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SOC 4911 Syllabus

Course Syllabus

SOC 4911 - Geographic Information Applications in the Social Sciences

3 Credit Hours

Course Information

Course Description:

This course provides a broad introduction into the world of geographic information systems (GIS) and their applicability to the social sciences – particularly criminal justice.

Course Outcomes:

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Have a theoretical and fundamental understanding of GIS and its utility in the social sciences
  • Be able to utilize the core components and functionality of ArcGIS
  • Be able to describe the types of geospatial data, data sources, and data management techniques
  • Be able to create, manipulate, and query geospatial data
  • Be able to conduct and present the results of a research investigation utilizing geospatial data
Prerequisites & Co-requisites:

Introduction to Sociology - SOCI 1010 or Introduction to Criminal Justice - CRMJ 1010

Course Topics:
  1. Crime Analysis and Theoretical Perspectives used in Crime Analysis
  2. Data Acquisition and Management: Excel (the Basics)
  3. Sources of Data Collection: Primary and Secondary Data Collection
  4. ArcGIS Introduction to Mapping: Exploring ArcMap
  5. ArcGIS Introduction to Mapping: GIS Outputs
  6. ArcGIS Introduction to Mapping: Geodatabases and Spatial Data
  7. ArcGIS Introduction to Mapping: Analysis and Presentation
Specific Course Requirements:


Textbooks, Supplementary Materials, Hardware and Software Requirements

Required Textbooks:

Please visit the Virtual Bookstore to obtain textbook information for this course. Move your cursor over the "Books" link in the navigation bar and select "Textbooks & Course Materials." Select your Program, Term, Department, and Course; then select "Submit."

Supplementary Materials:

Articles provided by the instructor on course website.

Students will need to establish a free Esri public account to access required virtual training (opens in a new window). Please alert the instructor immediately if you have difficulty establishing an account.

Students will need ArcGIS ArcMap, but a trial version should come with the textbook. If not, please alert the instructor immediately.

Hardware and Software Requirements:

Minimum hardware requirements can be found here.

Minimum software requirements can be found here.

Common applications you might need:

Web Resources:

Purdue OWL Online Writing Lab (for APA, MLA, or Chicago style)

The Writing Center Online Writer's Handbook

Student Resources:
  • Technical support information can be found on the TN eCampus Help Desk page.
  • Smarthinking virtual tutoring is available FREE of charge. to access Smarthinking, visit the course homepage and select Smarthinking under Course Resources. You also view sample sessions to see what Smarthinking offers and how it works.
  • Information on other student issues or concerns can be located on the TN eCampus Student Resources page.

Instructor Information

Please see "Instructor Information" in the Getting Started Module for instructor contact information, virtual office hours, and other communication information. You can expect to receive a response from the instructor within 24-48 hours unless notified of extenuating circumstances.

Participation, Assessments, & Grading

Testing Procedures:

This course utilizes randomized quizzes to assess student learning at the end of each topic. During these quizzes, browsers will not be locked down. However, quizzes must be completed by their designated “close” date in order to be considered for points. Quizzes will comprise of fill-in-the-blank, multiple-choice, short essay, and true/false questions.

Grading Procedures:
Grading Scale:
PercentageAssigned Grade
  89.5 - 100%  A
  79.5 - 89.4%  B
  69.5 - 79.4%  C
  59.5 - 69.4%  D
  under 59.4%  F

Graded Items

 7 Discussions @ 10 points each  70 subtotal points
 7 Dropbox Assignments @ 20 points each  140 subtotal points
 1 Research Poster @ 100 points each  100 subtotal points
 7 Quizzes @ 20 points each  140 subtotal points
 Total Points  450 total course points


Assignments and Projects:

During each week, students are expected to discuss the course material over the class discussion board. The instructor will prompt discussion by outlining specific questions students will have to address in their posts. Students are expected to be active participants on discussion boards by arriving early and regularly engaging in conversations. Although the length of each post will vary, posts will typically consist of one to two paragraphs in the initial response and then at least a paragraph in each response. In other words, I am expecting thoughtful engagement especially with responses. Students will not be allowed to see any of their peers’ posts until they post themselves.

Dropbox Assignments
During the semester, students will engage in various active learning exercises that are designed to assist in the application of course material to the everyday world. Details about each particular activity will be discussed in advance of due dates. These activities cannot be turned in late unless a documented emergency occurred. During the first part of the semester (i.e., Modules 1, 2, and 3), assignments will contain mainly written material as students work-up to creating data and digital maps. Then, in the latter part of the semester (i.e., Modules 4, 5, 6, 7), assignments will contain written material and either an Excel file or an ArcGIS file.

Additional Information about Written Assignments
Although the length of each activity will vary, assignments typically consist of one to two pages of written material. Students should utilize single-spacing, a standard font size (10-12), and a standard font type in their assignments (e.g., Arial, Times New Roman). Although the occasional grammatical and spelling mistake will be overlooked, students should be cognizant of their writing and proofread before submission.

