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CIVL9410: Soil Mechanics (2020 - Semester 2)

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Unit: CIVL9410: Soil Mechanics (6 CP)
Mode: Normal-Day
On Offer: Yes
Level: Postgraduate
Faculty/School: Civil Engineering
Unit Coordinator/s: Prof Airey, David
Dr Miao, Guien
Session options: Semester 2
Versions for this Unit:
Campus: Camperdown/Darlington
Pre-Requisites: None.
Brief Handbook Description: This course provides an elementary introduction to Geotechnical Engineering, and provides the basic mechanics necessary for the detailed study of Geotechnical Engineering. This course aims to provide an understanding of: the nature of soils as engineering materials; common soil classification schemes; the importance of water in the soil and the effects of water movement; methods of predicting soil settlements, the stress-strain-strength response of soils, and earth pressures.
Assumed Knowledge: CIVL9201. An understanding of simple statics, equilibrium, forces and bending moments, and of stress and strain and the relationship between them (CIVL9802 and CIVL9201). Familiarity with the use of spreadsheets (Excel, Mathcad) to obtain solutions to engineering problems, and with the graphical presentation of this data, and familiarity with word processing packages for report presentation. Familiarity with partial differential equations, and their analytical and numerical solution.
Additional Notes: This UoS is only available to students in the MPE degree who do not have a Civil Engineering background.
Lecturer/s: Dr Miao, Guien
Timetable: CIVL9410 Timetable
Time Commitment:
# Activity Name Hours per Week Sessions per Week Weeks per Semester
1 Independent Study 4.00 13
2 Laboratory 2.00 1 5
3 Lecture 3.00 2 13
4 Tutorial 1.00 1 12
T&L Activities: Lectures: Mon 9–10 a.m.

Lecture Tutorials: Friday 9–11 a.m.

Tutorials and Laboratories as scheduled.

Learning outcomes are the key abilities and knowledge that will be assessed in this unit. They are listed according to the course goal supported by each. See Assessment Tab for details how each outcome is assessed.

Unassigned Outcomes
1. Give an engineering classification of any piece of soil, and on this basis predict how it will perform as an engineering material
2. Calculate the settlements, and rates of settlement, under structures of various shapes and sizes
3. Explain the advantages and limitations of the different methods of settlement calculation
4. Determine the strength parameters appropriate to a range of stability problems, and understand the difference between total and effective stress approaches
5. Evaluate strength parameters from laboratory data
6. Understand the principle of effective stress, and be able to apply this to calculate the stresses causing soil deformation
7. Calculate quantities of water flowing through the ground, and understand the effects that water flow has on the soil
8. Develop and use a spreadsheet to analyse a geotechnical design problem
9. Analysis and reporting the results of a laboratory experiment at a professional standard
10. Write a report providing a full analysis of the spreadsheet results
Assessment Methods:
# Name Group Weight Due Week Outcomes
1 Computing Assignment, Threshold Concepts Quiz* No 0.00 Week 11 2, 8,
2 Computing Assignment, Part I Yes 15.00 Week 10 2, 8,
3 Computing Assignment, Part II No 15.00 Week 11 2, 8, 10,
4 Pre-Lab Quiz No 2.00 Multiple Weeks 1, 2, 4, 6, 7,
5 Lab Report No 8.00 Multiple Weeks 9,
6 Quiz* No 10.00 Multiple Weeks 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7,
7 Final Exam No 50.00 Exam Period 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7,
Assessment Description: * indicates an assessment task which must be repeated if a student misses it due to special consideration


Quiz: In-class exercises are used to assess the student understanding of key concepts each week. Best 10 out of 12 will be taken.

Pre-lab Quizzes: Pre-laboratory online material is to be read before the sessions and each laboratory is preceded by an online quiz.

Lab Report: Students submit one lab report on one out of their 5 sessions, one week after the session. Lab reports will address student development in their presentation and analysis skills. Students are expected to present a professional documentation of their experiments and analysis associated with the concepts learned within this UoS.

Computing Assignment: Computing assignment is designed to reinforce theoretical concepts and develop the students` skills in the use of Excel. Assignment has 2 parts. Part I is to develop a spreadsheet to solve a design problem. Part II is to write a report describing the outcomes of the design exercise. A brief threshold concepts quiz will cover the skills and knowledge required to complete this assignment.

Final Exam: The examination at the end of the semester will measure students’ understanding of the concepts covered during the semester within this UoS. Weighted 60% for repeating students who are exempt from laboratories


A mark of more than 45% in the exam is required to pass the course. If your exam mark is less than 45% the highest mark you can achieve in this unit of study will be 48% irrespective of any marks obtained in other components of assessment.

