GEOG 2129 - Introductory Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

North Terrace Campus - Semester 2 - 2019

This course provides an introduction to the theory and practice of geographic information systems (GIS). What is geographic data? What is GIS? How is GIS applied in the study of real world issues? This course will introduce some of the basic concepts of GIS, input of data, storage and management of data and modelling output from GIS. Concepts such as how to model the complex real world in a computer and the difference between data and geographic data are covered. Lectures cover the basics of GIS, vector and raster data models, geographic data analysis, visualisation techniques and geographic overlay. Importantly, the focus of this course is in the application of GIS to solving real world problems using local examples. The practical sessions build basic skills in GIS such as adding, visualising, analysing and modelling data and creating effective map layouts.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code GEOG 2129
    Course Introductory Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
    Coordinating Unit Geography, Environment and Population
    Term Semester 2
    Level Undergraduate
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 3 hours per week
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange Y
    Prerequisites At least 12 units of Level I undergraduate study
    Incompatible GEST 2029, GEST 2022 or GEST 3022
    Course Description This course provides an introduction to the theory and practice of geographic information systems (GIS). What is geographic data? What is GIS? How is GIS applied in the study of real world issues? This course will introduce some of the basic concepts of GIS, input of data, storage and management of data and modelling output from GIS. Concepts such as how to model the complex real world in a computer and the difference between data and geographic data are covered. Lectures cover the basics of GIS, vector and raster data models, geographic data analysis, visualisation techniques and geographic overlay. Importantly, the focus of this course is in the application of GIS to solving real world problems using local examples. The practical sessions build basic skills in GIS such as adding, visualising, analysing and modelling data and creating effective map layouts.
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Dr Dorothy Turner

    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

    The course is delivered via a one hour lecture and two hour workshop each week for 12 weeks
  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    At the successful completion of this course, students will be able to:
    1 Understand the nature, components and applications of GIS
    2 Develop skills in sourcing, manipulating and interpreting spatial data
    3 Critically discuss the applications of GIS in a variety of fields
    4 Develop an awareness of the underlying theory of spatial information science
    5 Perform spatial analysis tasks and generate outputs using GIS software
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)
    Deep discipline knowledge
    • informed and infused by cutting edge research, scaffolded throughout their program of studies
    • acquired from personal interaction with research active educators, from year 1
    • accredited or validated against national or international standards (for relevant programs)
    1, 2
    Critical thinking and problem solving
    • steeped in research methods and rigor
    • based on empirical evidence and the scientific approach to knowledge development
    • demonstrated through appropriate and relevant assessment
    1, 2, 3, 4, 5
    Teamwork and communication skills
    • developed from, with, and via the SGDE
    • honed through assessment and practice throughout the program of studies
    • encouraged and valued in all aspects of learning
    1, 2, 3, 4, 5
    Career and leadership readiness
    • technology savvy
    • professional and, where relevant, fully accredited
    • forward thinking and well informed
    • tested and validated by work based experiences
    3, 4, 5
    Intercultural and ethical competency
    • adept at operating in other cultures
    • comfortable with different nationalities and social contexts
    • able to determine and contribute to desirable social outcomes
    • demonstrated by study abroad or with an understanding of indigenous knowledges
    Self-awareness and emotional intelligence
    • a capacity for self-reflection and a willingness to engage in self-appraisal
    • open to objective and constructive feedback from supervisors and peers
    • able to negotiate difficult social situations, defuse conflict and engage positively in purposeful debate
    3, 4
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    Book Title: An Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (4th Edition)
    Author: Ian Heywood, Sarah Cornelius, Steve Carver
    Year: 2011
    Publisher: Prentice-Hall
    ISBN-13: 978 0 273 72259 5

    online copies of this book are available from the Adelaide University Library as single use eBooks (i.e. only one person at a time can access each one).
    The Barr Smith Library also holds 7 print copies, with two of these in the High Use Collection available for short term loan. 

