GEOG 586
Geographic Information Analysis

Term Project Overview and Weekly Deliverables


Throughout this course, a major activity is a personal GIS project that you will develop and research on your own (with some input from everyone else taking the course). To ensure that you make regular progress toward completion of the term project, I will assign project activities for you to complete each week.

The topic of the project is completely up to you, but you will have to get the topic approved by me. Pick a topic of interest, and use the different methods applied during this class to better understand the topic.

This week, the project activity is to become familiar with the weekly term project activities and to think about possible topics and post an idea you have in mind. Each week, the project activity requirements for that week will be spelled out in more detail on a page labeled 'Term Project', located in the regular course menu.

Term Project: Breakdown of Week by Week Activities

The breakdown of activities and points are as follows:

  • Week 1: 1 point for posting topic ideas
  • Week 2: 2 points for submission of a project proposal
  • Week 4: 3 points for on-time submission of a satisfactory revised project proposal
  • Week 5: 3 points for feedback to your colleagues on their project proposals
  • Week 6: 6 points for the final project proposal
  • Week 9: 12 points for quality of the project and the report
  • Week 10: 3 points for your involvement in discussions of the final projects

Below is an outline of the weekly project activities for the term-long projects. You should refer back to this page periodically as a handy guide to the project 'milestones'. NOTE: I highly recommend keeping a regular diary of your activities on the term project. If you do this carefully enough, then the final report for the project should almost write itself!

Term Project: Breakdown of Week by Week Activities
Week Detailed description of weekly activity on term project
1 Read this overview! Identify and briefly describe a possible project topic (or topics). Post this information to the 'Term Project: Project Idea' discussion forum as a new message. This posting should include a paragraph of no more than 250 words (max!). 
2 Submit a more detailed project proposal (1 page) to the 'Term Project: Preliminary Proposal' discussion forum. This week, you should research your topic a bit more and start to obtain the data you will need for your project. Do not underestimate the amount of time you will need to devote to formatting and manipulating your data. The proposal must identify at least two (preferably more) data sources. Inspect your data sources carefully. It's important to get started on finding and examining your data early. You do not want to find out in Week 8 that your dataset is not viable or will take you two weeks just to format your data for use in the software! Over the next few weeks, you will be further developing your proposal, which will be reviewed by other students and by me, and revised to a more complete form due in Week 6.
3 This is a busy week, so no term project activity is due. Start getting your interactive peer review meeting date and time organized with your group.
4 Refine your project proposal and post it to the 'Term Project: Revised Proposal' discussion forum for peer review in Week 5. 
5 Interactive peer review of term project proposals. You will meet with your group and provide interactive feedback. These reviews are intended to help you further refine your project idea and plans.
6 A final project proposal is due this week. This will commit you to some targets in your project and will be used as a basis for assessment of how well you have done. The final proposal should be submitted through the 'Term Project: Final Project Proposal' dropbox.
7 You should aim to make steady progress on the project this week.
8 You should aim to make steady progress on the project this week.
9 This week, you should complete your project work and post it as a PDF attachment on the 'Term Project: Final Discussion' discussion forum and let the class know that you are finished. The report should be suitable for anyone involved with the course to read and understand. Note that there are no other course activities at all this week, to give you plenty of time to work on completion of the project. You should also submit the final term project to the 'Term Project: Final Project Submission' dropbox.
10 Finally, the whole class, including the instructor, will use the posted project reports as a basis for reviewing what we have all learned (hopefully!) from the course. Contributions to discussions of one another's projects will be evaluated, as well as the projects themselves. Think of this as a virtual version of an in-class presentation of your project with an opportunity for members of the class (and the instructor) to ask questions, make suggestions, share experiences, review ideas, and so on.

Term Project (Week 1) - Identifying a Project Topic

In addition to the weekly project, it is also time to start to think about your term project.

  • Review the project outline and become familiar with what is required each week. Timely submission of an appropriate topic suggestion is important at this stage since you will need to provide the entire class a project proposal that will be peer reviewed during Lesson 5.
  • This week, you need to provide a minimal description of the project that is identifying a topic and its geographical scope. By minimal, I mean a single paragraph that includes more than 250 words (max!).
  • Timely submission of your preliminary project topic.

