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International Baccalaureate

Physics Internal Assessment Guide

© Kari Eloranta 2013

C ONTENTS

Contents Preface 1 Introduction 1.1 General Information . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Design 2.1 Design Criterion . . . . . . . . Summary of Design Aspect 1 . Summary of Design Aspect 2 . Summary of Design Aspect 3 .

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Guidelines for Data Collection and Processing 3.1 Data Collection and Processing (DCP) . . Summary of DCP Aspect 1 . . . . . . . . . DCP Aspect 1 Explained . . . . . . . . . . Instrumental Uncertainty . . . . . . . . . Summary of DCP Aspect 2 . . . . . . . . . DCP Aspect 2 Explained . . . . . . . . . . Summary of DCP Aspect 3 . . . . . . . . .

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Guidelines for Conclusion and Evaluation Conclusion and Evaluation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Summary of CE Aspect 1: “Concluding” . . . . . . . . . . CE Aspect 1 “Concluding" Explained . . . . . . . . . . . . Summary of CE Aspect 2: “Evaluating procedure(s)” . . . CE Aspect 3: “Improving the investigation" . . . . . . . . Summary of CE Aspect 3: “Improving the investigation" CE Aspect 3: “Improving the investigation" Explained . .

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P REFACE
This is the first draft of my new "Physics Internal Assessment Guide". You should use it alongside with the IBO’s Physics Guide whenever you are engaged in practical work. As this is only the first draft, there will probably be quite many errors, inconsistencies and omissions in the material. I hope that there are not too many, so that you find the material useful. I appreciate any feedback and corrections you can offer. “Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.” Anthony J. D’Angelo In Jyväskylä, 1 January 2013 Kari Eloranta Teacher of Physics Jyväskylän Lyseon lukio International Baccalaureate

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Internal assessment comprises 24% of your final assessment. The internal assessment is assessed according to the sets of assessment criteria. there are three descriptors that describe your level of achievement. For each criterion. and give you a mark on your manipulative skills (© Dacopeland). and achievement level descriptors.CHAPTER 1 1 I NTRODUCTION This little guide explains the process of internal assessment in physics in some detail. . Figure 1. as you work on your practicals. It serves as your secondary source of information.1: Your teacher will be monitoring your performance during the two year course in physics.

and finalise the work at home. for each criterion. Your teacher aims to find.1 General Information about Internal Assessment Criteria and Aspects Internal Assessment is criterion-related. your work does not necessarily have to be perfect. 2 marks). 0 marks). and Conclusion and Evaluation practical. • Data Collection and Processing (DCP). During the week. There are five assessment criteria that are used to assess your practical work in physics: • Design (D). and achievement level descriptors in the “Physics Guide. • Conclusion and Evaluation (CE). or late returns will be accepted. your teacher can comment on your work once. • Manipulative Skills (MS). where you make the measurements at school. and one for the school archives. The same internal assessment criteria are used for both Higher and Standard Level. For each assessment criterion. 1. and • Personal Skills (PS) .2 Introduction Officially assessed work reports are divided into two groups. 1 mark) and n (none at all. Each aspect is assessed as c (complete. When you return your work report. the descriptor that matches your achievement level most accurately. and not in relation to the work of other students. where you design a physical experiment at school during a double lesson. It means that you will be assessed in relation to identified assessment criteria. First Exams 2009”. and write the work report at home. To earn complete in any aspect. you should take two copies of your work: one for yourself. It is enough to reach the level described. Note! The work report must be printed and returned in a week from the day of a practical. The first is a design practical. p (partial. there are three descriptors that describe your level of achievement. No electronic. The second is a combined Data Collection and Processing. Your practical work is assessed according to sets of assessment criteria.

and Conclusion and Evaluation are each assessed twice. . There are three aspects in each of the assessment criteria. Manipulative Skills is assessed summatively over your two year course in physics. Personal skills is assessed once only during the group 4 project. and last two once. and adds your marks together to to determine the final mark out of 48 for the IA component. The maximum mark for each criterion is 3 × 2 = 6 marks representing three completes. Since the first three criteria are assessed twice.1. The result is then scaled at IBCA to give a total out of 24% of your total marks in physics.1. the maximum marks are 2 × 6 × 3 + 2 × 6 = 48. Your teacher assesses your work. General Information 3 Note! Design. Data Collection and Processing.

