Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
An Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
Academic Year
Semester 1
Mutually Exclusive
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 11 x 3 Hour Lectures


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Practical exercise 1  25%
Semester Assessment Practical exercise 2  25%
Semester Assessment Practical exercise 3  50%
Supplementary Assessment Students must take elements of assessment equivalent to those that led to failure of the module.  100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Describe and explain the fundamental principles and components of a GIS.

2. Incorporate data of a range of types into GIS.

3. Use GIS to present a variety of data in appropriate formats.

4. Undertake analysis of data using a variety of tools within ArcGIS.

Brief description

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are a rapidly developing and widely utilised set of technological tools applied across the bio and environmental sciences. GIS provides the means for integrating data from sources such as maps, aerial photographs, satellite imagery, spreadsheets, and fieldwork measurements whilst retaining the appropriate spatial relationships. Increasingly equipment used in making field based measurements will incorporate GPS (Global Positioning System) data with other information directly into a format suitable for incorporation into GIS and devices such as 'smart' phones and tablets provide a low-cost widely available means of recording spatial information. GIS provides important tools for the better recording and analysis of spatial data but also methods for displaying spatial information in ways which aid understanding both by the scientist and for communicating information effectively to a wider audience.
This module will provide students with experience of the practical use of GIS software, hardware and data. The use of GIS as an analytical tool and as a means of communicating information will be introduced in the context of both scientific research and vocational applications.


In completing this module the student should have:
  • Gained an understanding of the fundamental principles of Geographical Information Systems (GIS);
  • Applied GIS as an analytical tool using real world examples;
  • Used GIS to effectively communicate information;
  • Experience of both freely available (Google Earth) and commercial (ArcGIS) software.
  • An appreciation of the range of GIS tools and data available and the opportunities this affords for increasing our understanding of natural systems.


Each week students will be provided with materials (interactive exercises, video etc.) on Blackboard which will take a typical student about one hour to complete. This will be followed by a 3 hour workshop in which students will undertake practical activities with staff in attendance to provide support, some activities will involve collection of field data.
Weeks 1- 2: Principles of GIS. Coordinate systems, projections and geo-referencing.
Weeks 3-5: Obtaining data and incorporating data into a GIS, types of secondary data, collection of field data, use of GPS.
Weeks 6-8: Organising and presenting spatial data.
Weeks 9-11: Analysis of spatial data and practical applications of GIS.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Analysis of numerical data forms a core component of the module and use of GIS also requires a range of mathematical skills.
Communication Students will be required to communicate spatial information effectively for a prescribed audience.
Improving own Learning and Performance Some components of the module will be undertaken in an unsupervised manner requiring the student to apply good time management.
Information Technology The whole module involves development and assessment of IT skills.
Personal Development and Career planning Real-world examples of the use of this technology will be embedded within the module.
Problem solving By its nature the successful use of GIS requires the development of problem solving skills.
Research skills Students will be expected to gather data from a range of primary and secondary sources.
Subject Specific Skills Dependent upon the data chosen and types of analyses conducted it is likely that there will be opportunities for students to acquire additional skills relevant to their particular study schemes.
Team work Data may be collected in groups.


This module is at CQFW Level 5