38/42:286 GIS I: Principles of Spatial Data and Cartographic Design

Instructors: Lecture, Dr. Dion J. Wiseman; Laboratory, Ms. Wenonah van Heyst
Offices: Brodie Room 4-07
Office Hours: Monday, Wednesday, Friday; 11:00 am – 12:00 pm; or by Appointment
Phone: 727-9774
Email: wiseman@brandonu.ca

Course Resources

Required Text: Introduction to Geographic Information Systems, 9th ed. 2019, Chang.
Optional Text: Cartography: Thematic Map Design, 6th ed. 2009, Dent, et al.
Notes: Both texts will also be used for 38/42:376, GIS II: Spatial Data Management and Analysis. Copies of both texts will be available on reserve in the main library.

Course Description

This course is designed as an introductory level GIS course for students who plan to work with and create maps using GPS or other geospatial data in their chosen field of study or future careers. The objectives are to provide you with a solid theoretical and applied background in the types and characteristics of geospatial data with an emphasis on the principles of cartographic design required to produce a technically correct and aesthetically pleasing map. The laboratory component of the course will provide students with practical experience in the use of ArcGIS software and will focus on procedures for creating and importing geospatial data, and the application of cartographic techniques used to select, classify, and symbolize those data to produce professional map products.

This course will provide you with the fundamental knowledge and skills required to work with and map geospatial, and sufficient background to build your GIS skill set through individual study. The objectives of the next course, 38/42:386 GIS II, are to provide you with the background necessary to build and manage geospatial databases and conduct relevant geospatial analysis. That course is intended for students who are either pursuing a career as a GIS technician or for those who will be expected to work with geospatial data and GIS in their future careers.

Grading Scheme

Midterm 20-30%* > 90% A+ 70 – 72% B-
Final 20-30%* 85 – 89% A 67 – 69% C+
Lab Assignments 25% 80 – 84% A- 63 – 66% C
Lab Quiz 1 10% 77 – 79% B+ 60 – 62% C-
Lab Quiz 2 15% 73 – 76% B  50 – 59% D
Total 100% * var. wght. < 50% F

Tentative Course Outline

1. Introduction

  • What is a GIS and what is geospatial data?
  • Cartography and Types of Maps
  • GISystems, GIScience, and Geomatics
  • Historical Roots and Keeping the G in GIS

2. Map Basics and Spatial Data

  • What is a Map? Types of Maps
  • Map Scale and Its Effects
  • Cartographic Abstraction & Generalization
  • Spatial Ontologies and Representing Spatial Data in a GIS

3. Fundamentals of GNSS

  • What is a GNSS and How Does it Work?
  • Space, Control, and User Segment
  • Sources of Error
  • Differential Correction and Other Augmentations

4. Geodesy and Map Projections

  • Geodesy: Ellipsoids and Datums
  • Map Projections Described
  • Types of Distortion and Errors

5. Raster and Vector Data Models

  • Continuous vs. Discretely Distributed Data
  • Topology and Why It’s Important
  • All About Raster and Vector Data Models

Midterm Exam; Thursday, November 2nd

6. Cartographic Design

  • Design Considerations
  • Visual Hierarchy and Organization
  • Essential Map Elements
  • Primary and Secondary Visual Variables
  • Labeling Guidelines

7. Choropleth Mapping

  • What is a Choropleth Map? Types
  • Spatial /Aspatial Data Requirements
  • When is it Used? Advantages/Disadvantages
  • Data Classification Schemes
  • Legend Design
  • Appropriate Projections

8. Dot Density Mapping

  • What is a Dot Density Map? Types
  • Spatial /Aspatial Data Requirements
  • When is it Used? Advantages/Disadvantages
  • Dot Value, Size, Placement,
  • Legend Design
  • Appropriate Projections

9. Proportional Symbol Mapping

  • What is a Proportional Symbol Map?
  • Spatial /Aspatial Data Requirements
  • When is it used? Advantages/Disadvantages
  • Symbol Size and Range Graded Symbols
  • Multivariate Symbols and Symbol Overload
  • Legend Design
  • Appropriate Projections

10. Other Thematic Mapping Techniques

  • What are They? Variations/Types
  • Spatial and Aspatial Data Requirements
  • When are they used?

Final Exam, Thursday, December 14th, 2 PM

Tentative Laboratory Schedule



Sept 7/8 First week of classes (no lab assignment this week)
Sept 14/15 LAB #1: Intro to the Geomatics Lab & Getting Started with ArcGIS Pro
Sept 21/22 LAB #2: Importing/Downloading and Mapping GPS Data (Garmin GPS) & Map Layouts
Sept 28/29 NO LAB THIS WEEK (National Day for Truth & Reconciliation; BU closed Sept 29th)
Oct 5/6 LAB #3: Importing and Georeferencing Satellite Imagery and Aerial Photography
Oct 12/13 LAB #4: Importing and Using Online Data: Geospatial Data Portals
Oct 19/20 Quiz 1: Getting Data Into a GIS
Oct 26/27 LAB #5: Importing & Using Tabular Data  (Statistics Canada Data)
Nov 2/3 LAB #6: Mapping Discrete Geographic Areas – Choropleth Mapping
Nov 9/10 LAB #7: Mapping Discrete Point Phenomena – Dot Density Mapping
Nov 16/17 NO LABS (Fall Study Break/Remembrance Day)
Nov 23/24 LAB #8: Mapping Values at Point Locations – Proportional Symbol Mapping
Nov 30/Dec 1 Quiz 2: Techniques for Mapping Data in a GIS (final lab period for GIS 1)
Dec 7/8 NO LAB for GIS 1

Microsoft Teams

In addition to the course website, I will use Microsoft Teams to manage the course. This includes distributing lecture notes prior to class, posting and receiving assignments, giving tests, and responding to questions outside of class time.  I will provide you with an access code and instructions on how to join our GIS1 Team via your BU email prior to the first class.

Important BU Statements and Policies