Practical Investigations

This webpage is written for students. It provides information on choosing a topic, using a log book, analysing data and preparing the poster. There are separate webpages for teachers, one for Unit 2 and one for Unit 4.

New Physics Study Design

In the new study design the Practical Investigation is a separate Area of Study, both in Unit 2 and in Unit 4. The number of variables has also been specified with two variables in Unit 2, one of which must be continuous, while in Unit 4 both must be continuous.

In Unit 2 the report of the investigation can be by a scientific poster, but in Unit 4, the report must be in the form of a scientific poster. Some examples of posters, advice and helpful hints are provided below.

Possible topics

Log Book

The log book is a significant part of your investigation. It is where you keep everything from:

  • your initial ideas for topics,
  • plans for their approved topic,
  • summary of relevant physics,
  • all your measurements, calculations and graphs,
  • photos of equipment and the experiments,
  • reflections on how the investigation is going, difficulties faced and how they were overcome,
  • reflections on how the investigation could have been improved and suggestions on what you would next investigate if you had more time,
  • to a draft of a conclusion.

The logbook can be a hard copy exercise book or an electronic folder on the school's website, but it should be in a format that the teacher can readily and frequently access, and annotate as needed. It is the logbook that shows that the investigation is your own work. It is where the full story of the investigation is told. It should be like a diary, with period by period entries of what has been done and what is planned for the next class. Most of your teacher's assessment will be based on it.

Data Analysis

Scientific Poster

The scientific poster should be a summary of the investigation, just the bones and the highlights. It is not a full report, the logbook provides the details and gives flesh to the bones.

The poster should have the following sections:

  • Title: Question under investigation is the title.
  • Introduction: Explanation or reason for undertaking the investigation, including a clear aim, a hypothesis and/or prediction and relevant background physics concepts
  • Methodology: Summary that outlines the methodology used in the investigation and is authenticated by logbook entries. Identification and management of relevant risks, including the relevant health, safety and ethical guidelines followed in the investigation.
  • Results: Presentation of collected data/evidence in appropriate format to illustrate trends, patterns and/or relationships
  • Discussion: Analysis and evaluation of primary data. Identification of outliers and their subsequent treatment. Identification of limitations in data and methods, and suggested improvements. Linking of results to relevant physics concepts.
  • Conclusion: Conclusion that provides a response to the question
  • References and acknowledgments: Referencing and acknowledgment of all quotations and sourced content as they appear in the poster.

The poster can be done as an electronic poster using a template containing the categories listed above, with text entered or pasted into boxes. Some websites that provide templates and tips are listed below.

Files on Video analysis

Resources

Texts

  • McKittrick, B 1991, Physics Experiments and Student Investigations, McGraw Hill.
  • O'Keeffe, D & Embury, J 1992, Investigating, STAV Publishing.
  • Walker, J The Flying Circus of Physics with Answers, Wiley, New York.