MSc Petroleum Geoscience

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Communication Skills and Fieldwork

Course unit fact file
Unit code EART60230
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Communication Skills:

This component prepares students for the academic rigours of completing the MSc Petroleum Geoscience program. The course also aims to build technical and transferable skills that can be applied to the job application process. We will look at the methods of communicating scientific and technical material via written material, posters and aural presentation. We will critique existing presentations to assess good and bad practice. Set assessments aim to reinforce good writing and oral presentation skills.   

The business workplace consists of people of varied backgrounds, experience and technical abilities. Business Skills provides practical instruction on innovation, creativity, project management and negotiation in order to get the best out of team working experiences at Manchester and subsequent careers. Assessment aims to improve presentation skills while enhancing group working abilities.



Three field trips build on the concepts taught throughout MSc Petroleum Geoscience. Assessment of each trip focusses on field skills, using a series of exercises to develop these core skills.

1 Day: Castleton, Peak District, England. Introductory field trip to a classic north of England locality. We cover the basics of siliciclastic and carbonate rock description, determination of characteristics such as porosity and permeability and the interpretation of depositional processes and environments.

5 days: North Yorkshire coast, England. We investigate the fill of the Cleveland Basin, studying the processes controlling the development of sedimentary successions and applying findings to the analysis of this major onshore petroleum system. The trip provides an appreciation of the controls basin development and history, local tectonics, eustasy, and burial history have on the distribution, quality and maturation of source and reservoir rocks.

The final 5 day field trip will go to either Morocco, Mallorca or Ireland.


Morocco:  The trip examines a continuous succession of Mesozoic fill of the Central Atlantic margin. Starting in Precambrian basement and sediment source areas we investigate Triassic continental syn-rift deposits, overlain by extensive post-rift Jurassic carbonates and Cretaceous shallow marine deposits.

Mallorca:  The focus is on carbonate platforms and reefal systems, exquisitely exposed in the Cap Blanc section. Lagoonal facies and reservoir characteristics are studied at the Cala Pi section. The broader facies architecture and high resolution sequence stratigraphy of Llucmajor Platform Miocene Oolitic Belt facies is examined from a distance by boat, and the relevance to exploration discussed in evening lectures. The field course also examines examples of karstic collapse; pleistocene eolianites and PermoTriassic red bed fluvio-aeolian sediments.

Western Ireland:  World class sites in County Clare superbly expose a continuous record of the filling of the Clare basin from deep-water basin floor fans, slope deposits and deltaic/ shallow marine siliciclastics. The trip develops an understanding of depositional environments, petroleum systems, reservoir characterisation and source rocks. Undertake a series of exercises in the field to develop core skills.

This course unit detail provides the framework for delivery in 20/21 and may be subject to change due to any additional Covid-19 impact.  Please see Blackboard / course unit related emails for any further updates.



Understanding of geology to undergraduate level is expected for the fieldwork component of the course. 


Communication Skills

The course aims to equip students with the skills to communicate scientific information, knowledge and ideas to expert and non-expert audiences.  We will critically evaluate the content, format and structure of written documents and oral presentations; understand the referencing of texts while being aware of plagiarism. We also look at the subtleties of business communication and how to professionally contribute in the work environment. We look at team work, covering leadership skills, negotiation and project management; the management of time and effective working to enable students to contribute and perform in  group and individual assignments.



Geological outcrops provide analogues of petroleum systems.  Through fieldwork we aim to assess the controls structure, sequence stratigraphy and depositional environments have on the stratigraphic record. By examining sedimentary rocks we can evaluate how the same controls affect potential source rocks, reservoirs, seals and geological structures. Fieldwork reinforces skills in three-dimensional thinking and visualisation and it provides an appreciation of the problems of "scaling up" geological observations to the subsurface models employed by reservoir engineers.  During the course we visit the Peak District for 1 day and the North Yorkshire coast for an integrated 5 day trip. The final trip allows students to apply their acquired skills to a 1 week long trip to either Morocco, County Clare (Eire), or Mallorca.  

Learning outcomes

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

  • Understand the role of scientists and engineers as effective communicators;
  • Design and produce professional quality written documents and oral presentations which include communicating scientific information, knowledge and ideas to expert and non-expert audiences;
  • Evaluate critically the content, format and structure of written documents and oral presentations;
  • Plan scientific and technical projects in both group and individual contexts;
  • Use business communication skills to contribute significantly towards shared professional performance
  • Analyse sedimentary rocks in the field to evaluate sedimentary process and depositional environments
  • Evaluate the role of structural, sea level and sedimentary controls on the fill of a basin in the context of sequence stratigraphy
  • Appraise the contribution of structural and sedimentary process on the spatial and temporal distributions of petroleum source rocks and reservoirs
  • Appreciate safe geological practices in all aspects of geological fieldwork.

Teaching and learning methods

Communication Skills uses energy industry datasets and principals to teach the technical and soft skills necessary to communicate concepts and in the academic or business environment.



[1] CV and careers:  A careers workshop examines the language and methods used to market yourself in a CV / cover letter to increase chances of success. Session continues with a look at the energy job application process. 

[2] Essay and report writing: Examination of what is expected in the formatting and formulation of MSc level written work, including the treatment of data, it’s analysis and interpretation. The evaluation and critique of literature is discussed, along with correct methods of referencing. Academic malpractice is described and good practice for avoidance is explained. Component is assessed with a short essay. 

[3] Oral presenting: Best practice in assembling and presenting an oral presentation. Assessment is by a group exercise investigating the merger or acquisition of an energy company. This exercise focusses on the valuation of companies in terms of assets, resources and revenue providing insight into the economics of the energy industry.

[4] Data manipulation and presentation:  The best practises of processing and presenting data and the construction and critique of poster presentations. Experience of industry dataset manipulation and plotting is provided using Microsoft Excel.

[5] Business Skills: Communication in the workplace, including innovation, creativity, project management and negotiation.

[6] Fieldwork: over 3 separate trips we build on the field description and interpretation of sedimentary successions. We discuss how knowledge gained at outcrop may be used for better understanding of risk and uncertainty in the subsurface.


Assessment methods

Mock job application, 3 sides of A4 (0%)

Essay, 1500 words (10%)

Oral (group), 15 mins (10%)

Assignment (field exercise) (20%)

Oral (group), 15 mins (20%)

Assignment (field exercise) (40%)

Feedback methods

Mock job application, 3 sides of A4 - Individual feedback on applications via Blackboard

Essay, 1500 words - Individual feedback on essays via Blackboard

Oral (group), 15 mins - Group feedback uploaded to Blackboard within a few days of talk.

Assignment (field exercise) - Written individual feedback on field exercises next day.  Synthesis exercise feedback provided within 14 days. 

Oral (group), 15 mins - Group feedback uploaded to Blackboard within a few days of talk.

Assignment (field exercise) - Written individual feedback on field exercises next day. Synthesis exercise feedback provided within 14 days.

Recommended reading

Journal articles will be recommended in class.


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Fieldwork 77
Lectures 8
Practical classes & workshops 9
Seminars 4
Independent study hours
Independent study 52

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Rufus Brunt Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Lectures; 8 hours

Workshops: 9 hours

Field teaching: 11 days – broken down  into: Castleton 1 day; N. Yorks coast 5 days; Easter field class 5 days

Student led presentation sessions: 4 hours

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