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Applied Geographical Information Systems (GIS)
Department of Urban Studies and Planning,
Faculty of Social Sciences
This course will provide you with the mix of technical skills, practical experience and theoretical understanding you need to launch a successful career in the fields of GIS, applied policy research or spatial data analysis.
You’ll develop a wide variety of knowledge in areas such as advanced spatial analysis, geovisualisation, policy applications of GIS in practice, and thematic mapping and cartogram creation.
Facilities and equipment
Our postgraduate study rooms are equipped with the latest industry-standard GIS software and a range of other specialist tools. GIS facilities are available on all 1,500 networked computers across campus.
The department is based in the Geography and Planning Building on the edge of Weston Park.
The first semester focuses on core skills and knowledge acquisition, whereas in the second semester you'll develop more advanced skills.
You'll put your knowledge and skills into practice when you write a dissertation on a relevant topic that matters to you.
Please note the Professional Skills Development module runs throughout the full academic year.
- Quantitative Analysis
This module introduces students to powerful and commonly used statistical methods in the social sciences. It assumes no prior statistical knowledge and focuses on the practical research priorities of selecting, conducting and interpreting the most appropriate test with an eye to, rather than an obsession with, the underpinning statistical foundations. The module uses weekly seminar sessions and SPSS practicals to build practical software skills alongside conceptual understanding.15 credits
- Applications of GIS
Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and spatial analysis methods are now widely used in a large variety of professional settings, from urban planning and architecture to health care and social research. This module is therefore focused on helping students understand the potential applications of GIS in helping identify and tackle policy problems in the real world. In addition, we also encourage critical thinking about what GIS cannot do. The module is taught through a combination of case-study-based lectures and seminars and assessed via a 3,000 word written report.15 credits
- Principles of GIS
This module introduces students to the core principles and skills of GIS. It covers the major sources of data used to study the lived environment and the variety of ways it can be displayed to aid both understanding and analysis. The module has a particular focus on techniques used in the analysis of socio-economic and demographic data and its potential applications. It is taught through a combination of lectures and practical workshops using ArcGIS software.15 credits
- Open Source GIS and visualisation
The availability of software, hardware and data for geographical information systems (GIS) has increased rapidly in recent years. The wide array of new open source GIS applications and a proliferation of spatial open data has created exciting new possibilities for research in the field. This module is therefore focused on developing analysis and visualisation skills using open source software (focusing on QGIS) and in data handling and analysis. Students will learn through a combination of computer workshops and lectures and be exposed to the latest developments in the field. Assessment is by means of a spatial data visualisation and analysis project.15 credits
- Professional Skills Development
This module aims to provide a range of supporting skills for home and international students, which will help you get the most out of your learning in Sheffield, and to prepare you for professional employment development at the end of your studies. The module has three elements: 1. Cultures of Learning - understanding how we teach at Sheffield, and how to get the most out of your study 2. Academic English (assessment support). The sessions are particularly relevant to your assessment preparation. 3. Employability Skills - preparing you for careers within planning, design, real estate, global development, GIS and related professional areas.
- Advanced GIS Methods
This unit is aimed at students who already have a good degree of knowledge in ArcGIS. The module aims to develop in students a high degree of competence in relation to advanced spatial analysis, understanding spatial approaches to problem solving, and the theories and precepts which underlie software applications in GIS. The module is taught in a series of inter-related computer workshops focusing on real-world data and problem scenarios. The assessment for this module is based on a multiple choice exam and a 2,000 word advanced methods report.15 credits
- The Professional GIS Project
This is a project-based module which aims to set students a real-world professional geographical information systems (GIS) project for a client using a variety of different spatial datasets and GIS methods. The aim of the module is to prepare students for professional practice in GIS and spatial analysis through a group-work approach which places emphasis on collaboration, team working and objective-setting. This module is taught through a short series of lectures and group seminars. The module is assessed through a combination of an interim report, final report and group presentation.15 credits
Optional modules: students will take two optional modules from this group:
- Environment, Society and Development: Key Issues, Debates and Concepts
This module engages critically with the key theoretical debates that shape the relationships between the environment, society and international development. By looking at current questions in development theory and their relationship to development practice in the context of the Anthropocene and environmental change, it encourages students to think critically about the ways in which interdisciplinary approaches define issues and problems, and the theoretical viewpoints that inform their actions. The module is taught primarily through seminars: these structure students’ learning, and provide an environment in which they can develop their skills in researching, presenting and debating arguments drawn from the academic literature on international development.15 credits
