SGO4940 – Geographic Information Systems (Master level course)

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Course content

This course explores in depth how Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can be used to study social processes. GIS has become an important tool, not only for planners and in risk assessment, but also in studies of society, the environment, and the interactions between them. Through lectures, the students will learn about the fundamental components of GIS, and apply this knowledge in a series of hands-on seminars and an individual project.

Spatial data is special data. In this course, the students will learn about the unique methodological aspects of spatial data which include collecting, managing, analysing and presenting such data and the respective results. A larger section of the course is devoted to spatial analytical methods and introducing the students to basic spatial econometrics, including spatial regression.

In addition, the course will introduce the students to qualitative GIS, an expanding tool in critical geographical research using bottom-up approaches and participatory information collection to study social processes.

The course will mainly use ESRI ArcGIS, but open-source alternatives such as QuantumGIS and R will also be introduced, highlighting the diversity of available GIS software.

Learning outcome

The students will learn about the fundamental components of a GIS, from the user and software side to the particular methods used to obtain information from spatial data. More specifically, this involves distance measurements, spatial dependency and autocorrelation, spatial clustering, spatial interpolation and spatial regression methods.

The students will also learn how qualitative GIS can be used in social science research, both as an analytical tool and as an information collection tool in participatory GIS.


  • Understand the special nature of spatial data and how they are different from non-spatial data.
  • Learn about the key components of a GIS, including users, databases, software, and networks.
  • Learn how we can collect and manage spatial data in both file formats and databases.
  • Learn basic to advanced spatial analytical methods, including interpolation and clustering.
  • Learn about bottom-up GIS and participatory GIS.
  • Learn basic visualization techniques and cartographic principles.

Skills and competence

  • Develop skills to master GIS software such as ArcGIS, QuantumGIS, and R.
  • Apply methods and techniques discussed in lectures in hands-on seminars.
  • Unite experience from lectures and seminars to complete a project where GIS will be used to study a social phenomenon.
  • Discuss sources of uncertainty and error in spatial data.
  • Create data models used to answer specific spatial questions.



Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.

This course is a part of the Master's program in Human Geography.

Students in other master programs may apply to be accepted as guest students. Please note that the following special restrictions apply:

  • applicant must be admitted to a master program.
  • this course will be taken as a part of their Master's degree. A confirmation from the students student adviser must be attached to the application.
  • there are available places in this course.

If you already have completed our Master's programme in Human Geography and want to take additional master courses, you can find more information here.


Formal prerequisite knowledge

SGO1910 – Introduction to Geographical Information Systems (GIS) or similar introductory GIS courses. Basic understanding of computer systems recommended.


The teaching will consist of lectures and seminars.

In addition, the students will individually work on a larger project. The seminars will consist of hands-on lab exercises where each student will work on solving spatial questions using GIS. The seminars will also function as a project helpdesk, where the students can receive assistance with their ongoing project work.

Participation is mandatory in 80% of the seminars. 

Completed and approved compulsory course work is valid as long as the course is offered. Students who have failed to complete the compulsory attendance cannot take the exam.


Individual project report and oral examination.

Assessment of the course is based on the individual project report, adjusted through an oral examination centered on the project report.

Submit assignments in Inspera

You submit your assignment in the digital examination system Inspera. Read about how to submit your assignment.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Language of examination

You may submit your response in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish or English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Ask for explanation of your grade in this course:

Resit an examination

If you are sick or have another valid reason for not attending the regular exam, we offer a postponed exam later in the same semester.

See also our information about resitting an exam.

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Facts about this course






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