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1 Design Criterion In design. you have to plan a physical measurement and following analysis from scratch.CHAPTER 2 D ESIGN 2. in which you have to understand the nature of physical measurement in detail. Figure 2. It is a challenging creative process. Design prompts are open-ended tasks.1: Which kind of experiment would you design relating to the formation of soap bubbles (© Brocken Inaglory)? 5 . where teacher gives you very little information.

6 Design There are three aspects in the Design criterion. and how to collect and analyse the data. The result of the manipulation leads to the measurement of the dependent variable. your first task is to devise a proper quantitative research question. Your teacher is not allowed to tell you how to select the relevant independent variable. In design. In the question. first exams in 2009” guide (© IBO). Independent and Dependent Variable A variable that is manipulated in the experiment is called an independent variable. Note! If you need to carry out the designed practical in practise. You have to choose from several independent variables that provide a suitable basis for the experiment. your teacher gives you an open-ended investigation. where you can draw a line of best fit. you should design an experiment that lends itself to a proper graphical analysis. you have to have an independent variable that affects the value of the dependent variable. Based on the teacher prompt. . Figure 2. and calculate the associated uncertainties.2: The Design criteria from the “Physics.

and controlled (constants). In your work report you need to clearly identify your variables as the dependent (measured). In Design Aspect 1: “Recording raw data” you should” • choose an independent variable. • explain carefully the control of variables. Design Criterion 7 As we study how the changing value of the independent variable affects the measured value of the dependent variable. we try to keep other variables constant during the measurement.2. . • explain. In Design Aspect 2: “Controlling Variables” you should • explain. independent (manipulated or free to roam (time)). • state a quantitative research question. Summary of Design Aspect 1: Defining the Problem and Selecting Variables Design Aspect 1 is about stating a research question and recording variables. • list all relevant controlled variables. if it is not included in the teacher prompt.1. how the value of independent variable is manipulated. Summary of Design Aspect 2: “Controlling Variables” Design Aspect 2 is about designing a method for the effective control of the variables. Controlled Variable A controlled variable is one that should be held constant so as not to obscure the effect of the independent variable on the dependent variable. how the value of dependent variable is measured. • choose a dependent variable. A relevant controlled variable is the one that can reasonably be expected to affect the outcome.

0 cm in steps of 30. but also to explain how it was measured. and you collect enough measurement points (in this case six). The laws of physics have a limited range in which they can be applied. Summary of Design Aspect 3: “Developing a Method for Collection of Data” Design Aspect 3 is about designing a method by which you can have enough relevant data for graphical analysis. The range of data is important. it is not enough to state that the length of a thread was measured. the duration of the experiment should be long enough. For example.8 Design You should pay special attention to explaining how the control of variables is achieved. If you record discrete values. how data analysis is carried out including propagation of error. but you cannot control the class room temperature. For example. For example. • explain. • explain. the thread length could range from 20. What “sufficient relevant data” constitutes depends on the context. you should record the temperature in each measurement. how the data is manipulated. you should measure the time for a number of oscillations (for example ten). if just possible. Instead. it is not enough the measure the period of one oscillation.0 cm. to measure the period of a simple pendulum. In Design Aspect 3: “Developing a Method for Collection of Data” you should • make repeated measurements. you should try to monitor the values. and from that value calculate the time for one oscillation with the associated uncertainty.0 cm to 170. That is why you have to often consider the boundary conditions . For example. in a pendulum experiment. If realistic. • explain. how many measurement points you intend to have. you should have at least five measurement points. This way the range is large enough. • decide the suitable range of data. you should make repeated measurements. • consider boundary conditions. if ambient temperature is relevant to your measurement. If the control of relevant variables is not practically possible. If you measure the dependent variable as a function of time.

Design Criterion 9 of the experiment. you should consider the time constraints and other resources as well: the designed investigation should be doable in a double lesson with the equipment the school has.2. So. Note! In design. For example. we measure the period for the constant 10° release angle. the oscillatory motion is harmonic only when the release angle is under 10°. for a simple pendulum.1. .

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.1: When position of a cart is measured by the position sensor. and present processed data with uncertainties in graphical form.CHAPTER 11 3 G UIDELINES FOR D ATA C OLLECTION AND P ROCESSING 3.1 Data Collection and Processing (DCP) In Data Collection and Processing (DCP) you have to record and process raw data. the position is a dependent. Figure 3. and time an independent variable.