Deliverable: Post your topic ideas to the 'Term Project: Project Topic' Discussion Forum. One new topic for each student, please! Even at this early stage, if you have constructive suggestions to make, then by all means make them by posting comments in reply to their topic.

Questions? Please use the General Issues discussion forum to ask any questions now or at any point during this project.

Term Project (Week 2) - Writing a Preliminary Project Proposal

Submit a brief project proposal (1 page) to the 'Term Project: Preliminary Proposal' discussion forum. This week, you should start to obtain the data you will need for your project. The proposal must identify at least two (preferably more) likely data sources for the project work, since this will be critical to success in the final project. Inspect your data sources carefully. It's important to get started on this early. You do not want to find out in Week 8 that your dataset is not viable! Over the next few weeks, you will be refining your proposal. During Week 5, you will receive feedback from other students. This will help you revise your final proposal which will be due in Week 6.

This week, you must organize your thinking about the term project by developing your topic/scope from last week into a short proposal.

Your proposal should include:


  • some background on the topic, particularly why it is interesting;

  • research question(s). What, specifically, do you hope to find out?


  • Data: list and discuss the data required to answer the question(s). Be sure to clearly explain the role each dataset will play.

  • Be sure to list where you will obtain the required data. This may be public websites or perhaps data that you have access to through work or personal contacts.
    • Obtain and explore the data: attributes, resolutions, scale.
      • Is the data useful or are there limitations?
      • Will you need to clean and organize the data in order to use it?
  • Analysis: what you will do with the data, in general terms
    • What sort of statistical analysis and spatial analysis do you intend to carry out? I realize, at this point, that you may feel that your knowledge is too limited for this. Review Figure 1.2 and skim through the lessons to identify the methods you will be using. If you don't know the technical names for the types of analysis you would like to do, then at least try to describe the types of things you would like to be able to say after finishing the analysis (e.g., one distribution is more clustered than another). This will give me and other students a firmer basis for making constructive suggestions about the options available to you. Also, look through the course topics for ideas.

Expected Results:

  • what sort of maps or outputs you will create


  • references to papers you may have cited in the background or methods section. Include URLs to data sources here (if you didn't include the URLs in the Data sectoin.

The proposal does not have to be detailed at this stage. Your proposal should be no longer than about 1 page (500 words max!). Make sure that your proposal covers all the above points, so that I (Lesson 3 & 4) and others (Lesson 5 – peer review) evaluating the proposal can make constructive suggestions about additions, changes, other sources of data, and so on.

Additional writing and formatting guidelines are provided in the document (TermProjectGuidelines.pdf) in 'Term Project Overview' in Canvas.

Term Project - (Week 3)

No set deliverable this week. Read through other proposals and make comments. Continue to refine your project proposal.

Project Proposal: I will be providing each of you with feedback this week on the Preliminary Project Proposals you submitted last week (Week 2).

Peer-review Groups: I will be assigning you groups this week so that you have plenty of time to set up a meeting time during Week 5.

Revising and finalizing your project proposal. Over the next few weeks, you will be refining and extending your term project proposal and receiving feedback from me and your peers. To make this task less daunting and more manageable, we have broken down the process into a series of steps that allows you to evaluate new methods and their applicability to your project as well as receive feedback. Below is a quick overview of the steps each week.

  1. Week 3 - You will be assigned a peer review group and receive feedback from the instructor on your preliminary proposal. This week, make arrangements for your group's meeting in Week 5.
  2. Week 4 - Post your project proposal to the discussion forum as text and also attach the Word document and/or send it to your group. You should meet with your group during Week 5 for 1 hour at a mutually agreed upon time. Once you have set a date and time, send the instructor the information with the Zoom link.
  3. Week 5 - Meet via Zoom for 1 hour. See the instructions below. Make a post to the peer review discussion board about what feedback you found valuable.
  4. Week 6 - Further refine your project proposal and submit it to the Final Proposal dropbox.

Term Project (Week 4) - Revising and Submitting a Project Proposal

Refine your project proposal and post the proposal to the 'Term Project: Peer-Review' discussion forum so that your peer review group can access the proposal. 

Your revised proposal should take into account the feedback provided by the instructor in Week 3. Keep the revised proposal to 750 words (max!)

