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.

The Physics Study Design

In the 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.

VCE Lecture for Students on Practical Investigation 3.56 MB ppt

The lecture that was given as part of the VCE Lecture series for students on 18th May, 2017.

Notes for VCE Lecture for Students on Practical Investigation 41 kB doc

Notes for the slides in the powerpoint presentation for the lecture that was given as part of the VCE Lecture series for students on 18th May, 2017.

Practical Investigation Information Booklet 112 kB pdf

This 14 page booklet is designed for students doing Unit 4 Practical Investigation.  The table of contents covers: What will you be doing?, What do you get out of the Practical Investigation? , Deciding on a topic, Identifying variables, Formulating a plan, A Timeline, Hints for the students, Using the log book, Taking measurements and analysing data, Assembling a poster. There are also 7 appendices including a short list of topics.

Possible topics

Topics for Practical Investigations 110 kB doc

This is the list of PI topics that were used as part of the Small Group Activities at the 2017 Physics Teachers’ Conference. Each of these topics has detailed titles to provide guidance to students. Also added at the end of this list are detailed titles that offer more challenge. At the end of the list there are topics with short titles that students will need to unpack.

List of topics for the Unit 2 Practical Investigation 62 kB doc

This seven page document lists topics from the Nuffield physics course that are relevant to the Unit 2 Practical investigation. The topics are sorted in the Motion Area of Study and the 12 options. There are also topics for other areas of physics at the end.

Practical Investigation Topics for Units 3 & 4 115 kBdoc

10 pages of topics grouped by Area of Study. Some have a catchy title with a supportive paragraph, most have self-explanatory titles.

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

A Level Physics Online. A series of Youtube videos of practical skills

The series covers uncertainty, percentage uncertainty, variables and graphing. It is designed for A level physics courses in the UK. there are links to other resources in the series for other areas of physics as well.

Science Shorts. A Youtube video on uncertainties

An 11 min Youtube video on uncertainties, hand written, but a good description. It is UK production for A level and is part of the Science Shorts series of 18 videos. There are also videos in the series on Standard form, and Proportionality and Graphs.

A Youtube video on data analysis

An 18 min Youtube video that effectively covers the full range of experimental analysis from uncertainties to lines of best fit. It is UK based and refers to the IB.

A low tech Youtube video on data analysis

This 13 minute Youtube video features a person talking to camera explaining data analysis with large hand held cards. It is simple, effective and covers the topic.

Youtube video for Students on adding error bars in Excel

This is a 6 min video on Scatter plots and adding Error bars. It uses an example from Biology.

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.

Template for Scientific Poster 87 kB ppt

A PowerPoint slide template for a poster with sections for each of the categories required of VCE posters. Each category has a short desciption of what should pasted there.

Template for Scientific Poster by UNSW 57.3 kB ppt

A PowerPoint slide template for a generic poster based on one prepared by Medical Illustrations Unit of the University of New South Wales.

Unit 2 Poster: Air pressure in a soccer ball 255 kB pdf

The effect of the internal air pressure on the distance travelled. A poster by a Year 11 student of their practical investigation.

Unit 2 Poster: Mechanical properties of impurities in Ice 848 kB pdf

The effect of adding sawdust to ice on its mechanical properties. A poster by a Year 11 student of their practical investigation.

Unit 2 Poster: Terminal velocity of a parachute 285 kB pdf

How does the mass of the object attached to a parachute affect the parachute’s terminal velocity? . A poster by a Year 11 student of their practical investigation.

Unit 2 Poster: Tipcat – Maximising horizontal flight distance of a ruler 1.17 MB pdf

A poster by a Year 11 student of their practical investigation.

Unit 2 Poster: EPI Experiment: Tipcat 5.36 MB pdf

Investigation of the horizontal flight distance of a ruler hit from the edge of a table. A poster by a Year 11 student of their practical investigation.

Comments on the Unit 2 Posters 48.6 kB doc

Feedback provided to the Year 11 students identifying aspects done well and areas where improvement was possible. The Unit 2 posters commented on are available on this webpage.

Colin Purrington’s website

A comprehensive website full of useful hints. One eye-catching feature is a faux poster about what makes a good poster. Different styles are also included as well as links to other poster design websites. Its audience is university students, but the style and language is very accessible. No samples are provided.

Templates for posters

Free PowerPoint templates for Scientific posters with a basic four column format.

Tips for posters

Useful tips for poster design as well as links to numerous examples, but mainly tertiary biology.

More tips for posters

Advice that is clear, to the point and well presented. The emphasis is on the poster as an aid to oral communication, but definitely worth checking out.

Designing a scientific research poster

Information from the UK’s National STEM Centre, more for middle school students. Worksheets for students and a teacher’s guide.

Nuffield Foundation Resource

A four page pdf of advice for students with examples and several weblinks.

Files on Video analysis

Video Analysis for Everyone 181 kB

Workshop A17 by Kevin Barraclough, Gisborne Secondary College



  • 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.