Book Review: GIS Concepts and ArcGIS Methods, by David M. Theobald, PhD

Perhaps I am showing my age, but it does not seem like that long ago when all we in the geospatial community had to choose from in terms of textbooks were those from early trailblazers such as Burroughs and Aronoff. Today, good, quality textbooks abound in general texts and also those focused on specific applications of GIS such as in health and crime analysis. In such a world, why does Dr. David Theobald’s book GIS Concepts and ArcGIS Methods merit attention?

GIS Concepts and ArcGIS Methods by David M. Theobald, PhD

GIS Concepts and ArcGIS Methods by David M. Theobald, PhD

As every technical textbook author knows, there is a fine line between providing information about a rapidly changing and complex system, such as GIS, and making that information understandable by the reader. Theobald’s book does both. In the first few pages, for example, there are real-life examples of how GIS can be used to study aspen groves that help the readers to clearly understand what GIS is all about, and these examples encourage the readers to think about the way that they will use GIS in their own career paths. Theobald explains why a person should choose a particular method or technique, in addition to how to do it. Throughout the book, Theobald takes the Why should I care? view seriously: the technology is presented as something transformative—as a decision-making tool that enables better decision making.

This book is in its fifth edition. Theobald has been refining this book for many years, and his close attention to detail shows. And yes, he includes fundamental discussions about data models, data types, data sources, projections, cartography, and the basics of analysis, which every respectable book on GIS should include. This book is not merely an update of something he wrote 15 years ago but embraces new technologies such as animation and 3D methods. The book provides some foundational underpinnings for people to learn about GIS but also has a strong applied focus to it: using the book will enable the reader to effectively use ArcGIS software. While I would have liked to see something about web-based GIS in the book, the book does remain true to its focus on enabling the readers to understand what GIS is and how to use ArcGIS 10 and to think about what they are doing while using GIS and ArcGIS software in particular. The quizzes are perhaps too brief, but they are to the point and useful for instructors or for those learning on their own. Graphics include tables; photographs; and, of course, maps, and all are well placed and informative.

This edition is digital only, in iBook and PDF formats, which is wonderful for student access, price, and ability to search. A companion book, GIS Concepts and ArcGIS Methods: Advanced, as its name implies, takes the reader to advanced analysis, modeling, raster-based analysis, and Python script programming.

Published by Conservation Planning Technologies, Fort Collins, Colorado, 2012.
Available from
ISBN 0-9679208-7-6

Joseph Kerski

About Joseph Kerski

Joseph Kerski is a geographer who believes that spatial analysis through digital mapping can transform education and society through better decision-making using the geographic perspective. He serves on the Esri education team and is active in GIS communication and outreach, creates GIS-based curriculum, conducts research in the effectiveness of GIS in education, teaches online and face-to-face courses on spatial thinking and analysis, and fosters partnerships to support GIS in formal and informal education at all levels, internationally. He is the co-author of Spatial Mathematics, The Essentials of the Environment, The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data, and other books. Follow him on Twitter @josephkerski
This entry was posted in Education and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply