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The University of Southampton

SOES1001 Earth Materials

Module Overview

This module provides you with an overview of the formation, composition and behaviour of the rocks and minerals of the earth's crust. It includes a high level of practical work.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Understand the basic chemical and structural principles of mineralogy
  • Recognise the common igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks and their textures in hand-specimen and under the microscope
  • Know the basic crystal structures and chemical compositions of some of the more important rock-forming minerals
  • Understand fundamental igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic processes and environments
  • Determine the crystal system and, where possible, the crystal class of a mineral on the basis of its external morphology
  • Understand the use of Miller Indices for identifying crystal faces, and recognise the common forms shown by crystals from the different systems
  • Describe the simple physical properties of a mineral; appreciate the variability of those properties, and to use determinative tables
  • Identify some 40 common minerals on the basis of their physical properties without reference to tables
  • Recognise some of the more important igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic minerals and textures in thin-section
  • Describe and identify the common minerals in hand specimen


The first part of the module looks at the compositions of different minerals and the conditions under which they are formed and are stable. The second part of the module is concerned with igneous rocks, which form by cooling of molten rock within the Earth's crust, or more spectacularly after eruption from volcanoes. The third part of the module considers the formation of sedimentary rocks, such as sandstones, limestones and mudstones, by the weathering of pre-existing rocks and deposition of new ones by physical, chemical or biological processes. Finally, metamorphic rocks, with their great diversity of mineral assemblages and textures provide insight into tectonic and thermal processes taking place deep in the Earth's crust, are considered. Considerable emphasis is placed on practical work, which consists of the identification, classification and interpretation of minerals, crystals and rocks in hand specimen and under the microscope.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Formal lectures: Six lectures on Mineralogy will look at the compositions of different minerals and the conditions under which they are formed and are stable. Six lectures on Igneous Petrology will consider the environments and processes that form igneous rocks. This is followed by 4 lectures on Sedimentary Petrology consider the formation of sedimentary rocks, and a further four lectures on metamorphic petrology. There will be review sessions in the final week of the course. Practical Classes: These classes will expand upon the lectures and allow you to develop appropriate practical skills such as describing and identifying common minerals in hand specimen, recognising common igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks in hand specimen and under the microscope, and performing simple crystal chemistry and petrology calculations. A wide range of support can be provided for those students who have further or specific learning and teaching needs.

Independent Study54
Practical classes and workshops72
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Grotzinger, J.P., & Jordan, T.H. Understanding Earth. 

Deer, Howie and Zussman. Introduction to the Rock Forming Minerals. 

Marshak S.. Portrait of a Planet. 

Wenk, H-R, and Bulakh. Minerals: Their Constitution and Origin. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Practical examination  (3 hours) 100%
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