Fill in the dates that your teacher gives you:
Submission of provisional titles
Submission of apparatus list
Submission of draft report
Submission of final report
Outline of the task
The Practical Investigation is expected to take about 10 hours of contact time and the associated independent study time, and the Research Briefing about half of that. The two pieces of work together form a coursework portfolio for which a single mark out of 30 is submitted making up the assessment Unit G496.
Each candidate carries out an investigation of a practical problem related to physics or its applications. It is anticipated that candidates will use a wide variety of experiments and techniques in this extended investigation. The most suitable topic is a clearly defined problem, which offers scope for genuine investigation, rather than routine, mechanical and unimaginative work. The topic chosen should afford the candidate the opportunity to demonstrate understanding of physics at an Advanced GCE standard.
What are the aims?
One of the central features of the course is the emphasis placed on learning physics through the interplay of theory and experiment – so that candidates understand where ideas come from, how they make sense and how they may be used. This is made possible through the range and variety of illustrative experiments, practical demonstrations and investigations that candidates meet during the course. But the importance of the experimental work extends beyond the fulfilment of this objective. Many students will study more science when they leave school or college, and there are some whose careers will involve science. An ability to investigate an unfamiliar situation in a sensible and scientific way is an asset not only to these students, but to all in tackling practical problems in everyday life. To this end, it is hoped that the development of experimental and investigative skills is a significant feature of the Advancing Physics course.
Building on the AS Quality of Measurement task, it is expected that candidates should use skills developed there, namely: recognize the qualities and limitations of measuring instruments, particularly resolution, sensitivity, calibration, response time, stability and zero error; identify and estimate the most important source of uncertainty in a measurement; make effective plots to display relationships between measured quantities, including an appropriate indication of uncertainty; use simple plots of the distribution of measured values to estimate the median (or mean) value and the spread (which may be estimated from the range of values), and to identify and account for potential outlying values to quantify and enhance their investigation.
The outcome of the task is a written report that describes the process of the investigation and discusses the conclusions that may be drawn from the practical work done.
Managing the Practical Investigation
To begin, the candidate chooses an interesting topic for investigation and carries out some preliminary research – analysing the topic, getting 'a feel' for the relevant factors, considering the selection of appropriate apparatus and measuring techniques, carrying out a literature search, if appropriate – with a view to deciding upon an experimental design that will allow the first set(s) of readings to be taken.
The next stages are to carry out the Investigation in the laboratory, to write-up the findings of the experimental work, in the form of a daily diary, and then to submit the finished report to the teacher for assessment. The assessment should be based on observation of the work done, and on discussion with the candidate, as well as information revealed in the written report.
Choosing a topic
A good topic is…
Something that you are interested in
Something that makes you think 'why does that do that?'