Additional Information about ArcGIS and Excel Assignments
Assignments in the later half of the semester will typically consist of a brief write-up of approximately one page and either a digital map created in ArcGIS and/or calculations performed in Excel. Both the write-up and the accompanying filed (i.e., ArcGIS or Excel) will be evaluated for errors and used to determine the final assignment score. It is important that students follow the instructions exactly as they are outlined in each assignment to avoid losing points. For example, if the instructions note to utilize a formula to calculate a value, do not hand calculate the value and insert that into the workbook. In another example, if the instructions note to color states within the U.S. a particular color, then do not deviate from that direction to avoid losing points. The aforementioned may seem like trivial details, but being precise and accurate in map making is critically important to ensure the message portrayed is not misinterpreted by laypersons.

Research Poster and Presentation
Students will be required to utilize their newly acquired map making skills in a research investigation centered on a topic of their choosing. The instructor will guide students through each step of this process - from research topic selection, data collection, data analysis, and data presentation. In order to convey results, students will prepare a research poster that mirrors the material presented at formal conferences in the field using an instructor-provided template. Finally, students will be required to formally present their research in a short video (maximum of three minutes in length) and upload this to the discussion area of this course to share with classmates.

During the semester, seven quizzes will be given including material covered up to that date. This is to ensure that students are reading the required material and assess the overall understanding of topics among the class.

Class Participation:
Late Policy:

Course Ground Rules

The following two statements (1., 2.) were derived from the TBR System-wide Student Rules document, released January 2012:


Read the document in its entirety here.

1. Standards of Conduct:

  • Students are required to adhere to the same professional, legal and ethical standards of conduct online as on campus. In addition, students should conform to generally accepted standards of "netiquette" while sending e-mail, posting comments to the discussion board, and while participating in other means of communicating online. Specifically, students should refrain from inappropriate and/or offensive language, comments and actions.

2. Review the TN eCampus Academic Integrity/Academic Honesty Policy:

  • In their academic activities, students are expected to maintain high standards of honesty and integrity. Academic dishonesty is prohibited.

Such conduct includes, but is not limited to:

  • an attempt by one or more students to use unauthorized information in the taking of an exam
  • to submit as one's own work, themes, reports, drawings, laboratory notes, computer programs, or other products prepared by another person,
  • or to knowingly assist another student in obtaining or using unauthorized materials.

Plagiarism, cheating, and other forms of academic dishonesty are prohibited.

Students guilty of academic misconduct, either directly or indirectly through participation or assistance, are subject to disciplinary action through the regular procedures of the student’s home institution.  Refer to the student handbook provided by your home institution to review the student conduct policy.

In addition to other possible disciplinary sanctions that may be imposed, the instructor has the authority to assign an "F" or zero for an activity or to assign an "F" for the course.

Other Course Rules:

Students are expected to:

  • Participate in all aspects of the course
  • Communicate with other students
  • Learn how to navigate in Brightspace
  • Keep abreast of course announcements
  • Use the assigned course management (Brightspace) email address rather than a personal email address
  • Address technical problems immediately:
  • Observe course netiquette at all times.

Guidelines for Communications


  • Always include a subject line.
  • Remember without facial expressions some comments may be taken the wrong way. Be careful in wording your emails. Use of emoticons might be helpful in some cases.
  • Use standard fonts.
  • Do not send large attachments without permission.
  • Special formatting such as centering, audio messages, tables, html, etc. should be avoided unless necessary to complete an assignment or other communication.
  • Respect the privacy of other class members


  • Review the discussion threads thoroughly before entering the discussion. Be a lurker then a discussant.
  • Try to maintain threads by using the "Reply" button rather starting a new topic.
  • Do not make insulting or inflammatory statements to other members of the discussion group. Be respectful of other’s ideas.
  • Be patient and read the comments of other group members thoroughly before entering your remarks.
  • Be cooperative with group leaders in completing assigned tasks.
  • Be positive and constructive in group discussions.
  • Respond in a thoughtful and timely manner.


The Tennessee Virtual Library is available to all students enrolled in TN eCampus programs and courses. Links to library materials (such as electronic journals, databases, interlibrary loans, digital reserves, dictionaries, encyclopedias, maps, and librarian support) and Internet resources needed by learners to complete online assignments and as background reading will be included within the course modules. To access the Virtual Library, go to the course homepage and select the Virtual Library link under Course Resources.

Students with Disabilities

Qualified students with disabilities will be provided reasonable and necessary academic accommodations if determined eligible by the appropriate disability services staff at their home institution. Prior to granting disability accommodations in this course, the instructor must receive written verification of a student's eligibility for specific accommodations from the disability services staff at the home institution. It is the student's responsibility to initiate contact with their home institution's disability services staff and to follow the established procedures for having the accommodation notice sent to the instructor.

Syllabus Changes

The instructor reserves the right to make changes as necessary to this syllabus. If changes are necessitated during the term of the course, the instructor will immediately notify students of such changes both by individual email communication and posting both notification and nature of change(s) on the course bulletin board.


The information contained in this syllabus is for general information purposes only. While we endeavor to keep this information up-to-date and accurate, there may be some discrepancies between this syllabus and the one found in your online course. The syllabus of record is the one found in your online course. Please make sure you read the syllabus in your course at the beginning of the semester. Questions regarding course content should be directed to your instructor.

Last Revised on December 18, 2017