Fall 2019 - GEOG 255 D100

Geographical Information Science I (3)

Class Number: 4317

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 12:30 PM – 2:20 PM
    AQ 3149, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 8, 2019
    12:00 PM – 3:00 PM
    SSCC 9002, Burnaby

  • Instructor:

    Nicholas Hedley
    1 778 782-4515
    Office: RCB 7229
  • Prerequisites:

    GEOG 100 or 111 or permission of instructor.



A basic overview of Geographical Information Systems and Science; GIS software, hardware, data structures and models; spatial data, operations and algorithms; practical applications and limitations. Students with credit for GEOG 354 may not take this course for further credit. Quantitative.


Course Details

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Geographic Information Science (GIScience) cover a wide range of topics surrounding the measurement, characterization, data representation, visualization and analysis of spatial phenomena.

GIS software and hardware are pivotal tools used by scientists, natural resource managers, urban planners, government agencies, environmental monitoring groups, crime analysts, forestry and agriculture, and many fields where spatial data are key. Given the proliferation of spatial data and technology throughout business, research and society, it is not surprising that demand for people skilled with GIS has increased. More jobs are created in GIS than any other field of Geography, and the market continues to grow.

The power of GIS hardware and software is maximized by people who understand geographical information science. This includes: how to conceptualize spatial phenomena; how to observe and record phenomena with multiple data capture methods; understanding how to integrate different forms of spatial data; the analyses you can perform; the analytical visualizations you can produce; the spatial narratives you can communicate; and the value you can deliver to research, business and society. In short, the there is an increasing need for GIS users who are more than just capable at using software and hardware – but who have high quality GIScience ‘brainware’.

This course is designed for, and welcomes students with a wide variety of interests, and provides a solid foundation for excellence in GIScience and GIS. We will cover key concepts and considerations that underpin the use of GIS and spatial data use, spatial analysis and map production, with a set of practical GIS training labs, applied to different topics.

Lectures and Labs
This course provides you with a series of lectures and labs. Once a week, we will meet for 2 hours in a lecture venue, where GIScience concepts, methods will be introduced, explained, discussed and sometimes critiqued. You will also be introduced to GIS project management skills. Keep in mind that often there will be material/topics/issues or examples covered in lecture that will not be available elsewhere, and which may be covered in examinations.
Once a week you will also meet in a lab section, where you will work through a sequence of exercises that introduce you to ArcGIS - one of the most common GIS software packages used in industry and research. There will also be optional activities using QGIS – a pop[ular open-source GIS platform. In each lab you will: i) work through activities relating to topics identified in lecture and lab; ii) apply principles you have learned to data sets; and iii) answer a brief set of questions related to the GIS operations you have just completed. We will also introduce you to GPS use for field data collection in GIS work, and the use of numerous digital data formats. There will be a lab introduction in Week 1. Tutorials begin Week 2.

Final Project A key component of this course will be the execution and delivery of a portfolio-quality GIS project. You will be given a final project guidelines document approximately half way through the course. The final project will require you to integrate and build on the skills and techniques introduced in lab activities. It is imperative that you plan ahead, be proactive in leaving yourself enough time to complete a GIS project of a high standard.

Recommended familiarity
Familiarity/competence with: the Windows desktop environment; using files, folders and file/folder paths in Windows; Microsoft Excel spreadsheet software (preferable).

All content Copyright © Nick Hedley, 2004-2019. All Rights Reserved 


This course will introduce you to what GIS and GIScience are. We will discuss key methods, key concepts and critical considerations/implications underpinning their use. Students will be introduced to using GIS software through practical training. By the end of the course you will have developed a solid understanding of GIS and GIScience concepts, have a working knowledge/experience of ArcGIS software, and be able to design and perform a range geographic analyses on vector data. You will have completed a set of technical labs, 2 exams and an independent GIS project.


  • Lab exercises 30%
  • Exam 1 20%
  • Exam 2 30%
  • Final Project 20%



A+ 97 or higher
A 91-96  
A- 85-90  
B+ 80-84  
B 75-79  
B- 70-74  
C+ 65-69  
C 60-64  
C- 55-59  
D 50-54  
F 0-49  



Required Text: An Introduction to Geographical Information Systems (4th edition).
I. Heywood, S. Cornelius and S. Carver. 320pp. Prentice Hall. ISBN: 0130611980.


Optional Text: Geographic Information Systems and Science (3rd edition). Paul A. Longley, Mike Goodchild, David J. Maguire, David W. Rhind. 560pp. Wiley. ISBN 978-0-470-72144-5

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html