11.205 | Fall 2019 | Graduate

Introduction to Spatial Analysis


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session 

Labs: 4 sessions / week, 2 hours / session


There are no prerequisites for this course.


Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are tools for managing data that represent the location of features (geographic coordinate data) and what they are like (attribute data); they also provide the ability to query, manipulate, and analyze those data. Because GIS allows one to represent social and environmental data on maps, it has become an important analysis tool used across a variety of fields, including planning, architecture, engineering, public health, environmental science, economics, epidemiology, and business. GIS has become an important political instrument allowing communities and regions to graphically tell their story. GIS is a powerful tool, and this course is meant to introduce students to the basics. Because GIS can be applied to many research fields, this class is meant to give you an understanding of its possibilities.

Learning through Practice

The class will focus on teaching through practical example. All the course exercises will focus on real-world problems confronted by the Bronx River Alliance, an advocacy group for the Bronx River. Exercises will focus on the Bronx River Alliance’s real-world needs, in order to give students a better understanding of how GIS is applied to planning situations.

Relationship between This Course and Its Sequel

11.205 Introduction to Spatial Analysis (this course) and 11.520 GIS Workshop are two modular courses that make up the Introduction to GIS series. 11.205 Introduction to Spatial Analysis is required by the Master in City Planning degree, but students who have a previous background in GIS can test out of this course. 11.520 GIS Workshop focuses on developing a research project using GIS as well as introduction to some advanced topics in data collection and web-mapping. Working on your own GIS project is the best way to learn GIS as it teaches you to apply the concepts you learn beyond the step-by-step tutorial you will learn in class. Students of all GIS backgrounds are welcome to take the GIS Workshop course. Experienced students may be interested in taking the GIS Workshop course, in order to test ideas for thesis or investigate projects that use spatial analysis. Taken together, Introduction to Spatial Analysis and GIS Workshop Course give you a complete set of skills needed to start your own GIS project. 

Course Objectives

Students taking this course will:

  • Develop an understanding of basic skills necessary to work with Geographic Information Systems (GIS), using ESRI’s ArcGIS software
  • Learn about GIS data types
  • Learn spatial data visualization techniques and cartography
  • Learn about GIS and local government data
  • Learn about GIS and census data
  • Learn geo-processing tools
  • Learn about GIS and decision-making

Assignments and Grading

Assignment Percentage of Grade DATE DUE
Web page 5% Thursday of week 1
Exercise 1 10% Thursday of week 2
Exercise 2 15% Thursday of week 3
Problem set 1 20% Thursday of week 4
Problem set 2 30% Thursday of week 6
Exercise 3 15% Thursday of week 7
Class participation 5% N/A

NO LATE ASSIGNMENTS WILL BE ACCEPTED!! We cannot accept late assignments—the class is too short. If we allow late assignments it holds up grading for all the other students.


Hard Drive

It is recommended that everyone get an external hard drive to hold data for your assignments and final project. We suggest a hard drive with a minimum of 120 GB of space, but you can find much larger drives, up to a terabyte, at very reasonable prices.


Julie Maantay and John Ziegler, GIS for the Urban Environment. Esri Press, 2006. ISBN: 9781589480827.

Getting Help

There are many, many ways to get help for this class:

[Note: The first three resources listed below are unfortunately not available to OpenCourseWare users.]

Discussion Forum

If you have a question, it is likely that others might have that question too, or have already found a solution to the same issue. We encourage you to post questions to the discussion forum on the online class website first. Both the teaching assistants and lab instructors will be answering questions that arrive at the discussion forum, before we answer questions received via our personal email. So please try to use the discussion board first.

Teaching Assistants and Office Hours

The teaching assistants will have office hours. This will be time in which you can work on assignments and ask the TA’s for help. We strongly suggest taking advantage of TA’s office hours.

GIS Laboratory in the Libraries

Located in Rotch Library, this is a great resource for GIS data and technical questions. The GIS Laboratory collects GIS data and might have data you need for your final project. The GIS lab also has technical consultants available for questions regarding the acquisition of data as well as the technical questions related to performing certain GIS operations. Seek them out.

The Documentation

It’s not a bad idea to read the manual! Both the ArcGIS documentation and the QGIS documentation are available online.

Stack Overflow

A well-known, community-driven, tech help forum, Stack Overflow has become the go-to venue for tech help. It also has a really great GIS help forum!

ESRI GeoNet and User Forums

The old ESRI user forums and the new GeoNet set are great resources for technical GIS software questions.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2019