Module M12 - Introduction to GIS for the Purpose of Practicing PGIS

Unit M12U02 - Visualising Spatial Information and Relationships


Maps present an intuitive representation of geographic information in an easily understood manner. Geospatial data presented using Geographical Information Systems (GIS) can effectively communicate spatial phenomena and ideas and can therefore initiate and enhance dialogue. This is partially because human beings are better suited to recognising spatial patterns and relationships visually than by listening or reading about them.

GIS, and mapping in general, attempt to communicate geographic information that may occur at too large a scale or that may be too complex for people to recognise in their immediate environment. Using maps, it becomes possible to start making connections between types of information, or datasets, and the geographic and social environments in which they exist. These representations can be used for a range of purposes, such as understanding geographic phenomena over a wide area, managing infrastructure, analysing population characteristics or determining the suitability of planning objectives. In order to best represent the data, a range of options must be considered for displaying the information.

Unit objectives / expected outcomes

After the completion of the Unit the trainee will be able to:

  • differentiate between raster data and vector data;
  • explain the concept of layers;
  • discuss confidence in data;
  • characterise components of database management;
  • describe map types;
  • describe common map symbols.

Content outline, main topics covered and suggested sequencing

This Unit focuses on the topics listed below:

  1. Visualising Spatial Information and Relationships (PPT No. 1) (90 min)
  2. Exploring Vector, Raster and Attribute Data (Exercise No. 1) (90 or 120 min)

Components of the Unit


Handouts for Trainee (to be distributed in printed format):

Handouts for Trainee (to be distributed in digital format)




3 or 3 ½ hrs, depending on whether or not "Topology" is included in the Exercise

Additional trainer resources

  • Sutton, T., O. Dassau & M. Sutton. A Gentle Introduction to GIS. South Africa: Spatial Information Management Unit, Office of the Premier, Eastern Cape. 2009.

Equipment needed

Beamer, a computer with an Internet connection for the trainer and a computer with an Internet connection for each trainee or for every two or three trainees, depending on local circumstances, QGIS installed on every computer, digital handouts “A Gentle Introduction to GIS” and “QGIS User Guide” for each trainee

Additional downloads