Syllabus - Geological Sciences 101 - Physical Geology



Instructor: W. Richard Laton, Ph.D. (Dr. Laton)


Class Hours: TBA

Office: MH 208, Phone (657) 278-7514 


Office Hours: TBA

Textbook: Reynolds, Johnson, Kelly, Morin and Carter.‚ Exploring Geology‚ 2nd Edition


My preference is for you to email me rather than call. The reason is that I read my email more often than I check my phone messages. Certainly feel free to call any time, but if I am not in my office, an email may get you a response more quickly than a voice mail.




To understand appropriate science and technological concepts and principles as follows:


Major Ideas in Earth and Astronomical Sciences

a)    Earth materials and structures are organized in interacting systems; the earth itself is part of a planetary system.

b)   The earth changes continuously, and is part of a universe that itself is changing. Energy and matter flow and cycle through earth and astronomical systems.

c)    Changes within an earth or astronomical system may affect other earth or astronomical systems. Humans are part of and may affect or be affected by these systems.

d)    Earth and astronomical systems can be understood by applying the basic principles of the physical and life sciences.


This class fulfills the following general education requirement:


III Disciplinary Learning

A.    Mathematics and Natural Sciences

2. Natural Sciences

b. Earth and Astronomical Science



To understand earth's systems and the processes that operate on these systems. To be able to recognize these processes in action, and the geologic features that result from these processes. To understand the importance of earth's systems to our lives.



This class will use Blackboard. You access Blackboard directly through the CSUF portal. Simply go to and login to the portal. Once logged in, select the Blackboard tab and your classes will appear there. Note that this class will automatically show when you click this tab, however, it may take up to 24 hours if you have just registered for the class.


Most of the lectures for this class will be accompanied by a presentation. All presentations used in class will be made available on the Blackboard site as pdf files. Each presentation may be downloaded via the link under “Course Documents”. In order to utilize these presentations, you will need to use a computer that has a recent version of Adobe Acrobat Reader. In some cases the presentations may be available before class, in other cases they will appear shortly after class. CHECK Blackboard OFTEN!



The 45 hours of class time is insufficient to cover the material in this course. So it is extremely important that you absorb all the information covered in the assigned reading. Keep in mind that you MUST study AT LEAST 6 hours per week (NOT counting class time) in order to succeed in this class (i.e. get an A or B). Much of those 6 hours will be spent reading and studying the textbook. I repeat: You will not succeed in this class unless you read and study the textbook AND attend all classes.



Three 60 minute term exams will be given during the semester, and one comprehensive final exam will be given during final exam week. All tests will be a combination of multiple choice, true/false, matching, and short answer/essay questions. Essay and/or short answer questions will be graded based on content and quality of writing. Such questions fulfill the general education writing requirement for this class. The tests will be taken primarily from the lecture material, but a significant number of questions may come from material in the book that was not explicitly covered in the lecture, so be sure to do all the reading. Bring any questions you may have about the reading to class or ask me during office hours.

You must bring an answer sheet (ParSCORE form F-1712-ERI-L, no other form is acceptable) and a #2 pencil to each test. Be sure to bring your student ID number because you must write your ID number on the answer form for each test (NOT your Social Security Number!).



During the semester, there will be several in-class assignments. These activities will not be announced in class; they could occur on any day of the week, and at any time during the lecture. Assignments may take a variety of forms including brief essays, problem solving, small group activities, etc. In some cases, simply being there and completing the assignment will get you full credit. There will be on average one activity/quiz per week, but there could be more than one in some weeks, and none in other weeks. In order to award those who attend class make-up assignments will not be allowed. Assignment points will be totaled and averaged and will be worth 15% of your final grade.



As a general rule, the only homework assignments are the readings listed in the syllabus. Please read the assigned chapters in advance of the week they are due. Other homework problems/assignments may or may not be given, but they will not be collected or graded, and their purpose is to aid in preparation for the exams.



As a general rule, no makeup tests will be given. I will make exceptions to this rule only for bona fide emergencies or other legitimate reasons when arrangements are made at least one week in advance. If you have several mid-terms scheduled during a single week, I suggest you prepare far in advance; this will not be a reason for a make-up exam, or to take any test early. If you have a personal scheduling conflict with one of the exams, please see me ASAP. If you prepare well for the tests, and attend all the lectures, you will have no problems.



There will be no extra credit assignments. There will be no exceptions to this rule!



Students who violate university standards of academic integrity are subject to disciplinary sanctions, including failure in the course and suspension from the university. Since dishonesty in any form harms the individual, other students and the university, policies on academic integrity are strictly enforced. I expect that you will familiarize yourself with the academic integrity guidelines found in the current student handbook. For more information, visit


Disruptive behavior, such as a talking and cell phones ringing, will not be tolerated. This behavior detracts from the learning experience of others in the class. You should make certain that cell phones are turned off (or put on vibrate) before entering the classroom. If your cell phone rings during class you will have the choice of 1) entertaining the class with a 30 sec. song or poem, or 2) immediately leaving the classroom. Disruptive behavior may result in your being asked to change seats, leave the classroom or have your behavior reported to Student Affairs or Public Safety for further action.