GEOG 501 – Introduction to Geographic Information Systems

Fall 2006, 4 Credits
Lecture: M&W 5:00-6:15  (Wood 02722)  

Lab:  R 2:00-3:50; M 6:30-8:20; T 12:00-1:50 (Wood 02119)


Instructor: Kathleen M. Baker, Ph.D.                           T.A.: Beth Whately      


Office hours: M 2:00-4:00; T 12:00 - 2:00 or by appt.  Office hrs: W 3:00-5:00

Office: 3238 Wood Hall      Phone: 387-3345                      in Wood 2119                         


Course Overview and Objectives

An introduction to the theory and application of computerized geographic information systems (GIS).  Students in the course will examine general GIS principles and gain practical experience in the use of spatial information.  The course will cover the fundamental aspects of measurement, representation and analysis of both vector and raster data.  GEOG 501 is definitely not a technology training course, but seeks to build critical thinking about the complicated choices involved in the application of geographic information systems to a variety of disciplines.

By the end of the semester, students should:

w        Be able to understand the basic principles of geographic information, geographic data sources, and cartographic methods.

w        Be able to understand and apply basic vector techniques such as queries, joins, overlay, and the creation of thematic maps.

w        Be able to understand and apply basic raster techniques including reclassification, buffering, overlay, and introductory terrain analysis methods. 

w        Be able to demonstrate proficiency in these techniques and ability to produce a professional quality map using a GIS software package.


Text and Materials

Required Text:

This text is focused on integrating the lecture and laboratory components of the course.  It will be essential for you to read this text, paying particular attention to the chapter review questions.

Required Materials:





Lab Exercises & Quizzes:                     30%

Case Studies/Lecture Assigns:   20%

Midterm Exam:                         20%

Final Exam:                                           15%

Semester Project:                                 20%

It is essential that exams, assignments and laboratories be completed in a timely manner throughout the semester. ALL Late assignments will be graded down significantly. 

No make-up work will be accepted two weeks after the due date.

Grades will assigned using the following scale:

A         92.5 – 100                   C         72.5 – 78        

BA       88 – 92.5                     DC       68 – 72.5                    

B          82.5 – 88                     D         60 – 68

CB       78 – 82.5                     E          <60

Assignments and exams will be graded and returned within 2 weeks of their due date (typically within 1 week). Students MUST COMPLETE both exams and the semester project to receive a passing grade.


Lab Exercises:

Practical lab exercises provide a way to gain familiarity working with a GIS software and check understanding of concepts covered in lecture.  Exercises will be worth ten to twenty points, graded largely on promptness and completeness.  Late assignments will, therefore, be marked down significantly after their due date. Labs are conducted separately from lecture, but grades are combined at the end of the semester.  Labs exercises are typically due at the beginning of the lab session following their assignment.  If extenuating circumstances occur, it is your responsibility to contact the lab assistant if you need assistance completing the missed lab.



Two Case Study assignments will involve critical reading of professional peer-reviewed publications.  Grading of Case Study assignments will be based on both the written and oral component of their presentation. Other lecture assignments, including discussions, group work and quizzes will occur throughout the semester. There will be no make-ups allowed for in-class assignments. Presentations must be made during their scheduled time. If you are absent from class, it is your responsibility to obtain the information you missed. Through the semester project, students will apply skills learned in the lab and lecture concepts to an area of personal interest. Additional information regarding all assignments will be provided as the semester progresses.



Both the midterm and final exam will include both written (60%) and lab-based  (40%) portions. Only in the case of extenuating circumstances (with appropriate documentation) will students be given a makeup exam.  Laptops may not be used during exams or quizzes. 



You are welcome to email, call or drop in during office hours if you have questions or concerns about an assignment or lecture topic.  Emails and phone messages will typically be answered within 24 hours (weekdays). 


~ Cell phones and pagers should be turned off during class. 
~ A quick note on cheating ~don’t do it! 
    Directly copying answers from others, or plagiarism of any type is not acceptable. 
You are responsible for making yourself aware of and understanding the policies and procedures in the Undergraduate (pp. 274-276) [Graduate (pp. 25-27)] Catalog that pertain to Academic Honesty. These policies include cheating, fabrication, falsification and forgery, multiple submission, plagiarism, complicity and computer misuse. If there is reason to believe you have been involved in academic dishonesty, you will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct. You will be given the opportunity to review the charge(s). If you believe you are not responsible, you will have the opportunity for a hearing. You should consult with me if you are uncertain about an issue of academic honesty prior to the submission of an assignment
or test.
~ Disabilities: 
Any student with a documented disability (e.g. physical, learning, psychiatric, vision, hearing, etc) who needs to arrange reasonable accommodations must contact Ms. Beth Denhartigh at 387-2116 or email at the beginning of the semester.  A disability determination must be made by that office before any accommodations are provided by the instructor. 
~ Library Assistance:

For assistance in locating articles, books and additional reference materials relevant to this class contact Michael McDonnell, Library Liaison to the Geography Department.

Phone: (38)7-5208,, Room 2030, Second

Floor, Waldo Library.
~ NOTE TO ALL GEOGRAPHY MAJORS: Please be reminded that you should be saving all project-oriented work for employment portfolio.
Please refer to general academic rules for the University, available in the Code of Student Conduct