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

Unit M12U03 - Basic Functions of Geographical Information Systems


This Unit explores some basic functions of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and analytical operations and familiarises practitioners with several ways that these tools might be used in a participatory mapping project. By understanding the kinds of functions and analyses that can be accomplished with GIS, practitioners and community members are better prepared to decide about how to employ the tools. While GIS can perform many different, and sometimes complex, functions, this Unit introduces a small number of GIS operations that are likely useful for community mapping.

Unit objectives / expected outcomes

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

  • execute various operations for creating and editing map layers, including scanning, digitising, selecting coordinate systems and map projections, applying georeferencing, assigning attributes, labelling features and editing data layers;
  • carry out queries;
  • conduct spatial analyses;
  • describe the use of GPS for GIS.

Content outline, main topics covered and suggested sequencing

This Unit focuses on the topics listed below:

  1. Basic Functions of Geographical Information Systems (PPT No. 1) (90 min)
  2. Conducting Spatial Analyses (Exercise No. 1) (90 min)

Components of the Unit


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

Handouts for Trainee (to be distributed in digital format)




3 hours

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, digital handouts “A Gentle Introduction to GIS” and the “QGIS User Guide” for each trainee. QGIS software must be installed on each computer.

Additional downloads