Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)


Department: Earth Sciences


Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • GEOL1101 Understanding Earth Sciences and GEOL1061 Mathematical Methods in Geosciences or pass at A Level in Mathematics, grade B or above or the equivalent.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To introduce the main methods of geophysical exploration, including their physical basis and methodology, and demonstrate their importance to the understanding of the geological structure in the Earth.


  • Principles and practice of gravity, magnetic and seismic surveying.
  • Survey design and planning.
  • Analysis and interpretation of field data.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Understand the physical principles and elements of data acquisition and interpretation for these methods.
  • Understand and explain how they are applied to aid the understanding of geological problems at a variety of scales.
  • Will have acquired subject knowledge and understanding of Earth's natural resources and the techniques used to locate and exploit them.
  • Will have acquired subject knowledge and understanding of the role of the geoscientist in society with regard to economic development and sustainability.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Be able to suggest appropriate methods for the exploration of given geological targets.
  • Will have acquired intellectual and practical skills necessary to plan, conduct and report on mix of laboratory and field projects.
  • Will have acquired intellectual and practical skills in order to apply geophysical principles and methodologies to the solution of familiar and unfamiliar problems.
  • Will have acquired intellectual and practical skills to formulate and test concepts and hypotheses.
  • Will have acquired intellectual and practical skills to synthesise information/data from a variety of sources.
  • Will have acquired intellectual and practical skills to analyse, evaluate/interpret geophysical data.
Key Skills:
  • Receive, analyse and critically evaluate data from a variety of information sources.
  • Independently and collectively prepare, process, interpret and present data using appropriate qualitative and quantitative techniques and packages.
  • Solve numerical problems using information technology and other quantitative and qualitative techniques.
  • Develop skills necessary for self-managed lifelong learning (including independent working, time management).
  • Develop an adaptable and flexible approach to study and work.
  • Develop the ability to communicate results in a variety of forms.

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

  • The module is delivered weekly through a three-hour slot configured together to suit the material being taught each week (normally a combination of lecture and practical-style delivery). Teaching and learning is supported by handouts, directed reading and web-based material.
  • The practical exercises form a vital component of the module allowing "hands on" learning and experience of actual geophysical equipment, data and analytical techniques. Examples are set in the international context of Earth processes, and data acquired as part of the globally diverse research undertaken by teaching staff is used to underpin the teaching and assessment. Research experiences of the teaching staff are also embedded in the teaching.
  • Formative assessment of the practical work through which students demonstrate data acquisition, interpretation, reporting and other key skills, in addition to subject-specific knowledge of the geophysical methods upon which the module is based. Feedback is provided during practical sessions, as well as in response to assessments, via DUO and using example model answers as/where appropriate. Key skills training will be embedded in all aspects of the teaching and learning, and assessed via student activities structured to include, for example, completing tasks to deadlines, following instructions and meeting specified criteria. Key and life skills training enhances student employability.
  • Summative assessment comprises an unseen written examination that allows students to demonstrate a grasp of theoretical principles, application of methods and independent learning.
  • Guidance on preparation, key and exam skills is provided.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 20 Weekly 1 Hour 20
Practicals 20 Weekly 2 Hours 40
Preparation and Reading 140
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Three-hour unseen written examination 100%

Formative Assessment:

Simple tests, practical-based problems, self assessment questions and DUO tests are used throughout the course. Example model answers and feedback for each practical session are provided as appropriate.

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