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Geographic Information Systems




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.
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.


Once available, timetables will be published in 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.


I. Class participation 5%
II. Quiz 5%
III. Practical Exams 2 @ 17.5% each
IV. Labs 3 @ 10% each
V. Final Project 25%

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.

Please note:

  • In accordance with article 4.8 of the Course and Examination Regulations (OER), within 30 days after the publication of grades, the instructor will provide students the opportunity to inspect their exams/coursework.

  • There is a no re-sit policy at Leiden University College.


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

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


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



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. Student copies of the software will be available for free. This software is only compatible Windows operating systems.