expected or required for this course though it is expected that you have good levels of numeracy and a logical mind! A familiarity with spreadsheets is very useful. Engagement with the course text will be essential: Heywood DI, Cornelius S, Carver S 2011. An introduction to geographical information systems 4th ed (ebook or softback).

Attendance at one of the weekly tutorials is compulsory. Participation in the tutorials will be graded and form part of the course assessment. There is no teaching in Week 6.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 22, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 2, Summative Assessment Hours 2, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 170 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 1. Tutorials: Active participation and contributing to those discussions (10%)
2. Short essay 1000 words (20%)
Essay set week 2, due week 4. Question: Describe, using examples, how GIS can be used to help achieve one of the UN sustainability goals. Include critique that highlights strengths and limitations.
3. Data modelling based on computer practicals (10%)
Set in Week 3, Due in week 6. Building on computer practicals (Wk 1-5) and lecture materials, create a data model in order to answer the question: Describe (including a detailed data flow diagram) and justify, the spatial decision making associated with determining the optimal location for Elon Musk's Battery Factory in the UK. This 1000 word document would act as a 'template' for the decision making associated with the fourth piece of assessment.
4. Cartographic Critique of a map of your own choosing. Set in Week 5, Due in Week 8 you are required to choose and critique a thematic map (not a pandemic/covid map). In 1000 words highlight strengths/ limitations/ and context of use (10%)
5. Tranquillity Project (50%)
Set in Week 5, Due in Week 11: This is a computer based exercise involves data integration and analysis to determine places of tranquillity in the Trossachs National Park. The project comprises a written element together with evidence of programming, and the presentation of cartographic outputs. The report should comprise 1500 words used to introduce the project, describe the data sources, the methodology, results, interpretation and limitations of approach. Tables, figures and key cartographic output would be in addition to the 1500 words. The report may include as appendices, any programming code and additional cartographic output, intermediate results and tables relevant to the answer.

Degree assessment and deadlines:
Contribution in the 4 tutorials across the whole semester (10%)
Short essay 1000 words. Essay set week 2, due Week 4 (20%)
Data modelling exercise. Set in Week 3, Due in Week 6 (10%)
Cartographic Critique. Set in Week 5, Due in Week 8 (10%)
Tranquillity Project. Set in Week 5, Due in Week 11 (50%)

Overall mark for the course (ie degree coursework) of at least 40 to pass.
Feedback An essay is set early in the course as a means of providing formative feedback on the comprehension of ideas. Various multi choice questions and short answer questions will be linked with video material in order to support engagement with the course material.

The course organiser is available via email, or phone 07532 133033. Should any issues arise, should you struggle with the course, should you have any questions at all, then please do get in contact with the course organiser.

Lecture material will be released each Saturday at 8am. This asynchronous material must be engaged with prior to the weekly tutorial.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. understand the components and a range of the methods which make up geographical information systems and the field of geographical information science
  2. display knowledge of the multifarious data sources commonly used in GIS, and critically understand the importance of data modelling in the storage of such data
  3. appreciate the functionality of the ArcGIS software, including basic expertise in analysis, classification, query and integration of vector and raster data and its visualisation
  4. apply appropriate cartographic principles in the construction of maps
  5. develop an integrated practical project, drawing on appropriate source data, providing meaningful analysis, effective visualisation of output and drawing appropriate conclusions which demonstrate professional level insight
Reading List
Class Text
1. Heywood, I., Cornelius, S. and Carver, S. (2011) An Introduction to Geographical Information Systems. Prentice Hall, Fourth Edition.

A supplementary start point for the course
2. Schmandt, M. GIS Commons: An introductory textbook on Geographic Information Systems
3. free web enabled resource:

Textbooks complimentary to class text
1. de Smith, M Goodchild M F Longley P A 2015 Geospatial Analysis A Comprehensive Guide to Principles Techniques and Software tools. Third edition
free web enabled resource:
2. Burrough P A, McDonnell R A & Lloyd C.D. (2015) Principles of Geographical Information Systems for Land Resources Assessment. Oxford: Clarendon. Third Edition.
3. Longley P A, Goodchild M F, Maguire D J and Rhind D W (eds) (2010) Geographical Information Systems and Science. Chichester: Wiley. 3rd Edition.
4. Stillwell, J., Clarke, G. 2003 Applied GIS and Spatial Analysis (edited volume) John Wiley
5. Longley, P.A., Batty, M. 2003 Advanced Spatial Analysis: The CASA Book of GIS

2. International Journal of Geographical Information Science,
3. Computers, Environment and Urban Systems (CEUS),
5. Transactions in GIS,
6. Cartography and GIS
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr William MacKaness
Tel: (0131 6)50 8163
Course secretaryMiss Leigh Corstorphine
Tel: (01316) 502572
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