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Earth Science: An Introduction (Course 1)

Course Times & Enrolment

Tuesdays from 26th September 2023 (Code SN044-113) Tuesdays from
26th September 2023 4:10pm - 6:00pm • (10 classes)
LG49 Paterson's Land, Holyrood Campus • Tutor: Fiona McGibbon BSc PGCert
This course is now closed for enrolments

Course Summary

Geology is a broad subject covering the spectrum of scale, from the whole planet down to a grain of sand and even into the atomic in the ages of rocks and minerals. This course takes us from Earth’s cosmic neighbourhood to the planet’s interior and back up on to its surface via plate tectonics, volcanism, metamorphism and sedimentary processes to develop an understanding of how the Earth works.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

This is an introductory course and presumes no previous scientific or geological knowledge.

Content of Course

1. The Earth’s cosmic neighbourhood - introduction to the universe, solar system, Earth and meteorites.

2. Journey to the centre of the Earth - internal structure and physical properties.

3. Building blocks - rocks and minerals (with some practical work).

4. Plate Tectonics I - development of theory.

5. Plate Tectonics II - essentials of the modern theory (group map exercise).

6. From rock to magma - why the Earth melts - active volcanism.

7. From magma back to rock - igneous processes (with some practical work).

8. Metamorphism - from contact metamorphism to orogeny (with some practical work).

9. Surface processes - an introduction to sedimentary rocks (with some practical work).

10. Sedimentary depositional environments (with some group work).

Teaching method(s)

Each class will combine PowerPoint presentations with some practical work such as map work or examination of geological specimens.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Understand Earth’s relationship to other planets and the universe;

  • Describe the basic structure of the Earth and understand the evidence for it;

  • Distinguish igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks;

  • Understand plate tectonics and plate driving forces;

  • Understand the internal and surface processes of the Earth.


Core Readings


  • Rothery, D.A. (2017) Geology: A complete introduction: Teach Yourself. London, Hodder Education. (Or any earlier edition, including the title Geology - the Key Ideas, any edition of this authors book will do.)


  • Zalasiewicz, J. (2018) Geology: a very short introduction.  Oxford, Oxford University Press

    Molnar, P. (2015) Plate Tectonics: a very short introduction. Oxford, Oxford University Press

    Allaby, M. (2013) A dictionary of Geology and Earth Science. Oxford, Oxford Paperback.

Web Sources

Open University Open Learn hub – search for virtual microscope etc.

British Geological Survey  ~  (click on Discovering Geology)

Global Volcanism Programme – volcanic activity reports ~

US geological survey education pages and earthquake reports ~

Geological Society of London (UK’s national geol. society) ~
(click on links to Education and Careers)

Edinburgh Geological Society ~

Natural History Museum’s online exhibitions and digitised collections ~

Class Handouts

Regular handouts for use during classes will be provided. These will define terms and provide background information and short exercises to support classroom activities.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.