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Unit of study_

CIVL9201: Structural Mechanics

Semester 1, 2023 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

The primary objective of this unit is to understand internal actions (forces and moments) in structures (deformable objects) under loads in three key areas: how structures resist external loads by internal actions; the distribution of internal actions within structures; and the deformations, stresses and strains associated with the internal actions. At the end of this unit, students should be able to understand the basic methods of load transfer in structures - tension, compression, bending, shear and torsion (internal actions); apply the equations of equilibrium to determine the distribution of internal actions in a simple structure by drawing BMDs, SFDs, AFDs, and TMDs; understand the significance and methods of calculation of the geometric properties of structural sections (I, Z, S, J, etc. ); understand the effect of internal forces and deformations of bodies through the concept and calculation of strains and stresses; appreciate the behaviour of structures by analysing structures without numerical calculations; display a knowledge of basic material properties, combined stresses and failure criteria; and demonstrate their hands-on experience of the behaviour of structural members via experiments and the ability to prepare written reports on those experiments. Emphasis in the assessment scheme will be placed on understanding structural behaviour and solving problems, rather than remembering formulae or performing complex calculations. The course seeks to utilise and improve the generic skills of students, in areas such as problem solving, neat and logical setting out of solutions, report writing, and team work. The syllabus comprises introduction; equilibrium; internal actions: BMDs, SFDs, AFDs, and TMDs; elasticity, stress and strain, and basic material properties; axial forces: tension and compression; elastic bending of beams; shear force and shear stresses in beams; torsion; deflection of beams; pipes and pressure vessels; trusses; material properties, combined stresses and yield criteria; advanced bending; introduction to buckling and instability.

Unit details and rules

Unit code CIVL9201
Academic unit Civil Engineering
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge

From Engineering Mechanics, students should be competent in the following areas: 1. The concept of force and momentum equilibrium in two and three dimensions. 2. Drawing free body diagrams. 3. Establishing and solving the equations of equilibrium from the FBD. 4. Setting out solutions logically, clearly and neatly. Students should be competent in certain mathematical skills. 1. Solving algebraic equations. 2. Differentiation and integration (including double integrals). 3. Drawing graphs of polynomials (especially) and other mathematical function. 4. Trigonometry

Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Tim Wilkinson,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Monitored exam
Final exam
Canvas (online)
40% Formal exam period 2 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Tutorial quiz Quiz 1
Formative (0 marks)
0% Week 01 1 hour
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO8 LO7 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3
Assignment Assignment 1
Equilibrium, BMDs, case study. Details discussed in class and in handout.
10% Week 04
Due date: 19 Mar 2023 at 23:59
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Assignment Lab report 1
Material properties. Discussed in class & handout.
5% Week 05
Due date: 26 Mar 2023 at 23:59
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Tutorial quiz Quiz 2
Canvas (online)
10% Week 06
Due date: 28 Mar 2023 at 10:00
1 hour
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO8 LO7 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3
Tutorial quiz Quiz 3
Formative (no marks)
0% Week 09 1 hour
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO8 LO7 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3
Assignment Assignment 2
Internal actions, deformations, case study. Discussed in class & handout.
10% Week 10
Due date: 07 May 2023 at 23:59
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO8 LO7 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3
Tutorial quiz Quiz 4
Canvas (online)
10% Week 12
Due date: 16 May 2023 at 10:00
1 hour
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO8 LO7 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3
Assignment Lab report 2
Students work together in groups on this task, but submit individually.
15% Week 13
Due date: 28 May 2023 at 23:59
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8

Assessment summary

Refer to the “Structural Mechanics” canvas site, which will contain more specific information about the grading and requirements of assessment tasks, and the specific minimum requirements for passing the unit of study.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

Separate handouts will be distributed outlining the standards expected to receive specific grades in assignments.  These will also provide guides to students to help them improve the quality of their work.  Specific examples or expectations of good answers are also discussed in lectures.

Criteria for Passing:  In order to achieve a pass in this unit of study, all the following criteria must be satisfied:

  • A total mark of at least 50 %.
  • Final examination mark of at least 45 %.  This hurdle percentage may be reduced by the lecturer based on exact nature of the questions in the exam.
  • Making a genuine submission for each of the 2 assignments and 2 lab reports.

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 grade descriptors.

