EPIs & Practical Activities

Investigations or EPIs, Practical Activities, Useful Websites of Prac ideas

Investigations or EPIs: Assessing, Log Book, Data Collection Tools, Poster, Exam, Resources


Extended Practical investigations (EPIs) have been part of Physics courses in Victoria since the 1980's. In that time the style, amount of class time and mode of assessment have undergone numerous changes. In the current course, it is not practical to devote more than about three weeks to the task, but the task still requires students to:

  • have some input in the decision making on topics, variables and equipment,
  • undertake research of some depth, beyond what is commonly done in a conventional experiment,
  • analyse the data in some detail and
  • acknowledge uncertainties by some basic error analysis.

It is the expected norm that students would investigate different topics, either individually or in pairs.

New Physics Study Design 2016 - 2021

In the new study design the Practical Investigation is a separate Area of Study, both in Unit 2 and in Unit 4. The types of investigations has been broadened to include 'construction and evaluation of a device'. 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, so it would be advisable for students experience the format in Unit 2 investigation. Some examples of posters, advice and helpful hints are provided below.

Note: In 2020 due to COVID-19 the Study design and the Practical Invesigation in particular, have been substantially modified. Please check the Online Teaching and Learning webpage for details of the changes.

Assessing the Investigation

In the study design, there is a list of dot point for the 'Key Knowledge' for the Practical Investigation, covering aspects such as: use of relevant physics concepts, experimental design, practical skills, data collection and analysis, consideration of uncertainty, interpretation of results, and suggestions for improvements and further research.

The assessment should look at each of these aspects and can do so in different ways and at different times. The assessment strategy could include some or all of the following:

  • developing an experimental plan, possibly under test conditions,
  • observation of practical skills, such as equipment layout and use of equipment and measuring instruments,
  • monitoring of the compulsory log book for observational insights, appropriate number of repeated readings over a broad enough range,
  • in depth perusal of the log book. This should be the largest contribution to the overall assessment and could be done after the poster is submitted,
  • a poster summarising the key parts of the investigation.

For some of these early assessments, feedback can be provided to correct for any weaknesses in the investigation, but the initial assessment can still stand.

Log Book

The log book has become a significant part of a student's investigation. It is where the students keeps everything from:

  • their initial ideas for topics,
  • plans for their approved topic,
  • summary of relevant physics,
  • all their 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 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 the student's 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 the teacher's assessment will be based on it.

Data Collection Tools

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.

The VCE Physics Exam and the Practical Investigation

In the new Physics Study Design the Practical Investigation is a separate Area of Study in Unit 2 and in Unit 4. It is expected that the Practical Investigation will be included in the end of year exam along with the other five Areas of Study in Units 3 and 4 in 2017. The questions on the practical investigation may of necessity be generic as students will be investigating different topics from any of the other five Areas of Study in Units 3 and 4. The questions may be presented separately from other questions, or the questions could be embedded in a specific Area of Study to give the questions some context. The actual style of the questions also has not been determined. The Examining Panel is expected to produce a sample exam paper sometime in 2016.

However, the VCE Psychology exam has had questions on research methodology for a few years. With that in mind a few sample questions have been written that teachers might like to try out with their Year 11 students this year and next year. Feedback on the questions is welcome.


Resources: i) Conference papers, ii) Files on planning, iii) Files on Video analysis

Resources: i) Conference papers

Resources from the 2017 Physics Teachers' Conference

The Keynote address and the follow up small group discussion focussed on the Practical Investigation.

The list of topics used in the small group activities can be found below under Files on planning, while the posters that were used as well as being displayed on the boards are listed in the section on posters above.

Resources: ii) Files on planning

Resources: iii) Files on Video analysis

Practical Activities



  • Armitage, F et al. 1988, Physics Demonstrations, STAV Publishing.
  • Freier G D, Anderson, F J 1981, Demonstration Handbook for Physics, AAPT Publishing.
  • McKittrick, B 1991, Physics Experiments and Student Investigations, McGraw Hill.
  • O'Keeffe, D & Embury, J 1992, Investigating, STAV Publishing.
  • Swift, DG 1983, Physics for Rural Development, Wiley New York.
  • Walker, J 1988, The Flying Circus of Physics with Answers, Wiley, New York.

The webpage for the Practical Activities Workshops has numerous examples of worksheets as do most of the webpages for specific Areas of Study.

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