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Tufts OpenCourseware
Author: Barbara Parmenter, Ph.D.

1. Assignment 2 - Project Topic Interests and Spatial Questions (5 points)

Introduction to GIS for Urban and Environmental Analysis

Barbara Parmenter, PhD, Tufts University, 2007

Format : Text or PDF document.

The goal of this assignment is to get you thinking about how the exploration of geographical and spatial relationships can help you to understand issues or answer research questions. GIS is not just about mapping information, it is about exploring the roles played by geography, the environment, and/or spatial relationships in issues of interest to policy-makers, researchers, and community members.  For some issues, geography may be of no relevance, for others it might be a factor, and for some issues it is critical. Often the role of space, geography, and environment is complex and uncertain (e.g., in health). As in any other issue or research project, the questions we ask about geographical/spatial relationships should be based on evidence and a sound theoretical framework

Describe at least two* project topics that you would be interested in pursuing in this course. For each project topic:

  1. Write a brief (1-2 paragraph) summary of the project topic 

  2. List 4 spatial/geographic questions relevant to each topic

  3. Provide 4 references that have helped you to think through this topic and its significant geographic/spatial questions - at this point these do not have to be from peer-reviewed journals, but it will be very helpful for you to review the peer-reviewed literature now or in the near future. Peer reviewed articles will often go into more detail regarding theoretical models, data sources, methods of analysis, results, and limitations than non-peer reviewed articles.

  4. If you know of existing data sources (GIS, tabular, maps, or other) to support the projects, please also list these, and indicate whether you have free access to them.

* Note : If you already have a well-defined research project on which you want to work in the GIS class, you are exempt from the "2 project ideas' requirement. Do all of the above but for item #3, provide additional citations from peer reviewed journals to show that you are well acquainted with the research literature for your topic and the need for spatial analysis.

Good sources for finding literature:

  • Bibliographies of relevant articles (once you find one article, build on its bibliography to find more)

  • The Center for Spatially Integrated Social Sciences has a good GIS-focused literature search feature -

  • Databases of articles (e.g., Expanded Academic ASAP, Web of Knowledge)

  • Web search engines recommended by Tufts Libraries for research ( - see the notes about each search engine; Google Scholar can be very useful, but note that not all articles you find there will be available for free download but you may have access through associated libraries)

  • Electronic journals