As a general guide, a high distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.  For more information see


For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

This unit has an exception to the standard University policy or supplementary information has been provided by the unit coordinator. This information is displayed below:

The following late penalties apply to assignments and reports: • Normally assessment tasks require hard copy submission and will usually be due at the start of your tutorial session. A location for early or late submission will also be available. During current COVID situation, submission will be made online rather than in person. • Each day late is a 5% penalty. • Assessment tasks cannot be accepted (ie a mark of 0 will be awarded) after the earlier of (the return of marked assignments) or (the release of solutions and/or feedback) or (10 working days). It is anticipated the return/solutions date of the small assignments is 1 week, and lab reports 2 weeks.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Introduction Lecture and tutorial (5 hr) LO3
Week 02 Internal actions Lecture and tutorial (5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO8
Week 03 Internal actions/stress and strain Lecture and tutorial (5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO8
Week 04 Stress and strain/axial force Lecture and tutorial (5 hr) LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 05 Elastic bending Lecture and tutorial (5 hr) LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 06 Elastic bending Lecture and tutorial (5 hr) LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 07 Elastic bending/shear Lecture and tutorial (5 hr) LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 08 Torsion/deflections Lecture and tutorial (5 hr) LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 09 Deflections Lecture and tutorial (5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 10 Deflections/pipe and pressure vessels Lecture and tutorial (5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 11 Trusses/material properties/combined stresses Lecture and tutorial (5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 12 Combined stresses/yield criteria/buckling Lecture and tutorial (5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8
Week 13 Advanced bending/review Lecture and tutorial (5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8

Attendance and class requirements

How to Succeed in Structural Mechanics


The key outcome in Structural Mechanics is being able to understand the concepts.  Being able to perform calculations is an important task, but it is not the only task.  Being able to do calculations will help provide insight into the key issues and parameters, but understanding will also result from being able to visualise the problem and see the connection between the physical observations, theory, calculation methods, and practical situations.


In general, you will be expected to answer three types of questions:

Simple calculations:  You will be asked questions of similar nature to those covered in lectures or tutorials.  This is to ensure that you know the process for standard calculations.

Understanding & explanation:  You will be asked to explain (without calculations) the implications or issues behind a problem.  This will demonstrate that you understand the physical meaning of a problem.

Applied questions:  You will need to make use of the equations and processes you have learned, but the question will need to be considered from a different view.  You will not be able to copy a previous answer; you will need to think first before answering.  This will demonstrate that you are an engineer!


Weekly email update

Each week, enrolled students will receive an email update summarising the content of the week, and information on upcoming content and assignments.  It will contain suggestions on tutorial questions, assignments and quizzes.  Use this as an important part of your study program.  Message archives are on Canvas.



  • Attend every lecture.
  • Be actively involved.  Read the lecture notes before the lecture.  Revise the notes after the lecture and attempt relevant questions as soon as possible afterwards.  Take notes – not just what is written on the board, but also what the lecturer emphasises verbally.


Tutorials & Problems

  • Attempt problem questions as soon as possible after the relevant lecture.  The first few easy questions will follow a very similar procedure from examples in the lecture notes.  Use these examples to reinforce the procedure.
  • Attend every tutorial.  Have several questions already attempted – if you have problems you will be able to ask your tutor.
  • Do not look at solutions before you have attempted questions.  This is counterproductive and does not enhance your problem solving ability.  In a real job and in the exam you will not have the solutions available.



  • Assign an average 9 - 10 hours each week.  There are 5 hours of lectures/tutorials each week, and you should also be prepared to do 4-5 hours a week on sample problems.



  • The quiz questions are predominately similar to the simpler tutorial questions.  Some past quizzes and solutions are online.  However rote learning of solutions to previous quizzes is not recommended.
  • Students who maintain a regular up to date, workload of tutorial questions during the semester should be adequately prepared for the quizzes.



  • The exam has a mix of simple questions, explanation questions and applied questions.
  • While the exam is open book, you should be suitably confident and competent to answer the simple questions without reference to the notes (i.e. you should just know “how” to draw a BMD).
  • Applied questions – think about what the question is asking you to do and how to go about solving it before you write
  • Prepare for the exam by doing past exams under exam conditions – i.e. lock yourself away in your room for 3 hours with no solutions, no coffee, and no SMS, chat or Facebook!
  • Rote learning of solutions to previous exams is not recommended.



  • Do them as early as you can.  Do not leave them to the last minute.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

All readings for this unit can be accessed through the Library eReserve, available on Canvas.