Attendance of all 5 laboratory sessions is required to pass the course. Failure to attend the scheduled laboratory session without prior permission or a valid reason will result in a deduction of 50% of the lab report mark. Students who will miss/have missed a laboratory session must contact the Unit of Study Coordinators. If you have not completed all 5 laboratory, the highest mark you can achieve in this unit of study will be 48% irrespective of any marks obtained in other components of assessment.

Computing Assignment, Part I, will require you to review your performance and that of your team members using SPARKPLUS. Marks will be adjusted based on these reviews.

Students must achieve at least 90% on a brief quiz on threshold concepts covered by the Computing Assignment to pass the unit overall. An additional opportunity to complete this requirement will be available in Week 14 (StuVac). If not completed satisfactorily, the highest mark you can achieve in this unit of study will be 48% irrespective of any marks obtained in other components of assessment.

There may be statistically and educationally defensible methods used when combining the marks from each component to ensure consistency of marking between markers, and alignment of final grades with unit outcomes and grade descriptors.


University policy for late submissions is: 5% per day for 10 calendar days, after which a mark of zero will be applied. Requests for special consideration should be made on the appropriate form available online.


Special consideration for the assessments will be applied as follows:

Quiz: Special consideration arrangements are to be determined by the UoS Coordinators. (Best 10 out of 12 marks taken, so special consideration is not needed unless more than 2 quizzes are missed).

Lab Report: Extension of time.

Computing Assignment (Part I): As this is a group-based assessment, special consideration arrangements are to be determined by the UoS Coordinators.

Computing Assignment (Part II): Extension of time.

Computing Assignment (Threshold Concepts Quiz): Alternative assessment to be held during Week 14 (StuVac).


The University has authorised and mandated the use of text-based similarity detecting software Turnitin for all text-based written assignments.
Grade Type Description
Standards Based Assessment Final grades in this unit are awarded at levels of HD for High Distinction, DI (previously D) for Distinction, CR for Credit, PS (previously P) for Pass and FA (previously F) for Fail as defined by University of Sydney Assessment Policy. Details of the Assessment Policy are available on the Policies website at . Standards for grades in individual assessment tasks and the summative method for obtaining a final mark in the unit will be set out in a marking guide supplied by the unit coordinator.
Policies & Procedures: See the policies page of the faculty website at for information regarding university policies and local provisions and procedures within the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies.
Recommended Reference/s: Note: References are provided for guidance purposes only. Students are advised to consult these books in the university library. Purchase is not required.
Note on Resources: The WRISE site contains information that should be read before completing your laboratory report.

Note that the "Weeks" referred to in this Schedule are those of the official university semester calendar

Week Description
Week 1 Introduction, Classification
Week 2 Definitions, Compaction
Week 3 Effective Stress, Water in Soil
Week 4 Flow Nets
Week 5 Flow Nets
Week 6 1-D Compression, 1-D Settlement
Week 7 1-D Settlement, Consolidation
Week 8 Consolidation, 3-D Settlement
Week 9 3-D Settlement, Rate of Settlement
Week 10 Soil Strength
Assessment Due: Computing Assignment, Part I
Week 11 Stress-Strain Response
Assessment Due: Computing Assignment, Threshold Concepts Quiz*
Assessment Due: Computing Assignment, Part II
Week 12 Earth Pressures
Week 13 Earth Pressures, Revision
Exam Period Assessment Due: Final Exam

Course Relations

The following is a list of courses which have added this Unit to their structure.

Course Year(s) Offered
Master of Professional Engineering (Civil) 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020
Master of Professional Engineering (Fluids) 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020
Master of Professional Engineering (Geomechanical) 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020
Master of Professional Engineering (Structural) 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020

Course Goals

This unit contributes to the achievement of the following course goals:

Attribute Practiced Assessed
(8) Professional Effectiveness and Ethical Conduct (Level 1) No 0%
(7) Project and Team Skills (Level 1) No 0%
(6) Communication and Inquiry/ Research (Level 3) No 0%
(2) Engineering/ IT Specialisation (Level 2) No 0%
(1) Maths/ Science Methods and Tools (Level 2) No 0%

These goals are selected from Engineering & IT Graduate Outcomes Table 2018 which defines overall goals for courses where this unit is primarily offered. See Engineering & IT Graduate Outcomes Table 2018 for details of the attributes and levels to be developed in the course as a whole. Percentage figures alongside each course goal provide a rough indication of their relative weighting in assessment for this unit. Note that not all goals are necessarily part of assessment. Some may be more about practice activity. See Learning outcomes for details of what is assessed in relation to each goal and Assessment for details of how the outcome is assessed. See Attributes for details of practice provided for each goal.