Step 1: Look for sedimentary structures that are characteristic of a specific environment or process
Step 2: Evaluate how these distinctive structures relate to each other in the stratigraphic column to develop a tentative environmental interpretation
Step 3: Compare the tentative interpretation to flow implied by other sedimentary structures in the column and evaluate whether they are consistent with your tentative environmental interpretation.
Examples of other sedimentary structures:
Step 4: Evaluate how the vertical sequence of sedimentary structures changes to refine or correct your environmental interpretations.
Do structures occur in a distinctive pattern that suggests a depositional environment?
Step 5: Use Walther's Law to refine your environmental interpretations and to test whether or not they are reasonable.
Try to sketch neighboring environments and interpret how they shifted through time. Are your interpreted vertical changes in environments consistent with neighboring environments horizontally? Does you interpretation require any jumps in environments or imply an unconformity? Revise your interpretation until it is consistent with your data.
Often, there is some ambiguity about the depositional environment(s) represented in real rocks. By going through this process, you can reach a reasonable interpretation that is well supported by the data. You will also understand where the ambiguities are. This is particularly helpful if it is your own data and you can make more observations by doing more field work.