In DCP Aspect 1: “Record raw data” you should • record raw data with units and uncertainties in a table. Summary of DCP Aspect 1: “Recording Raw Data” Data Collection and Processing Aspect 1 is about recording appropriate quantitative raw data with associated uncertainties. • represent measured values and uncertainties with the same precision. DCP Aspect 1 Explained Raw data is the actual data measured. • round uncertainties to one significant figure.12 Guidelines for Data Collection and Processing There are three aspects in Data Collection and Processing.2: The Data collection and processing criteria from the "Physics. Figure 3. • record enough data in an appropriate range.1 is an example of how raw data with uncertainties should be recorded. • explain the reasoning behind the uncertainties. Table 3. first exams in 2009” guide (© IBO). .

9 t 3 /s ± 0.2 t 2 /s ± 0. Table 3. Occasionally.3.1 21. For example.4 s t 2 /s ± 0. and the instrumental uncertainty in time is 0. All uncertainties must be rounded to one significant figure.4 s 9. units and uncertainties are recorded in the first row of the table. consider a position sensor.1 49. you do not repeat the unit in numerical values of a column. As an example.4 s l /cm means that all values of length l are divided by the unit cm.2 s). if an uncertainty may be neglected.9 18. the uncertainty in time may be neglected. but also to estimate the magnitude of uncertainty (for example. Since the device records position as function of time. l /cm ± 0. l /cm ± 0.8 26. Data Collection and Processing (DCP) 13 Table 3. and explain.5 cm t 1 /s ± 0. .6 21.3 20.0 18.4 Note! The symbols of quantities.1 142.8 t 1 /s ± 0.2 169.8 80.0 13.7 110. As a result.4 s 9. “there is uncertainty in manual timing due to reaction time”.6 17. Note! You should always record uncertainties. l is the length of thread.5 26.3 14. an uncertainty is so small that it may be neglected.1.8 24. it is not enough to say.4 s 9. explain the reasoning behind them.1 13.1: Raw data in a simple pendulum experiment.3 23.5 cm 20. and t i time for ten oscillations in trial i .1 23.2: All data is recorded with units and uncertainties.0 25. 0.01 s.4 s t 3 /s ± 0.

the instrumental uncertainty of analogue devices must be estimated.14 Guidelines for Data Collection and Processing Instrumental Uncertainty Instrumental uncertainty The accuracy of a digital device is called the instrumental uncertainty. If a manual is missing. you may estimate the uncertainty as 0.1 g.3 g. the instrumental uncertainty may be estimated as the smallest division in the scale. Usually. if you measure the height of a box as 7.2 s. Instead. the uncertainty in the measurement can be estimated.3 cm by a ruler divided into millimetres. when uncertainty in manual timing is ±0. For example. If you are using a graduated scale.1 ± 0. Note! A common mistake is to record values with greater precision than uncertainty. From the accuracy of a measurement device.12 s. Note! In a physics extended essay the instrumental uncertainty of digital devices should always be checked from the manual.2) s). if mass is measured by a digital scale as 76. you may assume that the uncertainty is the precision of the digital device. . You will find the instrumental uncertainty of digital measurement devices from the manual of a device. the instrumental uncertainty is 0. the time should be rounded to tenths of a second to match the precision of the uncertainty ((5. time is wrongly recorded as 5.1 cm (the precision of the instrument). For example. For example. Note! The uncertainties in data are recorded on the first row of a table.

2 169. • represent processed values and propagated uncertainties with the same precision. the raw data has been processed. and calculate the slope of the line.3: In each column.6 21.8 26.1 142.7 110. If the dependent variable should be directly proportional to the independent variable.1.2 Summary of DCP Aspect 2: “Processing Raw Data” In DCP Aspect 2: “Processing raw data” you should • represent processed data and propagated uncertainties with units in a table. plotting the data. and matches the precision of uncertainty.3. This includes all arithmetic operations. and determining the best fit line and its slope.8 t 1 /s ± 0.8 80. you have to plot the data on a proper coordinate system. Data Collection and Processing (DCP) 15 Table 3. constructing the coordinate axes. you need to process the raw data correctly.5 cm 20. the precision of data is constant.6 17. draw the line of best fit.1 23.4 s 9. Then.1 49. transforming data into a form suitable for graphical representation. l /cm ± 0. • round propagated uncertainties to one significant figure. • draw the best fit line • calculate the slope of the best fit line • represent the equation of the best fit line To meet the criteria in Data Collection and Processing Aspect 2. .1 13.