- Managing Climate Change
This module aims to provide students with a strong understanding of the social and physical science of climate change with relevance to international development. This understanding is then applied to consider the challenge of living with climate change in the Global South. The module is taught through seminars and lectures. Lectures introduce and impart factual knowledge while seminars allow discussion and an emphasis on applying key concepts to practical situations. Together these structure students' learning, and provide an environment in which they can develop their skills in researching, presenting and debating arguments drawn from the wide ranging literature on climate change.15 credits
- Spatial Data Science for Social Sciences
This module is designed to provide an introduction to the concepts and methods of 'data science' and, in particular, how they can be utilised in conjunction with spatial data. The module will particularly focus on applications within social sciences and demonstrate how these skills can be applied in urban contexts . The module will introduce students to how programming approaches can be used to tackle problems in data handling, data analysis, and data visualisation. This will be of particular interest to those who wish to develop their technical and analytical skills in a real-world, problem-oriented context and will add in-demand employability skills. It will also appeal to students who wish to understand 'data science' as an approach to investigating the world around us. No prior programming experience is required but students will be expected to have some familiarity with core concepts of coding (e.g variables, operators, assignment, loops and functions) through prior reading.15 credits
- Cities of Diversity
Acknowledging diversity within cities is increasingly regarded as central to successful planning, urban development and city making and is a very hotly debated issue currently, particularly with #MeToo, Brexit and Trump! But what do we mean by diversity and what theories exist to help us understand it? This module will focus on various aspects of diversity in the form of differing social identities (such as age, ethnicity, sexuality, disability and gender – including focusing on masculinity within cities) but also critically explore the ways in which diversity is understood by policy makers and city managers. The module will focus on cities in both the global South and North and consider the significance of migration in relation to diversity in both contexts. The module will rely on a critical engagement with literature from the discipline of geography, planning, urban studies and development studies.15 credits
- Citizen Participation in Planning and Development
Recent decades have seen a proliferation of initiatives to involve citizens in policy-making, planning and urban governance. There is widespread agreement that 'citizen engagement' can play a positive role in democratizing urban development. However, public participation raises a range of significant challenges for urban professional practice. This module will draw on critical debates about the roles citizens and publics can and should play in shaping the city to reflect on the theory and practice of participation. The module is taught through seminars which structure learning, and help students to research case studies of participatory initiatives.15 credits
- Transport Planning
This module will provide students with an introduction to transport planning and policy. The module develops students' ability to think critically about the framing of transport policy using UK transport planning as an example. It will focus on how planners in localities give shape to effective transport strategies, which balance a range of environmental, social and economic objectives.15 credits
- Issues in Housing
The aims of the module are twofold: to build both on substantive knowledge, theory and skills about housing gained in earlier parts of both the UG and PG courses, with an emphasis on policy analysis; and to look more closely at the links between housing and planning (in its widest sense) at the local and regional level.15 credits
- International Real Estate Market Analysis
This module will provide a comprehensive introduction to key concepts and approaches to the analysis of international real estate markets. This module makes a simple operational distinction between mature, emergent and transitional markets as a first step towards a systematic framework for analysis. It gives an introduction to specific real estate markets and the ways in which they function, and offers generalizable conclusions about the wider operation of global real estate markets. Students will develop knowledge and understanding of global political economy as a context for interpreting real estate markets.15 credits
- Urban Informality
The overall aim of this module is to critically examine informality, with a particular but not exclusive focus on cities of the Global South. The module relies on a mixture of lectures, seminars and student-led group work, with the latter focusing on an in-depth case study of a selected city. It explores patterns and causes of informality and discusses the strengths and limitations of a range of theoretical approaches. It also analyses the success of different real-world urban planning responses (understood in broad terms), including government-led, donor-led and community-focused ones, in addressing key urban issues in the context of informality.15 credits
- Planning Law
The course is intended to develop students' expertise in the legal framework for the planning system and to set that legal framework within the wider context of law in the United Kingdom. It considers the origins of planning law and seeks to provide explanations for the powers that the law confers on decision makers. The course focuses particularly on the development control aspects of planning law and looks at the rights and duties of applicants, local authorities and the Secretary of State in making and determining planning applications. It considers the criteria for decision making and the possibilities for the redress of grievance. It considers planning law in the light of wider discussions about human rights and planning gain.15 credits
