BA Geography with International Study

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Introduction to GIS

Course unit fact file
Unit code GEOG10282
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


A Geographic Information System (GIS) is a system that creates, manages, analyses, and maps all types of data (ESRI, 2023). Principles in GIS include coordinate reference systems, map projections, and the main two models that characterize real-world entities: vector and raster models. In addition, a representing of 3D data is presented using Extended Reality and Immersive Technologies. GIS can link where thinks are (location data) and what thinks are like there (descriptive information). This knowledge help students to explore and understand patterns, relationships, and the geographical context. A fieldwork session is included to map locations in Manchester city. The unit also provides examples of practical applications on both Human and Physical geography and help students to communicate, perform analysis, share information, and solve complex problems around the world. The lectures are supported by computer-based practicals with exercises that enable students to acquire first hand practical knowledge in using GIS software and data.


The unit aims to:

  • Provide the principles in Geographical Information Systems (GIS) related to data gathering, processing, and production of outcomes.
  • Enhance student experience in GIS by using augmented and virtual realities.
  • Present the variety of current GIS software packages, includes QGIS.
  • Show the wide range of GIS applications in research and the industry.
  • Develop practical techniques and transferable skills in Geographical Information Science (GISc).


Intended sessions:

- Session 1: What is GIScience and Systems?

- Session 2: Spatial data management

- Session 3: Coordinate Systems and Map projections

- Session 4: Vector data model

- Session 5: Raster data model

- Session 6: Cartography and mapping

- Session 7: Study Week

- Session 8: Study Week

- Session 9: Spatial Analysis

- Session 10: Human Geography applications

- Session 11: Physical Geography applications

- Session 12: Review

Teaching and learning methods

The unit is delivered using a mix of teaching methods (three hours of classes per week) within a suitable computer laboratory and outside-classroom to provide a range of learning opportunities:

- Lectures (1 hour per week) provides the theory and concepts in GIS to be applied in the practicals and discussion.

- Practicals (2 hours per week) with guided activities to train students in using QGIS (version 3.28). For students not able to be on campus, a remote cluster log-in option is available using the Citrix system.

- Timetabled practical surgeries (last two weeks) provides extra support besides staff consultation hours.

- Experiential learning (1 week) using Extended Reality and Immersive Technologies (optional)

- Field survey in Manchester city (1 week) to map locations.

E-learning: Teaching is supported via Blackboard at the University of Manchester, which will provide access to course materials and wider resources on GIS.

Knowledge and understanding

Define the main principles in GIS

Describe coordinate systems in GIS

Perform basic spatial analysis: overlay

Be aware of the multiple GIS applications in Geography

Intellectual skills

Represent the physical and human world in GIS

Evaluate the use of map projections

Differentiate between both data models used in GIS

Reflect and discuss on GIS applications in research/industry

Practical skills

Geo-reference points from the field to the map

Search and retrieve data from library and internet resources

Collect, explore, and map data using QGIS

Create a basic map showing geospatial data

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Manage geospatial data

Use internet resources to search datasets

Produce maps as report outcomes applying cartographic principles.

Develop teamwork and independent work

Assessment methods

Assignment 1 (40%): Mapping Exercise. Group Report. 500 words + 1-2 maps

In groups (4-5 people) the students will select an entity of interest (i.e. landmarks, historical places, bus stops, emergency points, etc) to go to the field (Manchester City or surroundings) and locate them using GPS (or their phones with a GPS app, i.e. Google Earth), then geo-referenced and mapped them. The goal is to evaluate basic mapping skills and teamwork performance

Assignment 2 (60%): Individual Coursework of GIS application – 1000 words + 3-4 maps

Given the data models used in GIS (vector and raster), students will perform basic spatial analysis on a chosen topic (case study) from either Human or Physical geography, using QGIS Pro and at least two datasets. For example, Deprived areas vs income levels (Human geography), or Landcover vs temperature (Physical geography). The goal is to apply analytical skills in GIS

Feedback methods

Group written feedback via Blackboard assignment tool.

3 weeks after submission: Individual written feedback via Turnitin

Recommended reading

Main textbooks (available online):

• Heywood, I., Cornelius, S. & Carver, S. (2011) An Introduction to Geographical Information Systems, Fourth Edition, Harlow, England; Toronto : Prentice Hall

• Longley, P. A. Goodchild, M. F. Maguire, D. J. and Rhind, D. W. (2015) Geographic Information Science and Systems, Fourth Edition. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons

Madry, S. (2021). Introduction to QGIS: open source geographic information system. Tutorial Series QGIS 3.16 LTR

Additional readings:

• ESRI (2023) What is GIS? Online at Date last accessed 20th Feb 2023

QGIS project (2023) A Gentle Introduction to GIS. Online at Date last accessed 30th Nov 2023

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Demonstration 2
Fieldwork 2
Lectures 10
Practical classes & workshops 16
Independent study hours
Independent study 70

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Richard Figueroa Alfaro Unit coordinator

Return to course details