GEOGRAPHY 3530/8535: Introduction to Cartography & GIS (2 cr)

Course Syllabus

Instructor: Michael P. Peterson

Office: Durham Science Center 264
Office Hours:

MW 2:00-4 and 6:45-8; TTh 2:00-5:30 and 6:45-8

Joe Knapp: MTW 3-5; Th 3-8 PM & upon request. email at Joseph Knapp <> 402-637-4204

Office Phone:

Connects to my cell phone. Call me anytime.

e-mail address
Web Page
Class Meetings This class meets twice a week for a lecture and lecture/lab

INTRODUCTION TO CARTOGRAPHY & GIS introduces the basic concepts and techniques for the manipulation, analysis, and the graphic representation of spatial information. The course examines the processing, compilation and symbolization of spatial data and the application of related statistical techniques. Emphasis is placed on the technology of mapping, particularly the Internet, computer mapping, geographic information systems, and remote sensing.  The course prepares students for further course work in geographic information science and technology.

The hands-on exercises examines how Application Programmer Interfaces (APIs) from Google and other online map providers can be used to make custom maps. This involves developing a working knowledge of HTML, JavaScript, and to a lesser extent PHP, and MySQL.


  1. Demonstrate a basic understanding of maps and GIS.
  2. Understand how maps transitioned from paper to computer and the stages that were involved in this process.
  3. Develop an appreciation for the mental processes involved in map interpretation.
  4. Understand the historical development of cartography and GIS.
  5. Develop a working knowledge of map scale, including calculations involving the representative fraction and map area.
  6. Develop a basic understanding of map projections.
  7. Understand the different aspects of the cartographic abstraction process and how these aspects are embedded and integral to GIS.
  8. Understand the different types of horizontal and vertical positioning including the datum.
  9. Learn the basic aspects of HTML, JavaScript, PHP and MySQL.
  10. Develop a working knowledge of mapping APIs, particularly the Google Map API.

Examples of previous exams

Readings and course participation, designed to supplement such readings, form the core of the course. Students are held responsible for all referenced offline and online materials. Be prepared to answer questions on the designated days as this will constitute part of the course participation grade. The use of computers is not allowed during lectures.

Discussions and Demonstrations
There is a great deal of information to cover in this course and relatively little time. It is in your best interest to...

I will be conveying information that may not be available in written form. It is critical that you pay attention to avoid missing out on key information. If you miss what I say, there is no way to get the information in another way.

This is a must! Remember, your classmates may or may not have thought of the question you asked, so asking questions will allow us all to learn. In short, ASK! ASK! ASK!

Take Notes
It is essential for you to take notes during lectures, presentations, and demonstrations in order for you to have an organized body of information you can refer to in the future. Please have the proper materials at hand for taking notes.

Projects and Exercises
There will weekly assignments for this class. The class will meet as a group twice each week for a lecture or demonstration period and to look at the submitted homework. Additionally, you are expected to dedicate at least 4 hours outside of class each week to your homework.

Personal Conduct
I ask that you be considerate of others in class. Activities such as whispering, exchanging notes, using a computer, texting, talking on the phone, reading a newspaper, or leaving the classroom during class all disturb the people around you. Please consider that your classmates may take their college education more seriously than you do. If I see you engaged in these activities, I will ask you to stop. If you continue, I will ask you to leave. If this happens more than once, you can be removed from the course.

1) Textbook: Mapping in the Cloud
available in the bookstore and online. || Google Books pages 1-30
2) Calculator (with square root function) for scale calculations.  Bring the calculator to class on the days that we do scale calculations, and for the mid-term and final exams.
3) Storage device.  A USB flash drive to save all assignments (16 GB minimum).
The Macintosh computers have a single account that everyone shares so you need to store your files on your own flash drives.
4) Save all of your work on your flash drive and on Box. Files saved on the lab computers may be deleted at any point.

5) Free online accounts.

Except for two assignments, all assignments are submitted as web pages.  You will be shown how to submit assignments to a web folder and how to link all of these assignments from a single file.  Part of the assignments grade is based on an in-class discussion of the exercises. The exercises that you submit will represent an online portfolio of your work.

  1. Single Page Gallery
  2. Multi-Page Gallery
  3. Online Street Map
  4. JavaScript
  5. Map Mashups
  6. Point Mashups
  7. Line and Polygon Mashups
  8. Layer Mashups
  9. php and MySQL Mashups
  10. Local Mapping
  11. Animated Maps

The assignments will be introduced during the Wednesday class session. They are due the following Wednesday (2 weeks are given for code12) for two points. If you complete the assignment by the intervening Friday before 5 PM, and email me before then, you will be awarded 3 pts. This extra point can make a big difference in your grade.

A number of quizzes (usually 2 questions) will be given throughout the semester, at the beginning or end of class. The first question is almost always based on the previous lecture. The second question is from the readings that are assigned for that particular day.

Two exams will be given, a mid-term and a final.  Both exams will consist of short answer and essay questions, as shown in the sample exam links.  Some of the questions from the sample exams will be included on the actual exams.

FINAL PROJECT (graduate students only):
The final project for graduate students will be assigned by the professor. It may involve creating and explaining a specific assignment.

For undergraduates, final grades will be based on the exams (35%), the assignments (35%); quizzes (10%); engaged (10%); on-time submission (10%). For graduate students, a presentation is required. This presentation is arranged with the professor and will involve introducing a particular assignment. Grading is carried through on the total points accumulated. Letter grades are assigned in the following way: A+: 97 and above; A: 91-97; A-: 90-91; B+: 87-90; B: 81-87; B-: 80-83; etc.

Professional organizations have a variety of awards for well-designed maps that are listed below. These include a monetary award. If you would like to pursue one of these awards, you may also do so through an independent study.

NACIS Student Map and Poster Competition

CaGIS Map Design Competition

National Geographic

Robert Raskin Mashup Mapping Competition - $700

AAG Cartography Specialty Group Master's Thesis Grant

Dr. Charles Gildersleeve was professor of geography at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and one of the founders of the Geographic Educators of Nebraska (GEON). He died at the age of 69 in 2009. A student scholarship was created to honor Dr. Gildersleeve. One UNO geography major is selected every year to receive the $500 scholarship that is applied directly toward UNO tuition. That student must have taken this class because it is the only upper-division course that all geography majors are required to take.