This is often used in conjunction with the study of exhumation histories, interpretation of drainage networks and their evolution, and forward-modelling of paleo-earth systems.

The studies of provenance involve the following aspects: "(1) the source(s) of the particles that make up the rocks, (2) the erosion and transport mechanisms that moved the particles from source areas to depositional sites, (3) the depositional setting and depositional processes responsible for sedimentation of the particles (the depositional environment), and (4) the physical and chemical conditions of the burial environment and diagenetic changes that occur in siliciclastic sediment during burial and uplift".

Meanwhile, the provenance methods are widely used in the oil and gas industry.

Examples of petrological methods include QFL ternary diagram, heavy mineral assemblages (apatite-tourmaline index, garnet zircon index), clay mineral assemblages and illite crystallinity, reworked fossils and palynomorphs, and stock magnetic properties.

Examples of geochemical methods include zircon U-Pb dating (plus Hf isotope), zircon fission track, apatite fission track, bulk sediment Nd and Sr isotopes, garnet chemistry, pyroxene chemistry, amphibole chemistry and so on.

Rocks exposed to the surface, sooner or later, are broken down into sediments.

Sediments are expected to be able to provide evidence of the erosion history of their parent source rocks.

With the accumulation of sediments, sediments are buried to a deeper level and go though diagenesis, which turns separate sediments into sedimentary rocks (i.e.

conglomerate, sandstone, mudrocks, limestone etc.) and some metamorphic rocks (such as quartzite) which were derived from sedimentary rocks.

The purpose of provenance study is to restore the tectonic, paleo-geographic and paleo-climatic history.