The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre SouthamptonUndergraduate study

SOES6001 Contemporary Topics

Module Overview

This module now exists with a number of pathways that caters for a range of topics: Marine Geology and Geophysics (MSci Geology, MSci Geophysics & MRes Marine Geology & Geophysics students); Marine Biology (MSci Marine Biology students); topics relevant to MSc students studying Marine Science Policy and Law and Oceanography (MSci Oceanography, MRes Ocean Sciences students).

Aims and Objectives


To provide an opportunity for you to be guided into the key literature on a variety of important contemporary topics at the forefront of Earth Science, Oceanography, Marine Biology, Marine Science Policy and Law and Marine Environmental and Resource Management.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the module you should be able to:

  1. synthesise a body of knowledge on a given subject
  2. critically assess the scientific literature on a wide range of topics
  3. make public oral presentations on the findings of current research
  4. write critical syntheses of knowledge for a given subject in a scientifically cogent style

Key Skills Acquired

  • Written skills
  • Presentation skills
  • Scientific research


You will choose three key topics from a list of options in your specialist area (a reading list of seminal papers for these is provided, except for the MSc (MSPL/MER/MRM version).

You will be required to write a critical review and make a short oral presentation on each of your selected topics at weekly or fortnightly seminars.

Much of the learning will be through independent reading. The breadth of subject coverage is intended to broaden and deepen your knowledge of topical issues in your specialist area, as well as to develop scientific writing and presentation skills.

Special Features

Co-ordinators by discipline:

Dr Juerg Matter
Dr Laura Grange
Prof Sybren Drijfhout
Prof John Shepherd
Dr Chris Hauton
Prof Paul Wilson

This module may be available to students on both the final year of four-year undergraduate programmes, and to postgraduate taught master's programmes.

Learning and Teaching

Study time allocation

Contact hours:40
Private study hours:126
Total study time: 166 hours

Teaching and learning methods

Note: Contact hours vary from 24 to 40 hours, depending on the size of the module group.

Seminars will be led by a variety of staff members with expertise in a range of important contemporary topics.

Reading will be guided by staff members, but much of the learning will be through independent reading and study by students who will also give oral presentations at seminar-style classes.

The programme will consist of 12 two-hour seminars.

Supplementary material: Geophysics Seminar, NOCS Seminar programmes and WUN Seminars.

A wide range of support can be provided for those students who have further or specific learning and teaching needs.

Resources and reading list

The lecture material is summarised at Instructions for accessing this material will be given during the course.


Assessment methods

Written reports (70%): Three reports on a topic which you will be expected to review, identify key scientific issues at stake and summarise arguments on both sides. You will be expected to form your own opinion on the matter. Each report should not be more than 5000 words. Tests Learning Outcomes 1, 2 and 4

Oral presentations (30%): Three x 15 minute presentations at seminar style gatherings, on a key-note topic. Tests Learning Outcomes 1, 2 and 3

Linked modules

Pre-requisites and / or co-requisites



Programmes in which this module is compulsory

Restricted to the following programmes:

ProgrammeUCAS CodeProgramme length
MSci GeologyF6014 years
MSci Geology with study abroadF6034 years
MSci GeophysicsF6604 years
MSci Geophysics with study abroad 4 years
MSci Marine BiologyF7034 years
MSci Marine Biology with study abroad4 years
MSci OceanographyF7004 years
MSci Oceanography with FrenchF7R14 years
MSci Oceanography with study abroadF7024 years
MSc Marine Environment and Resources2 years
MSc Marine Resource Management1 years
MSc Marine Science, Policy and Law1 years
MRes Marine Geology and Geophysics1 years
MRes Ocean Science1 years


Costs associated with this course

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Printing and copyingThe University printing costs are currently: A4 - 5p per side (black and white) or 25p per side (colour) A3 - 10p per side (black and white) or 50p per side (colour) Please Note: Paper sizes not recognised by the printing devices will prompt you to select the size and then charge a minimum of 50p per black and white copy and a maximum of £1 per colour copy. You can pay for your printing by using the money loaders or by using print copy payment service by going to Please remember that we are unable to refund any credit that has not been used by the end of your course, so please consider this when topping up your printing/copy account. The University Print Centre also offer a printing and copying service as well as a dissertation/binding service. Current printing and copying costs can be found here. They also provide a large format printing service, e.g. Academic posters. £0.05-1.00

There will also be further costs for the following, not purchasable from the University:

FieldworkAccommodation: For compulsory residential field courses accommodation and travel are normally provided. You are usually expected to cover the costs of food and drink, although some courses may include meals. For optional field courses, you may be asked to make a contribution to the travel and/or accommodation costs.
FieldworkInsurances: Although travel insurance is covered by the University high risk items for example laptops and mobile phones will require separate personal insurance.
FieldworkTravel: For compulsory residential field courses accommodation and travel are normally provided. You are usually expected to cover the costs of food and drink, although some courses may include meals. For optional field courses, you may be asked to make a contribution to the travel and/or accommodation costs.
StationeryA ruler; a pair of compasses; set squares; protractor; pencils (including coloured); eraser; calculator; penknife.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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