Geography 419: Geographic Information Systems, Spring 2005


Contact the Course Instructor:



Electronic Mail


Office Hours

Dr. Rob Hellström

301, Conant Science

(508) 531-2842

MWR 10-11 AM or by appointment

Course Prerequisites:

No prerequisites, although having experience with elements of cartography will help. You should be familiar with the Microsoft Window’s environment, including basic experience with spreadsheets such as Excel. Please contact the instructor during the first week of classes if you have questions.

Course Structure:


Call #

Day, Time




M, 1:00-2:50 P.M.

#SCI 303 Conant Science

Lab 1


W, 1:00-2:50 P.M.

#SCI 303 Conant Science

Lab 2


M, 3:00-4:50 P.M.

#SCI 303 Conant Science

Required Textbooks:

The first text contains reading material and diagrams necessary to complete this course and the second contains a comprehensive set of introductory tutorials + trial software for ArcGIS 9.0. Both are available at the Bridgewater State College bookstore:

  • Bernhardsen, Tor, 2002: Geographic Information Systems: An Introduction, Third Edition. Wiley & Sons. 428 pp.       ISBN: 0 471419680
  • Ormsby, T., Napoleon, E., Burke, R., Feaster, L., and Groess, C, 2004: Getting to know ArcGIS Desktop, second edition. ESRI Press. 588 pp.      ISBN: 158948083X

Primary software that you will use or learn how to use:

ArcGIS 9.0, ArcView 3.2 (limited), HTML for making a web page, Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint and Word

Course Objectives:

Course description

This course is designed to provide you with the basic principles, concepts and skills used in geographic information systems (GIS). You will learn how to retrieve data, create databases, link databases to digital maps, and analyze relationships between geospatial phenomena and features. Although the course uses specific software, you are encouraged to develop a software-independent foundation of GIS.

The Blackboard ( online course system at Bridgewater State College will provide much of the material and electronic methods of communicating in this course. You will need access to a computer with an Internet connection (Internet Explorer or Netscape) and the Microsoft Office sweet (PowerPoint, Word, Excel) to effectively use the GE419 Blackboard site.  Free viewers are available for download from the Blackboard site for students without Microsoft PowerPoint.

You will receive instructions for accessing the GE419 Blackboard site during the first class meeting. This site will provide weekly announcements, a venue for e-mail contact with fellow students, lecture outlines, project descriptions and helpful hints, and exam study materials. You may print out lecture outlines from this site prior to the lecture meetings.

Lecture format (Mondays)

The instructor will lecture for the first hour or so. Lectures will provide the conceptual information found on exams in this course. The instructor will devote the last portion (about 30 minutes) of each lecture period to introduce new techniques for the next lab period, answer questions about the previous week’s lab assignment, and to allow you to work on assignments.  Attendance to lecture is not mandatory, with the exception of attending the two exams and presentation periods.

Lab format (Monday or Wednesday)

It is in your best interest to attend all lab periods, as this is time for you to gain experience in GIS techniques through 12 assigned labs, and you will have access to all the resources you need.

The first half of the course (up to Spring Break) focuses on conceptual information and 6 sets of lab tutorials from the Ormsby book.  You must keep a Lab Log book with major objectives and ArcGIS procedures for each of these labs.  Your Lab Log book need not be typed, but it will be collected for assessment as your Midterm Project (see section on Grading).

The second half of the course focuses on the skills necessary to construct and present GIS data based on your own choice of a US State and population data—6 labs total. The time during the scheduled lab period is fully devoted to your work on assignments and the instructor will be available for guidance. You are encouraged to use this time to work on your projects, and you may consult with your classmates to share ideas and insight regarding the projects.  Again, you need to keep a Lab Log book of your objectives, procedures and software used.  You can summarize and compile your lab log, tables, graphs, and maps into your report and presentation for your Final Project.

You will very likely need time outside of the lab period to complete projects, some of which you can complete on a home computer or laptop if you install the free trial version of ArcGIS in Ormsby’s book (see Appendix B for help).  Be advised that the GIS lab is open (except if another class is using it) during the work-week; you have priority in using it to complete your projects.  Some techniques learned in labs will be included on the exams.


Your final grade is based on two (2) written examinations to test your knowledge of concepts covered in Lecture and two (2) independent projects to demonstrate your skills using GIS software. Examinations contain multiple choice, short answer/analysis, and essay questions; information is taken from material covered during lectures. No makeup exams, except under extreme circumstances; you must notify instructor prior to the exam date. Late projects will receive 5% deductions if submitted within one week after the due date, and thereafter will not be accepted.  Please ask the instructor if you have concerns.

·         Midterm Exam (20%): Wednesday, March 2nd , 1:00-2:30 PM.

·         Final Exam (20%): Wednesday, May 11, 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM; covers material since the Midterm

·         Independent Projects (60%): You will learn and practice GIS techniques by completing two major projects, each one composed of weekly subprojects that build upon each other. The Lecture/Project Outline lists the topics of each weekly subproject. You will receive guidelines and the grading criteria for the projects during the second week of classes.

·         Midterm Project: GIS Skills (20%): This project will introduce you to the major functions of GIS using ArcGIS 9.0. The midterm project will include a formal typed report describing the purpose, procedure and results, including images of GIS maps from weekly tutorial exercises from the “Getting To Know ArcGIS” textbook by Ormsby and others.

·         Final Project: Applying GIS (40%): In this project you will apply some of what you learned for the tutorials leading up to the midterm project and additional skills to develop a GIS solution to a geographic problem of your choice. You will learn how to create a database and make a web page. In addition to a formal typed report, the final project will require a 10-15 minute oral presentation of your results.