Deliverable: Post your project proposal to the 'Term Project: Revised Proposal' discussion forum and share it with your group.

Term Project (Week 5) - Interactive Peer-Review Process

This week, you will be meeting with your group to discuss your proposed project idea.

You should consider the following aspects:

  • Are the goals reasonable and achievable? It is a common mistake to aim too high and attempt to do too much. Suggest possible amendments to the proposals' aims that might make them more achievable in the time frame.
  • Are the data adequate for the task proposed? Do you foresee problems in obtaining or organizing the data? Suggest how these problems could be avoided.
  • Are the proposed analysis methods appropriate? Suggest alternative methods or enhancements to the proposed methods that would also help.
  • Provide any additional input that you feel is appropriate. This could include suggestions for additional outputs (e.g., maps) not specifically mentioned by the author, or suggestions as to further data sources, relevant things to read, relevant other examples to look at, and so on.

Remember... you will be receiving reviews of your own proposal from the other students in the group, so you should include the types of useful feedback that you would like to see in those commentaries. Criticism is fine, provided that it includes constructive inputs and suggestions. If something is wrong, how can it be fixed?

Week 5: Term Project - Interactive Peer Review Meeting and Discussion Post Instructions

Now, you will complete peer reviews. You will be reviewing the other group members' proposals for this assignment. Your instructor will divide the class into groups. The peer reviews will take place using Zoom. You should have arranged the time of the meeting with your group in Week 3 or 4.

  1. You will arrange to meet with your group for 1 hour using Zoom to interactively discuss your term project. The hour that you meet should be mutually agreed upon by everyone in the group. One team member should agree to be "host."
  2. Once you have set a date and time, the session "host" should sign in to to schedule the meeting; see instructions in below and circulate the "invitation" details to the other group members.
  3. Each student has 15 minutes to discuss their project. During this time, each student will describe their project for about 5 minutes and then receive feedback, answer questions, and provide clarifications for the remainder of their 15-minute period.
  4. Remember to take notes during your question and answer session so that you can incorporate the feedback you receive into your final proposal.
  5. Once the peer review session is finished, to make your post, click Reply in the Interactive Peer Review discussion forum.
  6. Click Attach, and select the original term project outline that you uploaded last week (i.e., your revised proposal) and attach it to your discussion post.
  7. Post 1 sentence to the discussion for each "peer" in your group that indicates the most useful question, comment, or suggestions you received from each of your Peer Review group members (thus 2 or 3 sentences depending on Peer Review group size) and a second sentence that describes how you are thinking about responding to that feedback.

Zoom: As a PSU student, you should have access to Zoom. Once you have been assigned a group, work with your group to set up a mutually agreed upon date and time to meet via Zoom. One team member should agree to be "host". If you have not used Zoom yet, then use the following instructions to set up a meeting.

Deliverable: Post a summary of the comments and feedback you received from others about your term-long project in your group to the 'Term Project: Peer Review' discussion forum. Your peer review comments are due by the end of week 5.

Term Project (Week 6) - Finalizing Your Project Proposal

Based on the feedback that you received from other students and from the instructor, revise your project proposal and submit a final version this week. Note that you may lose points if your proposal suggests that you haven't been developing your thinking about your project.

In your final proposal, you should respond to as many of the comments made by your reviewers as possible. However, it is OK to stick to your guns! You don't have to adjust every aspect of the proposal to accommodate reviewer concerns, but you should consider every point seriously, not just ignore them.

Your final proposal should be between 600 and 800 words in length (about 1.5 ~ 2 pages double spaced max.). The maximum number of words you can use is 800. You will lose points if your word count exceeds 800. Make sure to include the same items as before:

  • Topic and scope
  • Aims
  • Dataset(s)
  • Data sources
  • Intended analysis and outputs -- This is a little different from before. It should list some specific outputs (ideally several specific items) that can be used to judge how well you have done in attaining your stated aims. Note that failing to produce one of the stated outputs will not result in an automatic loss of points, but you will be expected to comment on why you were unable to achieve everything you set out to do (even if that means simply admitting that some other aspect took longer than anticipated, so you didn't get to it).