    It is highly recommended that you purchase your own copy of this book.
    Make sure you order the book by Heywood - there are other books with the same title by other authors!. 
    It is available from Dymocks:
    • eBook for $45.49
    • hardcopy for $108.99
    Readings are set for all lectures and some workshops, and are expected to be completed BEFORE the lecture or workshop
    Recommended Resources
    Optional/Alternative Textbook

    Book Title: Geographical Information Systems (2nd Edition). 
    Author: Julie Delaney and Kimberley Van Niel
    Year: 2007
    Publisher: Oxford University Press ISBN-13: 978-0-195-55607-0 

    There are 3 copies of this book at the Barr Smith Library (1 reserve and 2 for general borrowing) and 1 copy at Waite Campus Library. 
    This book is a useful secondary resource since it is written by Australian authors and provides Australian examples of GIS applications.

    Other Recommended Resources

    Supplementary reading in additional GIS texts is highly recommended to improve understanding of the concepts and procedures behind the theory and practical to which students are exposed each week. I particularly recommend:

    Book Title: Geographic Information Science & Systems (4th Edition)
    Author: Paul A. Longley, Michael F. Goodchild, David J. Maguire, David W. Rhind.
    Year: 2015 
    Publisher: Wiley
    ISBN: 978-1-119-03130-7

    There are currently three copies in the Barr Smith Library.

    Any similar basic GIS text would also be appropriate

    The Barr Smith Library maintains a Resource Guide for GIS/Spatial Information Systems at:
    This list includes a number of general and specialist texts from which students can choose to support and extend the weekly readings and prepare for the examination.

    Online Learning


    All lectures will be recorded and available through MyUni.
    All lecture slides, workshop instructions and workshop data will also be available through MyUni.

    Online Textbooks

    There are a variety of online texts available, some of which are extremely comprehensive:


    There are many websites with information about GIS, the industry, and using GIS, including:
    • - a good overview of GIS and geographic thinking. Includes glossary and career links;
    • - GIS Lounge is an information portal, providing links to numerous news items, tips, and resources including introductory texts on all things GIS. This site is run by Caitlin Dempsey who has authored numerous articles about GIS and the spatial industry; and
    • – peak body for the surveying and spatial sciences in Australia. This site provides information about education/careers, and links to local events in South Australia and other States/Territories such as Spatial Information Day ( The Free Student Program offers membership and various benefits to students with an interest in GIS, including access to discounted events held in Adelaide.


    The GIS commercial software that will be used in this course is ESRI ArcGIS Desktop 10.5.1. 

    This software is available in limited teaching labs across the University from 8am – 6pm, Monday to Friday. 

    You should find that ArcGIS is installed in the following locations:
    • Science Students: Any of the science faculty computer suites
    • Humanities Students: Napier 106, Napier 107 and Napier 202.

    Although ArcGIS is not available for standalone installation on your personal computers, it can be accessed anytime through the University’s ADAPT platform (Any Device, Any Place and Time). Please review the setup guides and instructions for using ADAPT. Please contact Technology Services or the course coordinator if you are having problems accessing this.

    Please take into account any access restrictions when planning your assignment work.


    It is strongly recommended that you do all coursework on your U drive as this can be accessed from any university computer, or from your home computer through ADAPT, and is regularly backed up.
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    Contact hours for this course include one lecture and one two-hour workshop per week. Small group discovery experiences are built into the program with opportunities during both lecture and workshop times for students to work together towards answering a question or solving a problem.

    Lectures will be held each Monday at 1.10 pm in Lower Napier LG28 Lecture Theatre.   Lectures cover the fundamental concepts underpinning spatial analysis and mapping. Readings are assigned to extend your knowledge of the topics covered throughout the course and set readings are expected to be completed before each lecture and workshop.

    There are three workshop sessions scheduled:
    • Monday:       2:10 pm - 4:00 pm
    • Tuesday:      9:10 am - 11:00 am
    • Wednesday: 2:10 pm - 4:00 pm
     Students must attend the workshop time in which they have enrolled

    All workshops will be held in the Napier 107 Computer Suite which is located on the first floor of the Napier Building.  Workshops will give students practical experience using ESRI ArcGIS for Desktop 10.3.1 to input, manipulate and output spatial and attribute data.  Most workshops will include an assessment task, which must be submitted by 10am on the Monday of the following week.  Workshops are conducted in a way that enables students to work at their own pace by following a detailed set of instructions to complete the weekly tasks with the instructor available for support.  The instructor will generally give an introduction to the topic and offer demonstrations to the class as required.

