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Offered on campus, every Winter term, 4 credits in Kelley Engineering 1001
Tues/Thurs 11:00-11:50 a.m., with lab sections on Tuesdays and Wednesdays

OR via distance ed. every Fall, Winter, and Spring, 4 credits

Main Web Site: http://dusk.geo.orst.edu/gis

Important Note to On-Campus OSU Students Who Wish to Take This Course Via Distance Ed.: The distance ed. version of the course carries a separate and EXTRA tuition fee, so, unfortunately, your GRA or GTA funding cannot be applied to it. You may use scholarships or financial aid, but OSU Extended Campus cannot (yet) bill against GRA/GTA funds. For more information, please contact Alfonso Bradoch of OSU Extended Campus.

PREQUISITE: NONE. HOWEVER, if you are doing the Geographic Information Science undergraduate or graduate certificate, or hope to go on to a career in GIS, GEO 360 (Cartography, offered every fall) is required. GEO 360 is only offered in the fall term, and if you have not already completed this course or an equivalent, it IS possible to take it during the following fall term, after completing GEO 465/565. Students should also have some basic expertise with Windows computers with the ability to perform basic tasks, such as moving, copying, saving, and deleting files, making and changing directories, working with simple word processer and graphics programs, and navigating around the Internet.


This course covers fundamental concepts underlying computerized geographic information systems (GISs) at an intermediate level (undergrads, see GEO 365 for an introduction to GIS). It combines an overview of the general principles of GIS with a theoretical treatment of the nature and analytical use of spatial information (aka "spatial reasoning"). Although, the course has a laboratory component that exposes students to the ArcGIS 9 and 10 software packages, it focuses more on the science behind the software, the issues surrounding the use of the software, and, once again, the fundamental nature and analytical use of spatial information in various forms (i.e., geographic information science or GIScience). I want to emphasize again that it is the theory and concepts in the lectures of this course that are at an intermediate level. For some students, many of the laboratory exercises will be considerably easy for them. For other students, the laboratory exercises will be very challenging. This course seeks to serve a very broad enrollment of student backgrounds and experiences.

Good skills with the Internet and the World Wide Web will definitely help you in this course. Notes, graphics, and multimedia resources will be placed on the class web site for your benefit. I cover a lot of material in class using PowerPoint presentation software and there will also be occasional live demos and videos. In addition, you will be encouraged to explore my "Web Site of the Week" on your own time, which should help to solidify the concepts that you are learning in lecture or lab. This may also serve as inspiration for the class term paper/project, or perhaps life in general!

Learning Outcomes
By the end of this course it is expected that you will be able to:
  • Synthesize and integrate concepts of GIS theory and methodology, including data models, data structures, topology, and spatial analysis.
  • Understand and articulate what geographic information science is and some of its topics and challenges.
  • Begin to articulate the role of space as a source for explanation and understanding.
  • Describe the functional basis of a GIS (i.e., how it works), including how it differs from other computerized systems, and why.
  • Consider and evaluate the benefits and shortcomings of using GIS for a variety of natural resource applications.
  • Outline the key data quality issues involved in using GIS and state the importance of metadata.
  • Demonstrate basic GIS software skills in the ArcView 9.x portion of ArcGIS, as well as basic scientific computing skills.
  • Understand and articulate what GIS analysis is, understanding also that analysis is at the crux of GIS (not just holding data, organizing data, or making maps).
  • Be able to perform a rudimentary spatial analysis in ArcView 9.x.
Additional and specific graduate level learning outcomes for GEO 565 students are to:
  • More fully articulate the role of space as a source for explanation and understanding.
  • Synthesize and integrate information, GIS analysis results, and interpretations from the GIS/GIScience literature.
  • Employ written communication and computer technology skills by way of a term paper, analytical project report, or web-based annotated bibliography.
You may order the following books online from the OSU Bookstore or the ESRI GIS Store or Amazon.com. Place Matters is available from Ecotrust.

REQUIRED: Geographic Information Systems and Science by Longley, Goodchild, Maguire, and Rhind, 3rd Edition
on reserve at Valley Library

"GIS technology is proliferating throughout the world in myriad applications. While many technical books and writings describe these uses, Geographic Information Systems and Science explores many of the "real-world" applications of this rapidly evolving field. In so doing, the book illuminates some of the growing commonalities between the concerns of business, government, and science; how issues of management, ethics, risk, and technology intersect; and how GIS provides a gateway to problem solving. Designed for readers who are already familiar with GIS, this richly illustrated, full-color book is aimed at intermediate-level undergraduate students, postgraduate students, and busy professionals who need clear and succinct information about this fast-developing technology." Wiley or ESRI Press, 2010/2011, 560 pp., $79.20 (paperback), ISBN: 978-0-470-72144-5. Description from ESRI GISstore. Image used by permission.

OPTIONAL: GIS Tutorial 2: Spatial Analysis Workbook, by Allen, 2nd Edition for ArcGIS 10
Includes CD_ROM w/ the necessary ArcGIS 10 software and data
Updated for ArcGIS Desktop 10, GIS Tutorial 2: Spatial Analysis Workbook, Second Edition offers hands-on exercises to help GIS users at the intermediate level continue to build problem-solving and analysis skills. Inspired by the ESRI Guide to GIS Analysis book series, GIS Tutorial 2 provides a system for GIS users to develop proficiency in various spatial analysis methods, including location analysis; change over time, location, and value comparisons; geographic distribution; pattern analysis; and cluster identification. ESRI Press, 2010, 340 pp., $71.96 (paperbook), ISBN: 9781589482586. Description from the ESRI Press Catalog. Image used by permission.

Place Matters: Geospatial Tools for Marine Science, Conservation, and Management in the Pacific Northwest
edited by D.J. Wright and A.J. Scholz, Foreword by Sylvia Earle
on reserve at Valley Library

Many students taking this course have expressed an interest in marine and coastal applications of GIS. If you are in this category you may enjoy this supplemental text, especially as we approach the lectures on 3-D and 4-D GIS. Place Matters explores how marine GIS is contributing to the understanding, management, and conservation of the shores and ocean of the Pacific Northwest, which is becoming a hotbed of marine GIS development and applications as scientists expand the use of this cutting-edge technology to a variety of ocean science, policy, and management issues. With its unique focus on the use of GIS to solve marine conservation problems, Place Matters offers an important new resource for all who study and work to protect the world's oceans. Oregon State University Press, 2005, 272 pp., $29.95 (list), ISBN: 0-87071-057-5.

We have a wonderful library on campus and Andrea Wirth is our subject specialist for geosciences/GIS (541-737-9903). See also "Ask a Librarian" at osulibrary.orst.edu/reference.

You can access most of the library's databases at osulibrary.oregonstate.edu/research.html from outside of the library or off campus.

Map resources are at osulibrary.orst.edu/research/guides/maps/maproom.htm.

To obtain materials not in our collection, Interlibrary Loan forms for books and journal articles can be found at osulibrary.orst.edu/ill/.

There is a single GIS workstation in the Valley Library on campus. To my knowledge, it is running ArcGIS 9.x, Erdas Imagine 8.5, and TIGER CTSI. Contact Andrea for access and use policies, as well as information about updates to software that has been installed on this machine.


For undergrads enrolled in GEO 465, the midterm will be worth 30%, the final 40%, and the labs 30%. For most grads enrolled in GEO 565, the midterm will be worth 20%, the final 30%, the labs 20%, and an annotated bibliography on the web or 20-page term-paper 30%.

Sample Weighted Percentage Calculations:
where M = midterm score, F = final exam score, L = cumulative lab score
where M = midterm score, F = final exam score, L = cumulative lab score, P = term project

For the courageous graduate students in GEO 565 choosing the more difficult web mashup project option, the midterm will be worth 30%, the labs 30%, and the project 40% (no final exam). Guidelines for the projects and term paper can be found at dusk.geo.orst.edu/gis/projects.html.

End-of-the-Term Weighted Percentages for both GEO 465 and 565

  • A = 95 -100
  • A- = 90-94
  • B+ = 85-89
  • B = 80-84
  • B- = 75-79
  • C+ = 70-74
  • C = 65-69
  • C- = 60-64
  • D+ = 55-59
(Letter grades are not assigned until the end of the term.)

Academic Dishonesty

Students are expected to be honest and ethical in their academic work. Academic dishonesty is defined as an intentional act of deception in one of the following areas:

  • cheating - use or attempted use of unauthorized materials, information or study aids
  • fabrication - falsification or invention of any information
  • assisting - helping another commit an act of academic dishonesty
  • tampering - altering or interfering with evaluation instruments and documents
  • plagiarism - representing the words or ideas of another person as one's own
For more information about academic integrity and the University's policies and procedures in this area, please visit the Student Conduct web site at: oregonstate.edu/studentconduct/.
Students w/ Special Challenges

Students with documented disabilities who may need accommodations, who have any emergency medical information the instructor should know of, or who need special arrangements in the event of evacuation, should make an appointment with the instructor as early as possible, no later than the first week of the term. For further information regarding accomodations for students with disabilities in this class, please see the SSD web site at: ssd.oregonstate.edu.

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Last update: January 4, 2011

© 1998-2011 Dawn Wright