Additional writing and formatting guidelines are provided in the document (TermProjectGuidelines.pdf) in 'Term Project Overview' in Canvas.

Deliverable: Post your final project proposal to the Term Project: Final Proposal dropbox.

Term Project (Week 7) - Continue Working on Your Final Project Report

There is no specific deliverable required this week, but you really should be aiming to make some progress on your project this week!

Term Project (Week 8) - Continue Working on Your Final Project Report

There is no specific deliverable required this week, but you really should be aiming to make some progress on your project this week!

Term Project (Week 9) - Submitting Your Final Project Report

Project Overview

Your report should describe your progress on the project with respect to the objectives you set for yourself in the final version of your proposal. The final paper should be no longer than 20 pages, inclusive of all elements specified in the list below. As a reminder, the overall sequence and organization of the report should adhere to the following section headers and their content:

  • Paper TitleName, and Abstract -

    • This information can be placed on a separate page and does not count toward the 20 page maximum.

    • Make sure your title is descriptive of your research, including reference to the general data being used, geographic location, and time interval.

    • Don’t forget to include your name!

    • The abstract should be the revised version of your proposal (and any last minute additions or corrections based on the results of your analysis). The abstract should be no longer than 300 words.

  • Introduction - one or two paragraphs introducing the overall topic and scope with some discussion of why the issues you are researching are worth exploring.

  • Previous Research - provide some context on others who have looked at this same problem and report on their conclusions that helped you intellectually frame your research.

  • Methodology

    • Data - describe the data sources, any data preparation/formatting that you performed, and any issues/limitations with the data that you encountered.

    • Methods - discuss in detail the statistical methods you used and the steps performed to carry out any statistical test. Make sure to specify what data was used for each test.

  • Results - individually discuss the results with respect to each research objective. Be sure to reflect back on your intended research objectives, linking the results of your analysis to whether or not those objectives were met. This discussion should include any maps, table, charts, and relevant interpretations of the evidence presented by each.

  • Reflection - reflect on how things went. What went well? What didn't work out as you had hoped? How would you do things differently if you were doing it again? What extensions of this work would be useful, time and space permitting?

  • References - include a listing of all sources cited in your paper (this page does not count toward the 20 page maximum).

Other Formatting Issues

  • Use a serif type face (like Times New Roman), 1.5 line spacing, with 11pt type size. 
  • Include any graphics and maps that provide supporting evidence that contributes to your discussion. The graphics and maps should be well designed and individually numbered.
  • Tables that provide summaries of relevant data should also be included that are individually numbered and logically arranged.
  • For each graphic, map, or table make sure to appropriately reference them from your discussion (e.g., Figure 1) so that the reader can make a connection between your discussion points and each figure or table.


  • Post a message announcing that your project is 'open for viewing' to the Term Project: Final Discussion discussion forum. You can upload your project report directly to the discussion forum or provide a URL to a website (e.g., Google Docs) where the project report can be found by others in the class!
  • At the same time, put a copy of the completed project in the Term Project: Final Project Writeup dropbox.
  • Next week, the whole class will be involved in a peer-review where you will discuss each other's work. You will be reviewing the members of your group from the initial peer-review session in week 5. It is important that you meet this deadline to give everyone a clear opportunity to look at what you have achieved.

Term Project (Week 10) - Submitting Your Final Project Report

Think of this as a virtual version of an in-class presentation of your project with an opportunity for members of the class (and the instructor) to reflect on each other's work.

In order to earn points for this deliverable, you should read through the term papers of those who were in your peer-review zoom session during week 5. Then, post your comments on the papers written by the members of your peer review session in the discussion forum. Here are a few things to consider as you review your group member's write-ups.

- think about the organization of the paper (does the paper flow from an introduction, spatial analysis, and conclusion?)
- what is the research question(s) and it is clearly stated?
- what does the literature review say about the research question?
- what evidence does the analysis provide (is there a spatial component to the evidence)?
- do the results answer the research question(s)?
- is there a conclusion and did you learn anything from the analysis?

These comments can include, but are not limited to, feedback on interpreting the results, make suggestions regarding the methodology, share experiences on the writing process, mention other ideas on the research topic, and so on.

Contributions to discussions of one another's projects will be evaluated, as well as the projects themselves.