    Attendance at both lectures and workshops is expected and will be necessary to pass this course. 


    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    • Structured learning/contact time (lectures and workshops): 3 hours per week
    • Reading and preparation: 3 hours per week
    • Preparation of assignments: 4 hours per week   
    • Exam preparation: 2 hours per week

    Learning Activities Summary
    Please complete the assigned readings before coming to the lecture.

    Week 1: 
    Course Overview/Introduction to GIS                                                                        

    What is GIS? Have you used GIS before?  This lecture introduces and defines GIS, describes its role as an integrating technology and provides an overview of the functionality. Lecture includes an overview of the course lectures and workshops, including assessment components.
    Reading: Heywood et al., 2011. p3-28      

    Week 2: 

    Spatial Data, Projections and Coordinate Systems                                                 

    Defines spatial data and explores the ways in which it can be collected or sourced, particularly in a local context.  Discusses coordinate systems and the representation of a round earth on a flat surface.
    Overview of how spatial data is stored and managed within the computer using Database Management Systems.
    Reading: Heywood et al., 2011. p32-53 & p110-120

    Week 3:

    Cartography, Communication and Spatial Data Visualisation                              
    Maps are a form of communication.  This lecture explores the ways in which the design of a map can contribute towards effective communication.  Includes an overview of map layout and scale, and the appropriate use of symbols and colour.
    1) Heywood et al., 2011. p258-269    
    2) Gruver & Dutton (2014). Cartography and Visualization, Lesson 1, Part 1-11. Department of Geography, PennState University

    Week 4:

    Spatial Data Models                                                                                                  

    When we work in a GIS, we are dealing with a representation of reality.  This lecture provides an overview of two of the most common GIS data models used to represent reality – raster and vector.
    Reading:  Heywood et al., 2011. p74-88 (ignore Box 3.3)

    Week 5: 

    Concepts of Vector GIS                                                                                             

    A look at the basic components of the vector GIS model – how are points, lines and polygons actually encoded in the database
    and how does the GIS recognise spatial relationships between them.  Introduces the notion of topology and topological relationships.
    Reading:  No readings this week   

    Week 6: 
    Spatial Analysis with Vector GIS                                                                               

    In this lecture, some of the most common map overlay and geoprocessing functions and introduced – buffering, clip, union and
    intersect.  We will also cover the theory behind these operations with reference to the structure and topology of vector data models.
    Reading:  Heywood et al., 2011. p175-193  

    Week 7:
    To be advised
    The contects of this lecture will be changed. It is my intention to provide a lecture on the applications of GIS in:
    • Criminology
    • Environmental Management
    Reading: To be advised.    

    Week 8: 
    Allied Technologies – GPS                                                                                      

    How do Global Positioning Systems work?  An overview of the history and current context of our GPS service.  Describes the system components, how they work together to provide a position in space and time, and the potential sources of error. Smart phone mapping and mobile GPS will also be discussed.
    1)  Heywood et al., 2011. p57-67.      
    2)  Smart Phone Mapping Instructions – to be provided.

    Week 9: 
    No Lecture or Workshop – Public Holiday

    Week 10:
    Precision, Accuracy & Error in GIS/Report Writing                                                  

    Like any discipline that works with data, you need to develop an understanding of data quality issues. This lecture looks at the
    concepts of precision, accuracy and error as they apply to GIS. Precision is defined. We’ll also look at how precision and accuracy differ, along with potential sources of error. This lecture will also discuss report writing styles.
    Reading: Heywood et al., 2011. p310-329

    Week 11: 
    Social Applications of GIS                                                                                        

    Guest lecture from GIS specialist Jarrod Lange. Although GIS technology was initially applied to environmental applications, there is now a significant amount of work performed in social applications such as population studies, accessability and health (to name a few).  This lecture will discuss the use of GIS for social research and analysis and show examples of GIS applications in various fields.
    Readings: To be advised.