You are highly encouraged to attend all class meetings as scheduled in the course Outline. Role will be called periodically, as required by the school. If you cannot attend a particular class, please contact the instructor prior to that class period, so that you can obtain necessary materials.

Supplies you need to purchase:

·       One loose-leaf, 3-ring binder (2.0 inch size) to organize lecture handouts and projects

·       Notepad for keeping a Lab Log of your progress

·       You will work with projects, some that contain very large files: you must purchase a CD-RW disk or USB Flash Drive (Jumpdrive) with at least 128 Mb of storage (to save your projects) and you may use your W-drive on Bridgewater network (but it may not have enough space).  The Flash Drives are generally easier to use but a bit more expensive.

Special needs: 

Any student eligible for and needing academic adjustments or accommodations because of a disability is requested to speak with the professor within the first two weeks of scheduled classes. At any time during the semester, feel free to contact the Office of Disability Resources in the Academic Achievement Center, located in the basement of the Maxwell Library 001 (508) 531-1214.


“In compliance with Bridgewater State College policy and equal access legislation, I am available to discuss appropriate accommodations that you may require as a student with a disability. Requests for academic accommodations should be made during the add/drop period, unless there are unusual circumstances, so that appropriate arrangements can be made. Students are encouraged to register with the Disability Resources Office in the Maxwell Library for disability verification and determination of reasonable academic accommodations.”

Helpful Resources:

These text resources are not required, but may be helpful:

  • Breslin, P., N. Frunzi, E. Napoleon, and T. Ormsby, 1999: Getting to know Arcview GIS. ESRI Press, Redlands, CA.  ISBN 1-87912-46-3.
  • O’Sullivan, D., and D. Unwin, 2002: Geographic Information Analysis. Wiley and Sons, ISBN 0-471-21176-1.

This book presents clear and up-to-date coverage of the foundations of spatial analysis in a geographic information systems environment. Focusing on the universal aspects of spatial data and their analysis, this book covers the scientific assumptions and limitations of methods available in many geographic information systems.

  • Mitchell, A., 1999: The ESRI Guide to GIS Analysis, Volume 1: Geographic Patterns and Relationships. ESRI Press, ISBN 1-879102-06-4. 

This book covers every form of simple spatial analysis in a very concise and attractive format.

  • Delaney, J., 1999: Geographical Information Systems: An Introduction. Oxford, ISBN 0-19-550789-4.

This book is an excellent introductory GIS book that focuses on the principles common to all GIS software, without any links to a specific commercial product. It is very clearly written and provides the overall concept quickly and efficiently. It is also very affordable and worth buying if you are a first time user. 

  • Burrough, P., and R. McDonnell, 1998: Principles of Geographical Information Systems.  Oxford, ISBN 0-19-823366-3.   

This book introduces the theoretical as well as the technical principles needed in GIS, examining the different ways that spatial data are perceived, modeled conceptually, and represented. Good book if you are familiar with GIS.

  • P. Longley, M. Goodchild, D. Maguire, and D. Rhind, 2001: Geographic Information Systems and Science.   Wiley, ISBN 0-471-49521-2.   

This is an intermediate textbook that with a number of business applications. It is tailored to the business professional as well as to the advanced student.


GEOG 419: Geographic Information Systems, Spring 2005
Lecture and Lab Outline (tentative)

Monday Lab (1-2:50 or 3:00-4:50 P.M.) and Wednesday Lecture (1:00-2:50 P.M.)

Readings from Bernhardsen book   |   Labs from Ormsby book and handouts





Reading and Projects

Lect. 1


Jan. 19th

Course Expectations + Introduction to GIS

Bernhardsen: Chapts. 1&3

Lect. 2



Vector and Raster Data Models

Bernhardsen: Chapt. 4

Lab 1



Exploring ArcMap and ArcCatalog

Ormsby: Chapts. 3&4

Start a Lab Log

Lect. 3



Database Management

Bernhardsen: Chapts.
8.1, 8.2, 8.3, & 8.4

Lab 2


31st/Feb. 2nd

Symbolizing and Classifying Features and Rasters and Labeling

Ormsby: Chapts. 5-7

Lect. 4



Georeferencing and Spatial Analysis

Bernhardsen: Chapts. 6&14

Lab 3



Querying Data, Joining and Relating Tables

Ormsby: Chapts. 8&9

Lect. 5



Data Collection

Bernhardsen: Chapts. 9&10

Lab 4



Selecting, Preparing, Analyzing and Projecting Features

Ormsby: Chapts. 10-13

Lect. 6




Bernhardsen: Chapt. 16

Lab 5



Building Geodatabases, Creating Features, Editing Features and Attributes, and Geocoding Addresses

Ormsby: Chapts. 14-17



Feb. 28th

Midterm Exam

Material through Lecture 6

Lab 6



Templates and Presenting Maps

Hand In Project 1 by Friday 4:30

Ormsby: Chapts. 18&19

Finish Lab Log






Lect. 7



Making A WWW Page


Lab 7



Finding Data

Handout & Start Lab Log

Lect. 8



Creating a Database


Lab 8



HTML: Make a Web Page


No Lect.


Apr. 4th

Instructor at AAG Meeting


Lab 9



Use Excel to Create a Database

Instructor will be at AAG Meeting

Handout (work on labs without instructor)

Lect. 9



Database Processing with GIS


Lab 10



Introduction to ArcView and ArcGIS


No class



Patriot’s (Boston Marathon) Day


Lab 11



M&W Labs: Data Processing





Work on Final Project

Practice presenting

Lab 12



Classification and Mapping: ArcGIS

Handout & Finish Lab Log



May 2nd


Bring Questions




Presentation of Final Project

Hand In Project 2 by Friday 4:30

Study for Final Exam




Final Exam (11:00 A.M. – 1:00 P.M.)

Material Since Midterm