Living Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Engineering Geology

Part of the series Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences Series pp 1-6

Date: Latest Version

Characterization of Soils

  • Abdul ShakoorAffiliated withDepartment of Geology, Kent State University Email author 


Engineering behavior of soils; Engineering properties of soils


A soil is a loose, unconsolidated agglomeration of mineral particles that can be easily separated by hand pressure or by immersion in water (Johnson and DeGraff 1988) and that can be excavated without blasting (West 1995). Geologically, soils are the products of mechanical and/or chemical weathering of rocks (Marshak 2013).


Soils constitute one of the most widely encountered materials in engineering construction. Many engineering structures are either made of soil material (earth dams and levees) or founded on soils (buildings) or located within soils (tunnels and other underground structures). The design and stability of these structures depends on the engineering properties of soils involved.

Based on their origin, soils are categorized as residual or transported (Holtz et al. 2011). Residual soils remain at their place of origin, whereas transported soils are carried away from their place of or ...

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