Course Descriptions & Syllabi

Course Descriptions & Syllabi

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Areas of Study | | PHYS114 syllabus

COURSE TITLE:Physical Geology
IAI CODE(S): P1 907L

An introduction to basic geologic principles from a physical perspective. Includes coverage of minerals and rocks, Earth’s surface processes and landform development, and Earth’s internal processes. Designed for non-science majors and recommended for education majors.

Place into ENGL101 and MATH108.

NOTES: A lab is required for this course. Some sections will require a separate lab, while other sections will include the lab.


The objective of this course is to introduce the student to physical geology, that is, to the division of geology concerned with Earth materials, changes in the surface and interior of Earth, and the dynamic forces that cause those changes, or putting it another way, the division of geology concerned with how the Earth works.

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:
  • understand how Earth supplies energy resources and raw materials we need
  • how we can lessen or prevent damage to the environment from extraction of geologic resources
  • how geologic hazards arise and can be avoided
  • better able to appreciate what he or she sees in the surrounding world and how geology relates to his or her own life

  • Introducing Geology, the Essentials of Plate Tectonics, and Other Important Concepts (Text Chapter 1) (4%)
  • Atoms, Elements, and Minerals (Text Chapter 2) (4%):
    • minerals
    • atoms and elements
    • mineral structures and compositions
    • physical properties of minerals
    • mineral formation
  • Igneous Rocks, Intrusive Activity, and the Origin of Igneous Rocks (Text Chapter 3) (4%):
    • the rock cycle
    • igneous rock texture and chemistry
    • intrusive bodies
    • magma formation and composition
    • igneous activity and plate tectonics
  • Volcanism and Extrusive Rocks (Text Chapter 4) (4%):
    • living with volcanoes
    • extrusive rocks and gases
    • types of volcanoes
    • lava floods
    • submarine eruptions
  • Weathering and Soil (Text Chapter 5) (4%):
    • weathering and Earth systems effects of weathering
    • mechanical and chemical weathering
    • soil
  • Sediment and Sedimentary Rocks (Text Chapter 6) (4%):
    • sediment
    • detrital, chemical, and organic sedimentary rocks
    • sedimentary structures
    • fossil formations
    • interpretation of sedimentary rocks
  • Metamorphism, Metamorphic Rocks, and Hydrothermal Rocks (Text Chapter 7) (4%):
    • controlling factors
    • classification
    • types of metamorphism
    • plate tectonics and metamorphism
    • hydrothermal processes
  • Time and Geology (Text Chapter 8) (5%):
    • uniformitarianism
    • relative time
    • numerical age
    • age of Earth
  • Mass Wasting (Text Chapter 9) (4%):
    • classification
    • controlling factors
    • common types
    • underwater landslides
    • preventing landslides
  • Streams and Floods (Text Chapter 10) (5%):
    • running water
    • drainage basins and patterns
    • stream erosion
    • stream transport of sediment
    • stream deposition
    • flooding
    • valley development
    • terraces and meanders
  • Ground Water (Text Chapter 11) (4%):
    • porosity and permeability the water table
    • movement of ground water, aquifers, wells, springs and streams
    • contamination
    • balancing withdrawal and recharge
    • effects of ground water action
    • hot water underground
  • Glaciers and Glaciation (Text Chapter 12) (4%):
    • distribution, types, formation, growth, and movement of glaciers
    • glacial erosion and deposition
    • effects of past glaciation
  • Deserts and Wind Action (Text Chapter 13) (4%):
    • distribution and characteristics of deserts
    • desert features of the Southwestern U.S.
    • wind erosion and transportation
    • wind deposition
  • Waves, Beaches and Coasts (Text Chapter 14) (4%):
    • water waves
    • near-shore circulation
    • beaches
    • longshore drift
    • coasts and coastal features
  • Geologic Structures (Text Chapter 15) (4%):
    • tectonic forces
    • geologic maps
    • folds
    • fractures
  • Earthquakes (Text Chapter 16) (4%):
    • causes
    • seismic waves
    • locating and measuring earthquakes
    • effects
    • distribution
    • first-motion studies
    • earthquakes and plate tectonics
    • prediction and seismic risk
  • Earth’s Interior and Geophysical Properties (Text Chapter 17) (5%):
    • evidence from seismic waves Earth’s internal structure
    • isostacy
    • gravity measurements
    • Earth’s magnetic field
    • heat within Earth
  • The Sea Floor (Text Chapter 18) (7%):
    • methods of studying the sea floor
    • continental shelves and slopes
    • submarine canyons
    • passive and active continental margins
    • mid-oceanic ridges
    • fracture zones
    • seamounts
    • guyots
    • seismic ridges
    • reefs
    • sediments
    • oceanic crust
    • age of the sea floor the sea floor and plate tectonics
  • Plate Tectonics (Text Chapter 19) (9%):
    • continental drift
    • sea-floor spreading
    • plates and plate motion
    • plate boundaries
    • plate size
    • causes of plate motion
    • causes of plate motions
  • Mountain Belts and the Continental Crust (Text Chapter 20) (4%):
    • characteristics of major mountain belts
    • evolution of a mountain belt
    • growth of continents
  • Geologic Resources (Text Chapter 21) (5%):
    • energy resources
    • metallic resources
    • mining
    • nonmetallic resources
    • the human perspective
  • The Earth’s Companions (Text Chapter 22) (4%):
    • Earth in space
    • origin of the planets
    • portraits of the planets
    • minor objects of the Solar System
    • giant impacts
  • Minerals and Ores (Exercise 1):
    • describing the mineral physical properties color, streak, and luster, with emphasis on minerals containing valuable metals such as iron, copper and zinc
    • finding density of mineral specimens by determining mass with a lab balance and volume with water in a graduated cylinder
  • Silicates, Carbonates, and Similar Minerals (Exercise 2):
    • describing the mineral physical properties hardness, color, fracture, cleavage, and crystal shape, with emphasis on minerals containing silica and carbonate
    • finding density of a block of wood by determining mass with a lab balance and volume by direct measurement of length, width, and height
  • Precise Density of Rocks and Minerals (Exercise 3):
    • measuring density of a variety of mineral specimens by the method devised by Archimedes
    • identifying unknown mineral specimens by density measurement using this method
  • Rock Identification and Classification (Exercise 4):
    • describing igneous rock specimens on the basis of their mineral content and texture
    • describing clastic, chemical, and organic sedimentary rock specimens and metamorphic rock specimens on the basis of their tone, color and unusual features
    • examining diagrams of Devils’ Tower, Wyoming, and a cyclotherm in Illinois
  • Rocks in Thin Section; Polarized Light; Special Features in Rocks (Exercise 5):
    • examining rock thin sections under a polarizing microscope and preparing sketches of them
    • describing selected special features of some igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rock specimens
    • describing selected features of a variety of different types of sand
  • Plate Tectonics and the Ocean Floor (Exercise 6):
    • labeling various sea floor features on diagrams in the lab manual
    • using maps of the sea floor in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans to answer questions about sea floor features
    • calculating water pressures at various depths
    • using a world globe to answer questions about oceans, seas, bays and straits
  • Fossils (Exercise 7):
    • Exercise not included in course at present
  • Topographic Maps (Exercise 8):
    • giving township and range designations of various features on the Oakwood and Georgetown topographic maps
    • working with map scale and measuring distances between points on the Danville SW topographic map
    • finding elevations of various features on the Danville SE topographic map
  • Map Interpretation; Stereo Photographs (Exercise 9):
    • using stereo glasses to view aerial stereo photographs to analyze various landform features
    • using topographic maps to answer questions about contour interval, elevation, vertical relief
    • magnetic declination, river gradient, and various map symbols
  • Topographic Profiles; Geologic Features on Maps (Exercise 10):
    • making topographic profiles from contour lines on topographic maps
    • using topographic maps of the Danville area to answer questions about streams
    • answering questions about the geologic column for Vermilion County
  • Faults and Earthquakes (Exercise 11):
    • identifying relative movements of the two sides of reverse, thrust, normal, and strike-slip faults
    • locating an earthquake epicenter using three seismograms, an earthquake wave time-distance graph, and the "three circle" method
    • labeling features on a diagram of the interior of Earth
    • what to do during an earthquake
  • Cycle of Erosion; Map Interpretation (Exercise 12):
    • interpreting features on topographic maps and aerial stereo photographs that indicate stage of the cycle of erosion
  • Structural Geology (Exercise 13):
    • determining strike and dip of rock formations from information provided on diagrams
    • identifying faults shown in diagrams as normal, reverse, or thrust
    • interpreting geological maps of the Grand Canyon, AZ, Devil’s Fence Quadrangle, MT, and the State of Illinois
  • Geology of the Moon and Mars (Exercise 14):
    • identifying and measuring various features shown on a chart of the Moon and answering questions about information on the chart
    • identifying and measuring various features shown on a chart of Mars and answering questions about information on the chart
  • Glacial Geology on Maps (Exercise 15):
    • identifying various continental glacial features shown on topographic maps of the Danville area
    • identifying various glacial geologic features in aerial stereo photographs
    • identifying various alpine glacial features shown on a topographic map of Mt. Everest


