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Geographic Information Systems



EES:Methods, S:Methods, GED:Methods, ID:Methods, PSc:Methods, GPH:Methods

Admissions requirements



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.

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

  • Students will work together (during class) and individually (on assessments) 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.

  • Students will write scientifically formatted descriptions of data, methods, and results.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

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 in the latter part of each class session. To demonstrate that students can independently utilize the material introduced during class sessions they will complete two practical exams, two homework projects, and a final research project.


  • Class participation 5%

  • Pop Quizzes on the readings 10%

  • Practical Exams, two at 15% each;
    What to expect: you will be given a file containing the data you need and a problem to solve with a list of what to turn in at the end. These will be timed and open notes.

  • Homework Projects 2 @ 15% each;
    You will be asked to work on a slightly longer task than in-class exercises in order to practice your skills and learn to work independently.

  • Final Project 25%;
    To work with data from a raw stage and use your newly developed GIS skills in a research setting.

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.

All assessments are individual assignments. Students are encouraged to help each other during practicals and open lab hours.


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list



This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Dr. Sarah E. Hinman,


Students should be prepared to make time outside of class hours to work on assignments in the lab. There will be regularly scheduled open lab hours throughout the block. Students will receive an email about reading for the first class meeting during the week before classes begin.