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Durham University

Faculty Handbook Archive

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2018-19. The current handbook year is 2019-20
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Department: Earth Sciences

GEOL1101: Understanding Earth Sciences

Type Open Level 1 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2018/19 Module Cap Location Durham
Tied to


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To introduce fundamental subject areas within Earth Sciences, that students will continue in the second year honours programmes: petrology, sedimentology, structural geology and palaeontology.
  • To place Earth processes in the context of the plate tectonic cycle.
  • To use research-led teaching from the beginning of the first year.


  • Four core subjects of approximately half a term each: petrology (igneous and metamorphic), sedimentology, structural geology and palaeontology.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Petrology: understand the principles of melt generation/magmatism and of metamorphic reactions and assemblages. Relationships to chemical cycling and crustal growth.
  • Sedimentology: processes of erosion, sediment transport and deposition. Main sedimentary rock associations. Principles of sedimentology (logging, facies analysis, sequence stratigraphy etc). Relationships to climate, tectonics and evolution.
  • Structural geology and tectonics: main structural features of the continents and oceans and techniques for their analysis. Relationships to plate tectonic cycles and global and regional climate.
  • Palaeontology: understanding fossils and evolution. Relationships to tectonic and climatic drivers.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Familiarity with Earth Science literature and it's format
  • Understanding of Research Methodologies in Earth Sciences, and an appreciation of the specific research foci in Durham Earth Sciences.
Key Skills:
  • Analysis of quantitative and qualitative data sets.
  • Inter-relation of different branches of science.
  • IT (DUO) skills.
  • Writing skills.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lectures. Tutorials. Practical classes to reinforce concepts introduced in lectures.

Teaching Methods and Contact Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 20 1 per week 1 hour 20
Practicals 20 1 per week 2 hours 40
Tutorials 6 3 per term 1 hour 6
Preparation and Reading 134
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
two-hour unseen written examination 100%
Component: Practical Examination Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
three-hour unseen practical examination 100%
Component: Scientific writing exercise Component Weighting: 20%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity

Formative Assessment:

Discussion and feedback at every class meeting. Exercises similar to practical examination questions.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University