Physical Geology, Twelfth Edition, by C.C. Plummer and D. H. Carlson, McGraw-Hill, 2008.
Physical Geology: PHYS 114, a laboratory manual by C. G. Davis, revised by J. W. Tanner, 2006.

See bookstore website for current book(s) at


The course consists of both classroom and laboratory activities. The primary classroom activities are help with homework exercises and oral recitation, during which students take turns providing answers to previously distributed study questions on material in the course textbook. The course’s laboratory activities give the student some "hands-on" exposure to geology through a series of exercises related to topics covered in the classroom.

The student’s progress and achievement in the course are measured through a comprehensive final examination, written laboratory reports, homework exercises, and success rate at answering study questions during recitation periods.

The weighting of the various course evaluation measures is
Laboratory Exercises
Homework Exercises
Classroom Recitation
Final Exam

The course grading scale is
A= 90-100
B= 80-89
C= 70-79
D= 60-69
F= Below 60%


Membership in the DACC community brings both rights and responsibility. As a student at DACC, you are expected to exhibit conduct compatible with the educational mission of the College. Academic dishonesty, including but not limited to, cheating and plagiarism, is not tolerated. A DACC student is also required to abide by the acceptable use policies of copyright and peer-to-peer file sharing. It is the student’s responsibility to become familiar with and adhere to the Student Code of Conduct as contained in the DACC Student Handbook. The Student Handbook is available in the Information Office in Vermilion Hall and online at:

Any student who feels s/he may need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact the Testing & Academic Services Center at 217-443-8708 (TTY 217-443-8701) or stop by Cannon Hall Room 103. Please speak with your instructor privately to discuss your specific accommodation needs in this course.

Spring 2019

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