Then. Note! Use of Standard Error of the Mean is compulsory in Physics Extended Essays. the raw data is not linear. If you want to use a more scientific method. DCP Aspect 2 Explained In a repeated experiment we have to calculate the average of measurement values. Uncertainty in the Average The uncertainty in the average is ∆x = x max − x min 2 (3. Refer to the User’s Manual for detailed instructions of how to do it. In Internal Assessment.2) where s is the standard deviation of the sample and N is the number of measurements. especially at Higher Level. You should calculate the standard deviation with a calculator. This method of calculating the uncertainty in the average exaggerates the uncertainty a little. or using a spreadsheet. Standard Error of the Mean The standard error of the mean is defined as σ= s N (3. you plot the processed data. you are allowed to use a simple method of finding the uncertainty in the average. .1) where x max is the maximum and x min the minimum value in the sample. you can use the standard error of the mean. and calculate the slope of the line for the linearised data. In many cases. In such a case the processing of raw data includes also the linearisation of data. draw the line of best fit.16 Guidelines for Data Collection and Processing Note! Processing the raw data without a graph line does not earn complete in Aspect 2.

Squaring both sides of Equation 3. for graphical analysis. T 2 ) coordinate system 2 whose slope is m = 4π . As an example. we have to calculate the g Because we calculated the square of the period.4) square of the period T 2 . In the simple pendulum experiment the uncertainty in the measurement of length is negligible. we want to have a linear relationship between the variables to be able to draw a line of best fit. Note! If data is not linear. As you can see. we need to propagate uncertainties. Period T of Simple Pendulum The period of simple pendulum is T = 2π l g (3. for linearisation. such as Logger Pro. we have to linearise Equation 3. Data Collection and Processing (DCP) 17 Linearisation of Data Typically. . T Graphing After having processed the raw data. Since period T is not directly proportional to length l of the pendulum. and g is the acceleration due to gravity.3 by a variable interchange. So.3. the fractional uncertainty in the period squared T 2 is 2 × ∆T .3) where l is the length of the cord. we need to linearise it for graphical analysis. T 2 ) coordinate system. you have to use a regression tool. only vertical error bars are drawn. and draw a line of best fit for the processed data. consider the equation of the period T of simple pendulum.3 gives T2 = 4π2 l g (3. and propagate uncertainties. period T is proportional to the square root of length l . As a result. Because in multiplication fractional uncertainties add.1. mark the measurement points to a (l . which is an equation of a straight line in a (l .

1 0.04 0.2 169.06 0.1 49.2 4.9 ∆T 2 /s2 0.3: The period squared T 2 as a function of lenght l .2 ∆t av /s 0.1 0.1 142.8 80.04 0.03 T 2 /s2 0.2 s2 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0 T2 l 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 160 180 cm Figure 3.90 3.1 23.3 0.7 110. Next.4 0.03 0.62 ∆T /s 0.8 t av /s 9.38 1. .80 2.83 1.18 Guidelines for Data Collection and Processing Table 3.2 0.8 18.5 cm 20.91 1.02 0. we draw the line of best fit.2 0. T period.5 5.2 0. l is the length of the thread.8 26.02 0.1 13.4: Processed data in a simple pendulum experiment. t av average of times of ten oscillations.38 2. T 2 period squared. The points fall on a line. The line has to go through the error bars. and ∆T 2 the uncertainty in the period squared.11 2.3 0.7 6.03 0. l /cm ± 0.3 T /s 0. ∆T uncertainty in the period.0 21.

4: The period squared T 2 as a function of lenght l .055 l 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 160 180 cm Figure 3. The equation of the best fit line is T 2 = 0. If the dependent variable should be directly proportional to the independent variable. . The value is so small that it might be a result of the mathematical algorithm of the spreadsheet program used.3.055 s2 . Note! You have to state the equation of the best line. rather than an indication of a systematic error in the experiment.1.055. Data Collection and Processing (DCP) 19 s2 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 T2 T 2 = 0.041l − 0. where the yintercept is b = −0. the y-intercept is a measure of a systematic error in the experiment.041l − 0.