    Week 12: 
    Course Summary and Exam Preparation                                                         

    This lecture will include a review of the course, including information about the exam and ‘where to next’ if you would like to continue studying GIS. 

    Specific Course Requirements
    This course assumes a basic level of computer literacy and familiarity with Microsoft Windows, Word and Excel.

    Small Group Discovery Experience
    Workshops are designed to create small group discovery
    Students will be working together in the computer lab and are encouraged to discuss analysis ideas and processes for every practical component of the course. This implies group work and discussions for processes.

    The practicals in week 9 and 10 requires students to collect data in the Campus and then load it and create a web map. Data collection will be done in groups of 3 or 4. ATTENDANCE IS COMPULSORY FOR WEEK 9.
  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary
    Workshop Assessments: 50% Due by 2pm on Tuesday each week, unless otherwise advised
    Exam (2 hours):               50% Check exam time and venue on Access Adelaide later in the semester

    (There may be the possibility of doing a Major Practical Assignment instead of the exam if you are intending on using GIS in the future. This would be due on the Monday of swot week).
    Assessment Related Requirements
    Students will need access to GIS labs/computer rooms and relevant software. This will be provided by the University
    Assessment Detail
    Workshop Assessment Tasks - 50%
    Most weekly workshops will include an assessment task which allows students to demonstrate both the successful completion of the workshop tasks, and their understanding and application of the skills and techniques which they are learning each week. Full details of the Workshop Assessments will be provided at the start of each workshop.

    Workshop Assessments can be completed within the 2-hour workshop session, but are otherwise due at the beginning of the next lecture if you require more time - i.e. by Tuesday before the lecture (2pm). All Workshop Assessment tasks must be submitted in order to pass this course.

    It is a requirement of the course that students submit all assessment components by the due date. Extensions will be granted for medical or compassionate grounds only and requests should be accompanied by documentation (medical certificate or similar).

    Workshop Assessments must be submitted on time or will receive a mark of 0. They must be lodged electronically using MyUni. 

    Formal Examination - 50%

    There will be a 2 hour examination held during the formal exam period. The exam will consist of two sections: (1) an essay section where students will write one compulsory essay and a second essay on one topic from a given selection of five topics; and (2) a series of short answer questions and multiple choice type questions which cover all aspects of the course, without any choice.

    The exam structure and general content areas will be discussed in detail during the last lecture, and examples of questions will be made available on MyUni. Due to the large numbers expected to enrol in the course this year (approximately 350 students), it is hoped that the exam can be computer based to be marked automatically, apart from the essay question.

    Students must check Access Adelaide for the time, date and venue of the examination. It is anticipated that the exam will be conducted in various computer labs around the university, which may include those at the Waite campus. 

    (There MAY be the potential for students who are planning to continue with GIS in the future to conduct a major practical assignment instead of the formal exam.

    Practical Assignment - 50%

    The practical assignment requires students to apply the knowledge and techniques they have learnt to conduct a GIS analysis on a given theme, via a set of related questions, using data they have not previously used. This assignment tests students’ ability to work independently in using basic GIS skills and techniques, and through presentation of the results of the analysis in a formal report (approximately 2000 words and including 4 or 5 high quality maps), to demonstrate an understanding of spatial relationships and data issues.  

    Full details would be provided separately, with all documents and data made available on MyUni). 

    No information currently available.

    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy ( course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

  • Student Support
  • Policies & Guidelines
  • Fraud Awareness

    Students are reminded that in order to maintain the academic integrity of all programs and courses, the university has a zero-tolerance approach to students offering money or significant value goods or services to any staff member who is involved in their teaching or assessment. Students offering lecturers or tutors or professional staff anything more than a small token of appreciation is totally unacceptable, in any circumstances. Staff members are obliged to report all such incidents to their supervisor/manager, who will refer them for action under the university's student’s disciplinary procedures.

The University of Adelaide is committed to regular reviews of the courses and programs it offers to students. The University of Adelaide therefore reserves the right to discontinue or vary programs and courses without notice. Please read the important information contained in the disclaimer.