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Course content

Why take this course?

Geographical Information Systems (GIS) has grown rapidly to become a major component of information technology, creating distinctive methods of data analysis, algorithms and software tools.

This course emphasises the acquisition of practical GIS skills. We use a wide range of industry-standard software tools and a structured approach to the analysis of spatial data through project work.

What will I experience?

On this course you can:

Get hands-on experience of using instruments such as GPS, Total Stations and 3D laser scanners
Be taught by experts, who have extensive industrial and consultancy experience and strong research portfolios
Practise your GIS data collection skills in a range of environments

What opportunities might it lead to?

The wide range of career opportunities across public and private sectors and in university-based research, coupled with the rapid rate of technological change, mean that major organisations and industrial firms are finding it essential to update their skills through advanced study. We therefore aim to meet this demand by tailoring our course to the needs of both regional and national markets.

Here are some routes our graduates have pursued:

Environmental consultancies
Geographical information science specialists
Working for the Environmental Agency
Working for the Ordnance Survey

Module Details

The academic year is divided into two parts. The first part comprises the lecture, workshop, practical and field work elements of the course, followed by a dissertation which will take approximately five months to complete.

Here are the units you will study:

Principles of Geographic Information Science: Beginning with an overview of the development of GIS, the first part of this unit examines data sources and data capture, as well as hardware and software tools. The second part deals with vector-based data structures and data management, followed by vector GIS operations, such as overlay and buffering. You will undertake a project to create a GIS of your own, which may be presented as a seminar session. Practical exercises are undertaken using MapInfo. You will then go on to develop an understanding of raster-based approaches to GIS, cartographic modelling and related areas of image processing which are often applied in remote sensing. Topics include raster data models and data compression techniques, raster GIS and cartographic modelling, imaging systems and image processing, geometric correction techniques and GIS/remote sensing integration in the raster domain. Practical work uses MapInfo, ArcGIS - ArcMap and ERDAS Imagine.

GIS and Database Management Systems: Your major focus on this unit will be the use of industry-standard methods and tools to develop competence in the successive stages of database design, development and implementation. You will have an introduction to data analysis techniques, followed by an examination of alternative types of database system and the rules of relational database design. There is extensive treatment of the SQL query language in standard databases and for attribute query within a GIS. You will be introduced to advanced topics including database programming and computer-aided database design. You will also consider the Object-Relational databases and spatial data types, explore the use of spatial queries using the ORACLE relational database management system and examine procedural database programming and web database connectivity. Practical work for this unit uses the ORACLE relational database management system, running in full client-server mode.

Applied Geographic Information Systems: On this unit you will develop a general, inferential, model-based approach to the analysis of quantitative data within a geographical framework. You will examine a range of underlying concepts including model specification, bias, linearity, robustness and spatial autocorrelation. You will subsequently develop these in the context of a unified framework for analysis. Practical work is based on ArcGIS - ArcMap.

Research Methods and Design: This unit will introduce you to the basic principles of research design and methodology, enabling you to develop a critical approach to the selection and evaluation of appropriate methods for different types of research problem.

Modelling and Analysis and the Web: This unit gives you the chance to consider the use of GIS technology for creating terrain models and explore the basics of photogrammetry, as well as analytical and digital techniques for photogrammetric data capture. You will also look at Orthophotography, LiDAR and RADAR systems. ArcGIS is used for spatial analysis, such as buffering and overlay techniques. You will also explore and exemplify data transfer between GIS software systems and technologies for internet-based GIS.

Dissertation: This provides an opportunity for you to pursue a particular topic to a greater depth than is possible within the taught syllabus. It can take a variety of forms, for example GIS-based analysis of original data sources and digital datasets, case studies of GIS adoption in public or private sector organisations, the development of new software tools/applications or the design of GIS algorithms. The final submission takes the form of an extended written report or dissertation of a maximum of 15,000 words.

Programme Assessment

The course provides a balanced structure of lectures, seminars, tutorials and workshops. You will learn through hands-on practical sessions designed to give you the skills in laboratory, computer and field techniques. The course also includes extensive field work designed to provide field mapping and data collection skills.

The majority of assessment takes the form of practical exercises and project-based activity. This enables you to become familiar with industry-standard software systems and develop your skills by applying your newfound expertise in areas that particularly interest you.

Student Destinations

GIS technology is now very widely deployed in many organisations ranging from utility companies, telecommunications networks, civil engineering, retailing, local and national government, international charities and NGOs, the National Health Service, environmental organisations, banking and finance, and insurance. GIS has become an essential part of the world's information infrastructure.

You can expect to go on to find work in organisations such as local authorities, health authorities, conservation organisations, banks and insurance companies, amongst others. Many of our previous graduates are now employed all over the world, working on a whole variety of GIS-related projects in a very wide range of different organisations and industries.

Visit the MSc Geographical Information Systems page on the University of Portsmouth website for more details!





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