Such a point is called an outlier. or leave it out. you have to consider all outliers. . Such a point may be left out of the process. • An error in measurement has occurred. you have to make sure you have enough data left. • Real physical behaviour. retype the point. In all cases. or a malfunction of a device has occurred. a value is not recorded correctly.20 Guidelines for Data Collection and Processing Outliers Occasionally. and act accordingly. • You have mistyped a data point. If the correct value is known. Typical reasons for outliers include • You have underestimated uncertainties. If you decide to leave a point out. you have exceeded the range in which linear model is valid. a point with error bars may not fall on a line even if it should. and no further action is needed. Such points should not be included in the linear fit. the best fit line goes through the error bars. For example. In your work report. For example. you have to clearly explain your reasoning in the treatment of the outlier. and repeat the process with longer error bars. In this case you have to correct the uncertainties. In the graph above.

It goes through the highest error bar point of the first value. diagrams and graphs and add captions to them. • The minimum fit line gives the minimum value of the slope. • The maximum fit line gives the maximum value of the slope. • draw the minimum fit line and maximum fit line. It goes through the lowest error bar point of the first value. you need to In DCP Aspect 3: “Presenting processed data” you should • determine appropriate scales for the graphs. you have to draw a minimum and maximum fit line. . The process should be carried out manually in the data processing software used.3. • represent processed values and (propagated) uncertainties with the same precision. and through the lowest error bar point of the last value. • represent the equation of the minimum and maximum fit line clearly in context with the lines. and through the highest error bar point of the last value. • label the tables. you may use only the first and last measurement points. • mark the measurement points with error bars when the error bars are not negligible. • explain where uncertainties are not significant. Note! To draw a minimum and maximum fit line. To achieve complete in DCP Aspect 3.1. • label the axes with units appropriately. Data Collection and Processing (DCP) 21 Summary of DCP Aspect 3: “Presenting Processed Data” Aspect 3 is about presenting the processed data appropriately including units and uncertainties. Minimum and Maximum Fit Lines To find the uncertainties in the slope.

in M : fit T 2 = l− 39 0 0. 08 0. 08 0. 0 06 0. Figure 3. s2 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 l 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 160 180 cm 2 T2 a M :T fit x = − 2l 04 0. .5: The minimum (green) and maximum (red) fit lines in the simple pendulum experiment.6: First and last points with error bars magnified.22 Guidelines for Data Collection and Processing Here are the minimum and maximum fit lines for our example data. 0 06 0. Red line is the maximum fit. and green the minimum fit line. s2 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 l 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 160 180 cm 2 T2 a M :T fit x = − 2l 04 0. Figure 3. in M fit :T 2 = l− 39 0 0.

according to the data acquired in the simple pendulum experiment.0390 s2 cm−1 = 2 2 −1 ≈ 0. m best 0. The uncertainty in the best fit line of the simple pendulum experiment becomes ∆m best = m max − m min 2 0.0422 s2 cm−1 − 0. The slope of the best fit line in the simple pendulum experiment is m best = 4π2 g (3.6) from where it follows that the acceleration due to gravity is g= 4π2 4π2 = ≈ 9.002 s cm If the slope is used in the calculation of the final result. the acceleration due to gravity is g = (9.6 ± 0.5 m s−2 . we have to propagate the uncertainty to the final result as well. and m min the slope of the minimum fit line.8) Thus.041 s2 cm−1 (3. and you should have little difficulty in learning the skills needed to achieve high marks in it. you calculate the uncertainty in the slope of the best fit line.3. Uncertainty in the slope of the best fit line The uncertainty in the slope of the best fit line is ∆m best = m max − m min 2 (3.1.6 m s−2 . .7) The uncertainty in the acceleration due to gravity is ∆g = ∆m best 0.5) where m max is the slope of the maximum fit line.002 s2 cm−1 g= × 9.5) m s−2 Data collection and processing is a relatively straightforward process.041 s2 cm−1 (3. m best 0. Data Collection and Processing (DCP) 23 Uncertainty in the Final Result Once you have drawn the lines.629 m s−2 ≈ 0.

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CHAPTER 4 G UIDELINES FOR C ONCLUSION AND E VALUATION Conclusion and Evaluation In Conclusion and evaluation you have to state a conclusion. Figure 4. discussing physics.1: Students in Ouagadougou. 25 . and suggest improvements. Burkina Faso. evaluate weaknesses and limitations in the experiment.

first exams in 2009” guide (© IBO). This way. and the main principles of experimental research. . In these instructions we propose a way of dividing your text into clearly organised paragraphs. In order to be able to write good conclusion and evaluation. There are three aspects in Conclusion and evaluation.2: The Conclusion and evaluation criteria from the "Physics. Figure 4. you should divide your text into clear paragraphs for fluent communication. There is no single way of writing proper conclusion and evaluation. It is also easier for you to make sure that you have considered all necessary factors.26 Guidelines for Conclusion and Evaluation In writing Conclusion and evaluation. conclusions and evaluations are easier to read. you need to understand the physics of the experiment.