  • Wilkinson Tim, Structural Mechanics: Lecture Notes (10th edition). University Printing Service, 2020.  This will be available as a PDF on canvas.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. demonstrate hands-on proficiency in using experimental data
  • LO2. prepare written reports on experiments.
  • LO3. understand the basic methods of load transfer in structures - tension, compression, bending, shear and torsion
  • LO4. apply the equations of equilibrium to determine the distribution of internal actions in a simple structure by drawing BMDs, SFDs, AFDs, and TMDs
  • LO5. understand the significance of and calculate the geometric properties of structural sections (I, Z, S, J etc)
  • LO6. understand the effect of internal forces, and deformations of bodies through the concept and calculation of strains and stresses
  • LO7. appreciate the behaviour of structures by analysing structures without numerical calculations
  • LO8. display a knowledge of basic material properties, combined stresses and failure criteria

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

The lecturer will provide feedback verbally during lectures, by handouts, solutions and comments posted on the website, and regular weekly email summaries sent to all students. Students are highly encouraged to give positive and/or negative feedback related to this unit of study or the school to the lecturer or tutors at any time. Without feedback, potential problems or difficulties cannot be identified and rectified. Students are welcome to give feedback personally to the lecturer at anytime via any means they see fit. There have been several changes to the structure of this unit over the past few years. This is based both on the student feedback at the end of each year, plus the lecturer’s own assessment of the areas in which students appear to have difficulty. Syllabus: While the syllabus has been generally unchanged, most years there are some modifications to examples, assignments, issues concentrated on in lectures etc, based on how students performed the previous year. Workload: Over the past few years, the number and relative weighting of assignments has shifted towards quizzes. The number of assignments is now the minimum amount to ensure the lecturer can monitor progress, give feedback, and correct any areas where some extra revision might be needed. Students have access to a large number of tutorial questions. It is for students to decide how many (if any!) of the tutorial problems they wish to attempt. It is important that students take increased initiative in how much work they want to do, while still having small but reasonable "compulsory" assessment tasks. If students are doing the assignments and tutorials, then the quizzes follow on directly from then, and it is not expected that much additional "study" was required. The quizzes are to ensure that students are keeping reasonably up to date with the tutorials. Relative weighting for assignment tasks: Some comments on the relative workload associated with tasks have been received - e.g. a 1 hr quiz was worth 5%, but the main lab report, which might have taken you 10 hours, was worth 10%. From one point of view, this is a valid comment, but students should consider another point of view. The quizzes represented 2 weeks’ worth of lectures and tutorials, so this starts to even things out. It is regrettable that some students copy, and hence the relative value of take home assignments needs to be relatively low to ensure students pass the course based on their own work, not that of another student. Grading scheme: Some students have commented that the marking scheme in quizzes and assignments. For an assignment, there is nothing necessarily "special" about getting a straightforward question (nearly) correct or having the right method. All students should be capable of doing that - and hence that is the standard for getting a pass (which is on average about 60%). Students need to show they understand the issue and set the answer out clearly. For units & significant figures the marking is deliberately harsh to get the message across. It will be emphasised many times during the semester that units are important and marks will be deducted for incorrect use. Previous year results indicate that many students still do not have confidence in units by the end of the semester. Unless marks are deducted for poor units, students will not see the importance of them or try to improve. Units are not difficult - it is just practice. Some students made a valid point that a silly arithmetic mistake may result in getting 0 for a quiz question - the same as not attempting a question at all. The lecturer does appreciate this concern. However, for relatively straightforward questions in an open book quiz, it is not unrealistic to expect the correct answer. Half marks in quizzes are also frequently awarded. Another aim of the quiz is to provide quick feedback. All quizzes are returned in a week later, with full solutions on the internet. A more detailed marking scheme would increase marking time, delay the return of quizzes and would reduce the number of quizzes that could be offered. Availability of Solutions: Based on feedback received from students, from 2017 • Answers only will be published when we start a new topic • Selected solutions will be posted within a week of finishing the topic. Solutions are intentionally delayed to ensure that students attempt practice problems without the temptation of looking at solutions. Students will not have the solutions in front of them in the exam or in a real job, so it is important to develop confidence in solutions now. There are many worked examples given in class for students to learn the appropriate methods. Students are most welcome to look at any other textbook on topic and refer to the solutions given in those texts.

I hope that you enjoy this unit of study and you find it interesting, challenging and informative, and that this year is successful both academically and in any other endeavours that you undertake.


Tim Wilkinson

Associate Professor in Civil Engineering


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