Introduction to Spatial Data and Geographic Information Systems

Time: 10.00 - 16.30

Venue: Room F37, Sackville Street Building, University of Manchester, M1 3WE

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Spatial data is everywhere, from the point location of an event to census counts across counties, from satellite data of the whole earth to centimetre-scale laser-scans. For the last fifty years GIS has been defining and refining its techniques for storing, manipulating, and presenting spatial data.

This workshop will take you from the fundamentals of mapped data up to the point where you can understand and perform complex geographic information systems (GIS) operations.

We will be using QGIS, the leading Open Source GIS, together with tools from its ecosystem of open-source add-on contributions. However most of the principles will be relevant to any geographic data analysis, in whatever software you may be using.

Our learning objectives include:

  • Recognising spatial data formats
  • Understanding coordinate systems and transformations
  • Loading data into QGIS
  • How to choose an appropriate cartographic representation


Attendees must bring a laptop with QGIS installed. This can be downloaded from and runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux. Full installation instructions and help are available on the QGIS web site. The Android version is experimental and not suitable for this workshop.

Feel free to bring your own data. If you have location data you want to map then the instructor will try and show you how to read it in and display it.

Note that working on a laptop trackpad can be awkward when using a graphically intensive application like QGIS, it is strongly recommended that a USB mouse is used during the training.

This training is free to those working or studying at one of N8 Research Partnership universities.