trends and patterns revealed by the data. • State the fractional uncertainty from the processed data. The fractional uncertainty is 5%. the value for the acceleration due to gravity was found to be g = (9.82 m s−2 . • State the systematic error with units and its direction (if applicable).6 ± 0. .5) m s−2 (4. • Discuss the linearity of data (if applicable). In CE Aspect 1: “Concluding” you should • Restate the final result with the associated uncertainty.1) The accepted value in Jyväskylä1 being g = 9. • Discuss observations. and compare it with a fully referenced literature value. • Compare the result with the text book or literature value (if applicable).Conclusion and Evaluation 27 Summary of CE Aspect 1: “Concluding” Conclusion and evaluation criteria Aspect 1 is about stating a justified conclusion with uncertainties. • Fully reference the literature consulted (if applicable). In my experiment. • Comment on the accuracy of the result. and analysing the reliability of data. • Discuss the random errors encountered. CE Aspect 1 “Concluding" Explained Step 1: Stating the result In the first paragraph of conclusion and evaluation you restate the experimental result with the associated uncertainty.

based on how accurate the measurements were. the data is consistent with the line. In the absence of a reference value. a percentage error should be compared with the total estimated random error as derived from the propagation of uncertainties. . and how reliable the process was in the experiment. You should check from the graph: • do the measurement points fall on a line? • does the line go through all error bars? • is there any indication of a systematic error? • are there any outliers? • is there anything else worth noting? If the measurement points fall very nearly on a line. does the probable range of the experimental value overlap the probable range of the reference value.28 Guidelines for Conclusion and Evaluation In comparing your result with the reference value you should: • state the absolute or fractional difference between the values. Step 2: Analysing the graphs In analysing the graphs. you should state that the data is linear. • check. your first task is to comment on the observed trends. • check. but the line nevertheless goes through the error bars. If the points deviate from the line clearly. if the reference value has an associated uncertainty. such as linearity of the data. you should comment on the reliability of the result. the associated random errors are small. does the probable range of the experimental value overlap include the reference value. • consider the uncertainty in the reference value (if applicable). According to the IBO. Note! If the graph is a straight line where the line goes through all the error bars.

For example. The most common case is the one. Typical reasons for non-linear data include • The data should not be linear in the first place. in a falling ball experiment the falling height should be directly proportional to the final speed squared. if it is possible to linearise the data. and try to find out the reason for it. The instructions for the treatment of outliers are in Section 3. however. Or air resistance opposes motion so much that the falling object is not in a free fall anymore. If there are any outliers. . Note! You should state the systematic error in the data with units. If not. the spring force F is not directly proportional to the displacement x from the equilibrium position. Usually. because the string has been stretched beyond its linear range (Hooke’s law F = −k x). you need to ponder upon the reasons for them. reasons for it need to be considered. indicating a systematic error in the data. • The physics of the experiment has been misunderstood. the electric current I in a conductor is not directly proportional to the potential difference V across the component. • The changes in ambient or internal physical conditions has affected the results. • The range of the linear model has been exceeded.1. and does it make sense to do so. you should go back to DCP and check. the best fit line should go through the origin.Conclusion and Evaluation 29 If the data does not follow the expected trend. For example. If your data is not linear. the distance travelled h is proportional to the time t squared (h = 1 at 2 where a is the 2 acceleration). Systematic error in a linear graph If the dependent variable should be directly proportional to the independent variable. For example. the line does not go through the origin exactly. but it is not. you should try to find and analyse the reasons for the non-linear behaviour. where the data is expected to be linear. not just final speed. because of the increasing temperature of the component (non-ohmic behaviour). For example. in uniformly accelerated motion.

