GEOG 5003: Elements of GIS

Schedule (subject to change).  Any changes of assignment deadlines and readings will be announced in class and posted here.


This page contains the class schedule by week: January 16 (MLK Holiday) | January 23 | January 30 | February 6 | February 13 | February 20 | February 27 (AAG) | March 5 | March 12 | March 19 | March 26 (Spring Break) | April 2 | April 9 | April 16 | April 23 | April 30 |

Related pages: General Information | Lecture and Discussion Notes | Assignments | GEOG 5003 Homepage | CU Geography Homepage |

Week of:

January 16: Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday: No Class or Lab



January 23: GIS as an Integrating Technology: An Introduction to Geographic Information Science (GIScience)

Topics: Introduction to course. GIS as an integrating research technology including basic GIS concepts and definitions.  Consider GIS in comparison to other application software used in geography and the social and natural sciences. Introduction to first project.  Distribute software. Overview of laboratory resources, access, and use.
Readings and Work:

January 30:  Using GIS to Explore and Visualize Data: Queries, Searches, & Basic Thematic Mapping

Topics: Introduction to thematic cartography applied to first maps. Overview of cartography as a form of visual communication. Definition of audience and theme. Overview of general principles, composition of map elements, and visual hierarchy. 
Readings and Work:

February 6: Cartographic Communication, Visual Variables, Map Design &Data Visualization

Topics: Semiotics of cartography. Visual variables. Experiments with point symbols and color. Problems of realizing goals with automated systems.
Readings and Work:
  • Distributed by email:  Tufte, Edward.  2001. Graphical Excellence.  Chapter 1 in The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, pp. 13-51.  Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press

February 13: Principles & Pitfalls of Statistical Mapping

Topics: Overview of issues relating to demographic mapping: statistical generalization, classification, and symbolization. Overview of problems of data classification and of strengths and weaknesses of various methods. Perform experiments with area patterns and further tests with layout and color.
Readings and Work:

February 20: Data Classification & Ranging; Database Concepts & Models

Topics: Analyze how GIS databases model real-world phenomena and processes. Compare the raster and vector models of organization geospatial information and various methods for structuring attribute data.
Readings and Work:

February 27: AAG Meeting, NYC

Topics: Guest lecture by Professor Stefan Leyk

  • First take home exam due by Friday at 5 pm.
  • Finish Tectonic Hotspots Project by Friday at 5 pm.

March 5: Web GIS, Virtual Globes, Map Mashups, NeoGeography

Topics: Survey current trends in Web GIS, neogeography, and map mashups. Consider the range of GIS functionality now in the web and some of the experiments underway.

March 12: Coordinate Systems and Datums

Topics: Raise issue of different systems used for establishing location. Address issue of how and why coordinate systems differ. Survey major issues and terms. Introduce principle land survey and coordinate systems employed most commonly in Colorado, US, and other parts of the world.
Readings and Work:

March 19: Map Projections

Topics: Overview basic issue of map projections and compromises involved in transferring 3-dimensional positions to 2-dimensional surfaces. Introduce basic terminology. Consider widely used methods, why and when they are applied, and the compromises involved in employing each one.
Readings and Work:

March 26: Spring Break



April 2:  GPS; Data Sources; and Geocoding

Topics: Consider map and data sources and decide how these will be used. Address difficulties of gathering information from varied sources and of data quality.
Readings and Work:

April 9: Accuracy and Precision in Spatial Datasets; Managing and Modeling Error; Project Design, Planning and Lifecycle

Topics: Consider how accuracy and precision effect spatial datasets. Examine major sources and how they can propogate and cascade in cartographic databases. Consider methods for dealing with error and imprecision in spatial datasets. Discuss standards for creating GIS databases and methods of testing for and estimating error. Introduce sensitivity analysis. Focus on steps involved in designing and developing a GIS project from start to finish.  Stress the importance of setting clear objectives and testing the system periodically to make sure it meets goals. 
Readings and Work:
  • Begin work on final project.
  • Ken Foote and Don Huebner, Error, Accuracy, and Precision in Spatial Datasets, http://www.colorado.edu/geography/gcraft/notes/error/error_f.html
  • Distributed by email:  Burrough, Peter A. and Rachael A. McDonnell. 1998. Errors and Quality Control. Chap. 9 in Principles of Geographical Information Systems. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Distributed by email:  Fisher, P.F. 1999.  Models of Uncertainty in Spatial Data.  In Geographic Information Systems, 2nd ed. Vol. 1, Principles and Technical Issues, eds. Paul A. Longley, Michael F. Goodchild, David J. Maguire and David Rhind, 191-205.  New York: John Wiley and Sons.
  • Ken Foote and Don Huebner, Managing Error, http://www.colorado.edu/geography/gcraft/notes/manerror/manerror_f.html .
  • (Optional) Heuvelink, G.B.M. 1999.  Propagation of Error in Spatial Modelling with GIS.  In Geographic Information Systems, 2nd ed. Vol. 1, Principles and Technical Issues, eds. Paul A. Longley, Michael F. Goodchild, David J. Maguire and David Rhind, 207-217.  New York: John Wiley and Sons.
  • Ken Foote and Shannon Crum, Project Planning and Lifecyle, http://www.colorado.edu/geography/gcraft/notes/lifecycle/lifecycl_f.html

April 16: Geospatial Modeling and Geostatistics

Topics: Focus on the some modeling and geostatistical techniques employed in GIScience and related to the interests of the class.   
Readings and Work:
  • Mitchell, Andy.  2005.  The ESRI Guide to GIS Analysis. Volume 2: Spatial Measurements and Statistics.  Redlands, CA: ESRI Press.
  • Notes on Geostatistics

April 23: Guest lectures


  • Second take-home exam due Friday (non-cumulative).
  • Guest lecture by Elisabeth Root on spatial statistics in medical and health geography
  • Guest lecture by Li Xu on cell phone logging in mobility studies

April 30: Legal, Ethical, Political and Social Issues; and Frontiers in GIScience

Topics: Examine situations in which maps, GIS and information technology intersect the law. Consider some of the ethical problems that arise from the use and misuse of information technology, including the issue of privacy. Consider how maps can be used to mislead readers either unintentionally or intentionally. Examine how maps are sometimes used for propaganda and how they express the values and motives of the map makers themselves.   Presentations of last project.  Course debriefing and evaluation.
Readings and Work:

Final projects due by Friday, May 4rd, 5:00 pm

Last revised 2012.4.12. KEF.