Westminster College
Introduction to Geographic Information Systems

Spring 2003


What is GIS?

Contact Information


Software and Utilities

GIS Links

Geographic information systems are powerful computer-based tools for mapping and analyzing spatial data.  GIS technology allows users to integrate various types of spatial data and to perform common database operations such as query and statistical analysis. This is useful in a wide variety of fields, including biology, environmental science, computer science, geology, social sciences, and business, where professionals are often required to answer questions and solve problems that involve presenting data and information graphically and interpreting them geographicallyThis course is designed to introduce the fundamental concepts of GIS, and to provide you with experience in using one of the most popular desktop GIS packages -- ArcView, from the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI).  The course emphasizes hands-on experience with GIS software, utilizing real-world data to illustrate how GIS technology can be used to answer questions and address problems in a wide variety of situations.


In this course, students will:

  • discover how a GIS functions and how it can be used to visualize and analyze spatial data;

  • become aware of the nature and characteristics of spatial data and objects, including how such information can be obtained using GPS;

  • identify and describe various applications of GIS;
  • list and define typical GIS operations; 
  • create and manipulate GIS files and databases;
  • become aware of various sources of data that can be graphed and analyzed using a GIS;
  • identify the types of output produced by a GIS;
  • gain hands-on experience with Arcview 3.3, the industry-standard desktop GIS software.

Dr. A. E. Throckmorton
Biology Department
Westminster College
New Wilmington, PA 16172