- Health, Wellbeing and the City
This module explores the urban environment as a determinant of health and well-being and examines how planning and urban design can contribute to improvements in health. Beginning with an exploration of the historic relationship between planning and public health, the module focuses on how the urban environments support or undermine health in relation to mental health, ageing, obesity, air quality and noise pollution. The module also introduces the notion of health impact assessment and further reflects on the contribution of planning to environmental justice and the reduction of inequalities in health.15 credits
- Mega Urban Projects
In many cities nowadays, mega urban projects such as mega events like the Olympic Games or Central Business Districts like Canary Wharf are seen as an effective means to boost the local economy and to promote the city on a global scale. However, many of them often fail to contribute to the local economy whilst having detrimental impacts on local residents and the wider society. This module offers an in-depth understanding of the development processes and outcomes of large-scale urban projects by exploring aspects of why such projects are developed, how they are governed and their socio-economic impacts.15 credits
- GIS Dissertation
This module is a major research project that offers the opportunity for students to develop and manage an individual and [theoretically informed] empirical research project. In the course of this module, students will gain experience in the key stages of undertaking a research project, these include some or all of: identifying a topic; conducting a review of the literature; identifying research questions; selecting methods; designing and conducting a project of research; and presenting the outcome of the project in a logical and coherent written format. They will also develop an appreciation of the issues involved in managing a GIS research project, including experience in sourcing, handling, and processing spatial data in a research context, and will further deepen their knowledge and experience of GIS and spatial analysis skills in a chosen field of study.60 credits
The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption. We are no longer offering unrestricted module choice. If your course included unrestricted modules, your department will provide a list of modules from their own and other subject areas that you can choose from.
An open day gives you the best opportunity to hear first-hand from our current students and staff about our courses. You'll find out what makes us special.
- 1 year full-time
There are lectures, seminars, computer workshops and tutorials.
The course has a strong applied emphasis and draws upon the extensive expertise of teaching staff in the department. This means that in addition to developing strong analytical and technical skills using GIS software, you'll be immersed in the practical applications of GIS software and its potential to solve real world problems.
You’re assessed on your coursework and a dissertation.
Graduates go on to work for organisations such as the Office for National Statistics, Ordnance Survey, ESRI, the civil service and local government.
The employability of our graduates is of paramount importance to us. The development of skills, knowledge and personal attributes that enhance your career underpins our programme design. We have a dedicated Employability Manager, Amy Woolley, to support you. We’ll prepare you for employment after graduation.
We are the top-rated Royal Town Planning Institute accredited planning school in the UK (REF 2021), with an intellectual reputation for theoretical strength, especially in the fields of urban inequalities and social justice. Study with us and become part of a new and exciting group of urban professionals and change makers.
As a student at Sheffield, you'll develop the knowledge and skills to build a successful career in planning and related urban and environmental professions. You'll be taught by world-leading academics whose cutting-edge research feeds directly into the seminar room. You'll learn using the latest technology in our dedicated teaching spaces; visualising complex data through Geographical Information Systems (GIS) software and using virtual and augmented reality to explore how people interact with urban spaces.
You'll be at the heart of a vibrant academic community and will benefit from an excellent staff-student ratio, resulting in a genuinely friendly and inclusive academic environment. Our open-door policy means you can drop in on your lecturers at any time during their office hours, without an appointment. We believe this will help with your wellbeing and encourage your intellectual curiosity.
We work with national governments, international bodies such as the UN, research councils, private business, the voluntary sector, and local communities to shape policy and inspire change in urban environments. Join us to explore the pathways to creating fair, just and sustainable places.
The course was really interesting and engaging. My dissertation was the culmination of all the skills I had learnt, which gave me the confidence I needed to begin my career as a GIS research analyst.
MSc Applied GIS
Minimum 2:1 undergraduate honours degree.
We may also consider your application if you do not meet the standard academic requirements but you have relevant professional experience.
Overall IELTS score of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component, or equivalent.
If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.
Fees and funding
You can apply for postgraduate study using our Postgraduate Online Application Form. It's a quick and easy process.
+44 114 222 6900
Any supervisors and research areas listed are indicative and may change before the start of the course.
Recognition of professional qualifications: from 1 January 2021, in order to have any UK professional qualifications recognised for work in an EU country across a number of regulated and other professions you need to apply to the host country for recognition. Read information from the UK government and the EU Regulated Professions Database.