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2023/24 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

CIVE5160M Geotechnical Investigation and Characterisation

30 creditsClass Size: 40

Module manager: Dr Ana Heitor

Taught: Semesters 1 & 2 (Sep to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24

This module is not approved as an Elective

Module summary

This Module aims to develop student’s ability to characterize the ground for engineering purposes and develop various types of geological and geotechnical models. Students will be able synthesis and evaluate methods used in the field and/or laboratory as part of a site investigation to contribute towards planning and design. They will be able to identify the importance of the laboratory and field aspects to a ground investigation and elucidate how this contributes to a geotechnical project. They will be able to appreciate how their skills could be used in the applied engineering geology, geotechnical and construction environment. The students will develop transferable skills from the laboratory and desk based work, these include interactive and group skills, data recording, communication skills, planning and management, problem solving, research skills, thinking in 3D, and industrial style report writing.


The module is designed over two semesters to introduce and develop the key laboratory, and technical skills required by a practicing geotechnical engineer. The module will aim to develop the students’:

1. ability to develop conceptual geotechnical models in ground engineering in their broadest concept and to demonstrate how such models can be used to guide site investigation for geotechnical design;
2. ability to show how multiple datasets can be combined to provide a model of the ground that can be used to manage ground risk;
3. ability to develop and plan field and laboratory investigations;
4. ability to report results in an effective and concise reporting style;
5. ability to work effectively and safely in a laboratory either independently or a part of a group;
6. understanding of the significance and importance laboratory and field investigations will have on determining the engineering characteristics of the ground for construction;
7. understanding of the distinction between soil, rock-masses and intact rock material properties, as characterised in the field and laboratory.

Learning outcomes
Upon completion of the module students will have:
1. A comprehensive knowledge and understanding of scientific principles and methodology necessary to develop a ground model and select characteristic geotechnical properties for design
2. An ability to apply and integrate knowledge and understanding of geology and engineering geology to support study of the geotechnical characterisation of a site and the ability to evaluate them critically and to apply them effectively.
3. An understanding of engineering principles and the ability to apply them to undertake critical analysis of key engineering processes.
4. An understanding of, and the ability to apply, an integrated or systems approach to solving the geotechnical characteristics of a site.
5. An ability to extract and evaluate pertinent data and to apply engineering analysis techniques in the solution of unfamiliar problems
6. An ability to investigate and define the problem, identifying any constraints including environmental and sustainability limitations; ethical, health, safety, security and risk issues; codes of practice and standards.
7. An ability to work with information that may be incomplete or uncertain, quantify the effect of this on the design and, where appropriate, use theory or experimental research to mitigate deficiencies
8. Knowledge and understanding of risk issues, including health and safety, and environmental risk, risk assessment and risk management techniques
9. An ability to apply relevant practical and laboratory skills.
10. An ability to work with technical uncertainty.
11. An understanding of different roles within an engineering team (which may be as a team member or leader) and the ability to exercise initiative and personal responsibility, which may be as a team member or leader.
12. An ability to monitor and adjust a personal programme of work on an on-going basis

Skills outcomes
An ability to design a ground investigation to produce a ground model
An ability to interpret a ground investigation to produce a ground model
An ability to produce geotechnical design parameters


• The geological model: data sources and guidelines for construction
• Displaying geological data: conceptual models and reference conditions
• Developing ground models from geological models
• Geological processes that modify the ground
• Quaternary climate change and weathering
• Desk study data for geological models: historical maps
• Aerial photography and remote sensing
• Uses of shallow geophysics in ground investigation
• Site investigation practice
• Advancing boreholes and design of site investigations
• Methods of drilling and boring
• In situ monitoring and in situ testing, monitoring groundwater
• Tests for engineering classification and design parameters of soils
• Producing baseline, factual and interpretative reports

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Class tests, exams and assessment12.002.00
Private study hours220.00
Total Contact hours80.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)300.00

Private study

Writing up assessed practical work (formative and summative): Graphical display of geological model– 4 hrs; Site Investigation Design; 30 hrs; Writing up/proof reading laboratory practical group report, each individual; 40 hours; Producing baseline, factual and interpretive reports, 30hrs; Development of characteristic design properties 32hrs.

Reading reference material associated with lectures and revising for exam: 70 hrs

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

• Short, weekly on line tests are used by students to assess their understanding of basic principles which they should be familiar with
• The coursework includes a formative exercise to help students understand what is expected of them
• Workshop style tutorials will be allow debate to take place to assess student knowledge and understanding and provide feedback

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
ReportBaseline and interpretative report including design parameter selection30.00
PracticalLaboratory Test Report20.00
In-course MCQWeekly formative test in-class0.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)50.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Online Time-Limited assessment2 hr 00 mins50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)50.00

Online Time-Linted Assessment type - 48hr Online Assessment - Assessment will held online and open for 48hrs. The noted duration is a recommended duration The window between release of the assessment and submission is 48 hours. Students will have the full 48 hours to complete the assessment though they are expected to only use the recommended duration.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 28/04/2023 14:52:55


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