The University of Newcastle, Australia
Available in 2020

Course handbook


GEOS4420 is a largely self-directed course that provides students in the Earth Science Honours program with skills in critically reviewing the Earth Sciences literature. The specific areas of Earth Science that are covered by each student relate to two topic areas: one which forms the basis of their Honours thesis, and a second that forms the basis of their Coursework Essay and Seminar.

In the process of working through their Honours thesis proposal (see GEOS4410), students will consult the literature that relates to the specific research problem that their thesis addresses. This allows them to focus on the background to their research problem and how earth scientists have approached the problem in the past. This process also provides students with valuable insights into which field or laboratory methods are most appropriate. Students will appreciate how their research results can plug existing gaps in knowledge.

In the case of the Coursework Essay, students have the opportunity to hone their literature review skills. Here, they choose a topic in the earth sciences (not directly related to their thesis) where there exists more than one viewpoint. They trace the development of ideas about the topic, and critically evaluate these viewpoints. Based on this critical evaluation, students must then assess which viewpoint(s) they "support", if any, and, importantly, why they favour one over others. The choice of topic is discussed with the Earth Sciences Honours coordinator before being approved. This is written up as an essay. Following feedback from essay examiners, a student presents an oral version of their coursework topic.

Availability2020 Course Timetables


  • Semester 1 - 2020
  • Semester 2 - 2020

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the course students will be able to:

1. Experience in searching and critically reviewing the literature in two major topic areas.

2. Gained fundamental insights into how earth science knowledge is conveyed

3. Developed skills in critically evaluating scientific debates.

4. Extensive experience in using electronic databases

5. Valuable experience in critical oral and written presentation.


  1. Discussion of coursework essay options with the coordinator
  2. One Earth Science workshop on the practical aspects of conducting literature reviews, electronic databases, interlibrary loans, previous theses.
  3. Submission of coursework essay for review by two examiners.
  4. Preparation of coursework seminar for critical review by Discipline staff.

Assumed knowledge

A major in Earth Sciences or Environmental Science and Management with a credit average at 3000 level.

Assessment items

Presentation: Literature review Essays/Written Assignments Presentations Individual ¿ Coursework Essay seminar

Compulsory Requirements

In order to pass this course, each student must complete ALL of the following compulsory requirements:

General Course Requirements:

  • Workshop: Induction Requirement - Students must attend and pass the induction requirements before attending these sessions. - In order to participate in this course students must complete a compulsory safety induction.

Contact hours


Self-Directed Learning

Self-Directed 18 hour(s) per Week for Full Term


Face to Face On Campus 1 hour(s) per Week for Full Term


Face to Face On Campus 2 hour(s) per Week for 1 Weeks