GEOG 583
Geospatial System Analysis and Design

Term Project Overview


This course is built around a term project that each of you will complete to integrate and apply your understanding of GIS system design in the context of an application scenario you choose. You will select ONE project option from the list below and complete a system design proposal. To a large degree, you will have the freedom to shape the specifics of your term project around a GIS system context that you desire. I hope that this allows you to either focus on a topic related to your day-to-day work, or choose an area that sparks your curiosity.

Each week, you will notice at least one page of the lesson dedicated to a goal or assignment associated with your term project. In about half of those lessons, you will have one graded deliverable related to your final project. I've developed a project schedule that is designed to make sure you make steady progress on the term project and that also ensures that we have one full round of draft editing to refine your work.

Term Project Options

Here are four options you have for your term project. You should choose one of these options. If you have another project idea in mind that you think would work well, send me a note so we can talk about it. Your idea may be an excellent alternative to these pre-canned options - please do not feel like you have to stick closely to one of these!

  • OPTION 1: Create a system design proposal that incorporates the use of mobile devices to access and update geospatial data from the field in real time. In your proposal, you should describe relevant prior work, a design plan that describes how you will gather requirements and iterate through prototypes, and the expected benefits from adopting your plan. You may choose any application context you like (emergency response, zoning/code enforcement, etc...)
  • OPTION 2: Audit the GIS system you use at work. Assume you have access to funding to make significant changes to this system. Identify key leverage points for making changes to the system that will maximize the impact that the new system will have. Present your work in the form of a strategic plan that begins with a description of the existing system. The plan should then cover the goals of the improved system and present a set of possible changes to the system that have been prioritized so that decision makers could make decisions about funding allocations accordingly. Make sure your plan integrates common design, implementation, and evaluation methods.
  • OPTION 3: Ultimately there are lots of people involved in the success of a GIS system. There are technical experts who may be in charge of database development, cartographers in charge of developing visuals for situational awareness, decision makers who have to weigh all of the information and act expediently, and members of the media & public who consume and disseminate information. Propose a design study for a specific GIS application context (forest management, city planning, etc…) that focuses on identifying the GIS-related needs of these different types of people. Consider the range of possible system design strategies when creating your proposal.
  • OPTION 4: Web browsers have become one of the primary conduits for information, including spatial information, for most people in industrialized countries. Plan how an existing GIS should start to allow access via web clients. Aspects that will need to be considered are: the architecture (local servers vs cloud resources), the type of web maps presented to users (for example, Esri's Javascript client, MapBox, or OpenLayers), the degree of coupling with existing systems, who will be responsible for what tasks, upfront and ongoing costs, and security, among other issues. Focus on tradeoffs such as containing risk while enabling users. You can either use your current GIS architecture (if you have one) or invent a scenario such as providing temporary GIS services for a political campaign on a fixed budget. Creative ideas are encouraged!

Deliverables (for Future Lessons)

In this lesson you need to think about the term project assignment for this class. You can, this week or next, complete the assignment of delivering one paragraph abstract about your chosen project. Make sure the project is one that is related to GIS design as outlined above. The project should be one that you are interested and engaged with, so that it is something you want to complete. If you are completely stuck for an idea, now is the time to contact the instructor with a range of things that interest you -- so they can help you choose.

The term project includes the following deliverables that will be assigned to you in future lessons:

  • 1 paragraph project abstract indicating which project option you chose and describing in general terms what you will cover (5 points, 5% of your grade) - assigned in Lesson 2
  • Revised Project Abstract and Structural Outline (headings and several bullets under each heading for the main topics you'll cover) (10 points, 5% of your grade) - assigned in Lesson 4
  • Peer Review of Project Abstracts and Structural Outline (provide constructive feedback on your classmates' project proposals) (10 points, 5% of your grade) - assigned in Lesson 5
  • Full Draft of Term Project, no longer than 2500 words (20 points, 10% of your grade) - assigned in Lesson 6
  • 5 Minute Video Presentation of Term Project Highlights (10 points, 5% of your grade) - assigned in Lesson 9
  • Revised Final Term Project, no longer than 2500 words (20 points, 10% of your grade) - assigned in Lesson 10

Look for details on each deliverable (including specific due dates) in future lessons.


Your grade will be based on the content, clarity, impact, and the degree to which your submission satisfies assignment guidelines. For each of the four criteria, I will assign points on a scale from 1-5, with 5 being excellent and 1 being very poor.

I define "Impact" as the strength and logic of the arguments and analytical insights you provide with your writing. In other words, present a clear argument to the reader as to why your topic/idea/approach is important.

I define "Content" as the level of understanding and knowledge of relevant topics you demonstrate with your writing. Here, demonstrate to the reader that you are knowledgeable about the topic/idea/approach by communicating what you are planning to do and how you will do it.

I define "Clarity" as the readability and organization of your writing (including formatting and appropriate graphic design where applicable). Your writing should be clear, concise, and unambiguous. By all means, proofread your writing so as to avoid errors. As a suggestion, ask someone else to read your writing.

Term Project Rubric
IMPACT 5 4 3 2 1
CONTENT 5 4 3 2 1
CLARITY 5 4 3 2 1