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Geographic Information Systems


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

  • Introduction to Statistics


Geographic information systems (GIS) are computer systems for the collection, storage, visualization, and display of geographically referenced information. A GIS can be used to ask and answer complex questions that have a spatial component. We can use a GIS, for example, to choose suitable land for a residential development based upon a series of criteria (distance from wildlife refuges, cost, slope, soil type) or to identify statistically significant clusters of infant deaths in a city. In fact, there are applications for GIS in almost any area of study including policy science, urban and regional planning, public health/epidemiology, geology, hydrology, history, anthropology, paleontology, and, of course, geography.

In this course we utilize GIS to examine spatial data in relation to a range of environmental and socioeconomic issues. This course introduces GIS using a popular desktop package called ArcGIS 10.x. You will use this software and some additional programs, called ‘extensions,’ for vector and raster (grid-based) analysis. The course is problem-based. Your task is to solve problems using the GIS and to demonstrate your new knowledge through homework projects, practical exams, and a research project.

Course Objectives


  • Students will develop and carry out a scientifically sound GIS project.

  • Students will effectively demonstrate scientific writing and technical skills related to spatial topics.


  • Students will demonstrate an understanding of key vocabulary and software tools and when to use them.

  • Students will work together and individually to identify appropriate methods to answer spatial questions.

  • Students will investigate spatial problems in class and on their own time using geographic information systems specific vocabulary, tools, and methods.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2021-2022 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This methodology course will focus on both theoretical ideas underpinning how a GIS works and the practical skills you will need to use a GIS in a research setting. To that end this course will rely on lectures to introduce concepts and skills and then students will be asked to apply lecture material through hands on exercises. To demonstrate that students can independently utilize the material introduced during class sessions they will complete two practical exams, three lab assignments, and a final project.

Assessment Method

Participation 10%
Labs 3 (1 @ 10%; 2@ 15%)
Exam 15%
Final Project 35%

While this is primarily a course that will teach you specific skills, you will also be learning elements of scientific writing such as describing data and methodological choices in the process of developing your final project and homework assignments.

Reading list

(Subject to change) Heywood, Ian, Sarah Cornelius, and Steve Carver. 2011. An Introduction to Geographical Information Systems, 4th edition. London: Pearson.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,