Skip down to main content

Foundations of Visualisation

Key Information

Course details
Compulsory foundation course for MSc Social Data Science, Trinity Term
Visualisation, Presentation
Reading list
View now
Professor Min Chen


Information visualisation is a fundamental tool in scientific communication. The last decades have witnessed unprecedented advances in the availability of visualisation tools as well as the availability of data. Students will learn the fundamental principles of perception, symbolisation, and cartography, as well as to develop a basic knowledge of the design practices and tools that can be used to create informative graphics, maps and diagrams using information visualisation tools. This will provide students with a set of skills that will enable them to produce effective visualisations of their data, and thus better represent, support, and communicate their findings. Students will also be introduced to visualisation as a data exploration method useful in the early stages of research to get an overview of data.

This course will be a discussion of the two-way interaction between visualisation and the social sciences: (i) using visualisation technology in social sciences, and (ii) using social science methodologies to facilitate discourses about visualisation.


  1. Overview of information visualisation
  2. Perception and representation, semiotics, and visual salience
  3. Critiques of visualisation and visualisation guidelines
  4. Geographic visualisation
  5. Non-geographic visualisation methods

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the course, students will:

  • Understand and discuss fundamental concepts related to: visual perception, visual representation, cartography
  • Understand advantages and issues of main visualisation methods and guidelines
  • Have basic knowledge of geographic information systems tools
  • Effectively visualise quantitative data