GY476      Half Unit
Applied Geographical Information Systems

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Steve Gibbons

The course will be taught by multiple teachers supported by GTAs


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Geographic Data Science. This course is available on the MSc in Environment and Development, MSc in Environmental Economics and Climate Change, MSc in Environmental Policy and Regulation, MSc in Human Geography and Urban Studies (Research), MSc in Local Economic Development, MSc in Regional And Urban Planning Studies, MSc in Urban Policy (LSE and Sciences Po) and MSc in Urbanisation and Development. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Subject to approval by course organiser.

The number of students that can be accommodated is limited. If the course is over-subscribed, places will be allocated at the Department’s discretion and a waiting list may be created. For further details, please contact your relevant Programme Coordinator.

Course content

Geographical Information Systems (GIS) offer the social scientist an array of tools for generating, manipulating and visualising spatial data. This course covers practical GIS techniques for the social scientist and leads on to show how these tools can be combined with more advanced analysis to augment and enhance social science research. The course covers the techniques and methods of GIS, with a focus on practical skills and will make use of desktop software. The course will introduce the use of GIS tools in R and in ArcGIS. The course will also introduce data extraction from online geographical services such as google maps. Examples of literature with applications in economic geography, environment, planning and other spatial social science will be provided for self-study.

Topics covered can include:

  • Introduction to GIS and GIS data
  • Digitising, geographic coordinate systems, georeferencing and editing
  • Data query and transformation
  • Remote sensed data and processing
  • Geostatistical tools
  • Network Analysis
  • Working with online mapping resources


20 hours of computer workshops in the MT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce a number of practical exercises in the MT.

Formative work will be ongoing, with students submitting the answers to some of their weekly class exercises. Feedback will be provided on at least two of these exercises.

Indicative reading

  • Law, M. and A. Collings (2016) Getting to Know ArcGIS Pro, ESRI press OR
  • Law, M. and A. Collins, Getting to Know ArcGIS Desktop Paperback, ESRI press
  • Toms, S. and D. O'Beirne (2017) ArcPy and ArcGIS - Second Edition: Automating ArcGIS for Desktop and ArcGIS Online with Python, Packt Publishing
  • Brunsdon, C. and L. Comber, An Introduction to R for Spatial Analysis and Mapping, Sage Publications


Assignment (100%) in the MT.

Summative assessment will comprise a practical GIS analysis task. The task might involve, for example, developing measures of the constraints to growth city, due to availability of developable space, and ruggedness of neighbouring terrain.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Geography & Environment

Total students 2020/21: Unavailable

Average class size 2020/21: Unavailable

Controlled access 2020/21: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills