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MSc Applied Geographical Information Systems

Course content

Jointly run by the University of Salford and Manchester Metropolitan University, UNIGIS is a three year programme, with the first two years comprising taught units, and a final year to complete a dissertation.

The Applied Geographical Information Systems (Applied GIS) pathway aims to develop students in-depth knowledge of GIS-based methods for monitoring the social/human and natural environments. It will also help develop the student's understanding of the spatial interaction of social/human and environmental factors. Importantly, it seeks to increase the student's capability to extract social/human and/or environmental information from a variety of sources, such as remotely sensed data, and to undertake analysis and assessment using appropriate methods within a GIS framework.

The first year of study (equivalent to PgC in GIS) involves three core units:

Foundations of GIS -
This unit provides an introduction to Geographical Information Systems (GIS) from conceptual, theoretical, and practical perspectives. Students will learn about the different methods used in geographic encoding and spatial data modelling before employing such datasets in a software environment. The unit concludes with a review of contemporary issues in GIS. Key elements of the curriculum include: Origins of GIS; Representation, Modelling and Geovisualisation; Software Skills; GIS: Today and Tomorrow.

Spatial Data Infrastructures -
Spatial data is key to any GIS project. This unit investigates how spatial data is sourced and also aims to provide students with the requisite knowledge and practical skills to identify and evaluate, against recognised national and international quality standards, spatial data for use in GI-based projects. Key elements of the curriculum include: Spatial Data; Data Standards and Infrastructures; Sourcing Spatial Data; Data Quality; Evaluating Fitness for Purpose.

Databases -
GIS are fundamentally information systems which provide specialist facilities for the creation, storage and manipulation of spatial and attribute data. Much of the functionality offered by GIS software is shared with conventional database software. Indeed, most GIS - at their core - have a conventional database management system (DBMS) around which spatial functionality has been wrapped. It is essential that GIS specialists have a thorough understanding of database theory, design and implementation. Key elements of the curriculum include: Why Databases?; Relational Databases; Critiquing Relational Databases; Implementation and Interrogation.

The second year of study (equivalent to the PgD in GIS) involves one core and two elective units:

Methods in GIS (core) -
The concepts, theories and methods behind the application of GIS are examined in detail. The unit explores research design, data analysis and interpretation and presentation. Special focus is given to methods of spatial analysis and their implementation using GIS software. Key elements of the curriculum include: Research Design; Qualitative and Quantitative Techniques; Fundamentals of Spatial Analysis; Recent Advances in Spatial Analysis.

Two elective units are chosen from:

Environmental Applications of GIS -
GIS and related technologies such as remote sensing have been widely employed in environmental applications for almost forty years. The advent of satellite remote sensing allowed reliable synoptic data to be available to scientists who have developed numerous models. This together with the decision-making tools and spatially-referenced framework of GIS offers significant support to researchers investigating different environmental phenomena. Data from remote sensing, GPS and other sources provide a valuable input into GIS models for environmental monitoring, modelling and prediction. This unit introduces case study examples of how GIS and related technologies can be used in environmental applications and seeks to critically evaluate their potential value. Key elements of the curriculum include: Applicability and benefits of GIS; Practical Problem Solving and Evaluation using techniques such as Terrain Analysis, Multicriteria Evaluation, Landscape Metrics etc.

Remote Sensing for GIS Applications -
This unit provides students with an introduction to the principles of remote sensing and explores its role in data gathering/information extraction for GIS applications. Key elements of the curriculum include: Principles of Remote Sensing; Satellite Systems; Quantitative Data; GIS Integration.

Social Applications of GIS -
Where an investigation into social, economic, political, and cultural characteristics and phenomena is required, GIS provides a powerful tool. For social applications such as crime mapping and healthcare resource management, GIS can be used effectively to help model, monitor and enable (spatial) decision making based on existing criteria. Social systems are often highly organised and complex - GIS allows this complexity to be effectively distilled into an abstraction representing the most causally related behaviour. This unit introduces case tudy examples of how GIS can be used in social applications and seeks to critically evaluate their potential value. Key elements of the curriculum include: Exemplars of GIS use in Social Applications, e.g. health, crime and urban transportation; Evaluation of the Benefits of GIS; Practical Problem Solving techniques.

The final year of study (the MSc stage) requires the student to design and undertake a substantial and unique independent research project, to be presented as an academic dissertation (max. of 15,000 words).

Visit the MSc Applied Geographical Information Systems page on the UNIGIS website for more details!

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