reading a thermometer at an angle. For example. Systematic errors are sometimes hard to detect. and double check you work to verify that you have not just missed something obvious. If the systematic error cannot be accounted for by software. In this case you should clearly state that the systematic error is most probably caused by the algorithm of the measurement software. • systematic misuse of a measurement device. conclusions that are supported by the data can be acceptable even if they appear to contradict accepted theories.30 Guidelines for Conclusion and Evaluation Systematic errors are most often caused by: • by the software algorithm in a linear fit. you must try to find a reason for it. measuring volumes in a graduated cylinder at an angle. however. According to physics syllabus. forget to add atmospheric pressure to overpressure values in using gas laws. Note! Remember that a repeated experiment does not reduce the effect of a systematic error unless the source of the error is removed. you have to be extremely careful. such as random errors caused by fluctuating reading in a multimeter. For example. In such a case. and misreading a scale in a multimeter. a zero-offset error in a scale. For example. and not to subtract background radiation in studying the activity of a radioactive sample. A small deviation from the origin is most often caused by the algorithm the measurement software uses. • systematic misreading of a scale. You should pay special attention to unexpected random errors in the data. • Forgetting to add or subtract a fixed value from measurement results. . Random errors In the conclusion you should also comment on the random errors encountered. A more detailed analysis of random errors goes to the Aspect 2: ”Evaluating procedure(s)".

It is important that you show some appreciation of the significance of each weakness and source of uncertainty. • Discuss the method of measurement in detail. and identify all relevant weaknesses. You should go through the significant weaknesses. • Appreciate whether the limitations cause a systematic or random uncertainty. In the first paragraph in evaluating the procedures. and sources of uncertainty in the process in decreasing order of importance. First. you should comment on overall quality of the experimental procedure.Conclusion and Evaluation 31 Summary of CE Aspect 2: “Evaluating procedure(s)” Conclusion and Evaluation criteria Aspect 2 is about evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the experiment. • Was the experiment suitable for its intended purpose? • What were the major limitations in the experiment. such as instrumental uncertainty. and did the equipment fit well with the experiment. you should comment on that as well. . If time management affected your measurements. • Discuss all sources of uncertainty that affect the accuracy of the measurement. In analysing weaknesses you should consider the equipment and time management well. you analyse the major weakness in the experiment. • Identify weaknesses and limitations in the process. • Go through the sources of uncertainty in the decreasing order of importance. and data collected. In the second paragraph the second most important weakness and so on. You must also have some appreciation of whether each factor would cause a systematic or a random uncertainty. In CE Aspect 2: “Evaluating procedure(s)” you should • Comment on the overall quality of the process. limitations.

An easy way of improving the accuracy of a measurement is to use more accurate instruments. • Suggest exactly what should be done to reduce random uncertainties. in measuring the thermal capacity of an object. • Suggest realistic improvements. • Improving the measurement process. you should suggests instruments . using a more accurate multimeter or scale. Summary of CE Aspect 3: “Improving the investigation" In CE Aspect 3: “Improving the investigation" you should • Address the weaknesses and limitations identified in CE Aspect 2. • Improving the external and internal physical factors relating to the accuracy of the experiment. change the measurement location from outdoors to indoors to eliminate the effect of wind.32 Guidelines for Conclusion and Evaluation CE Aspect 3: “Improving the investigation" In Conclusion and evaluation Aspect 3 you have to suggest realistic improvements in respect of identified weaknesses and limitations. For example. For example. • Suggest exactly what should be done to reduce systematic uncertainties CE Aspect 3: “Improving the investigation" Explained The ways of improving the weaknesses and limitations identified in Aspect 2 include • Improving the accuracy of the measurement by using more accurate instruments. This includes the description of how the experimental procedure could be improved for better accuracy of the experimental result. For example. Ideally. insulating the system better from its surroundings to reduce thermal energy losses to the surroundings.

01 s. As a result. As an example. For example. It is always best the state exactly which instrument you would use. You may use the Internet in finding information about the instruments. to eliminate the effect of air resistance. and the accuracy of the measurement of position. using a position sensor reduces the uncertainty to the minimum.vernier.001 m. But that would be impossible in most practical cases.com/support/manuals/. For example. . For example. if you measure the falling time manually.com/files/manuals/md-btd. To improve the accuracy of the measurement of time and position. and that of position to ∆s = ±0. Once again. When many people work at the same time in the class. As a result. uncertainties are exceptionally high. and how much it would improve the accuracy of the measured quantity. where the position of a rolling ball on the floor was measured as a function of time by using manual timing and 5 metres long tape measure. Or if you want to measure the resistivity of the material a twisted wire is made of.vernier. Improving the measurement process is most often relevant. the uncertainty is away too high. consider a case. many physics experiments are carried out in ordinary classroom conditions. you can improve the uncertainty in measuring the length by using a straighter wire. it would be nice to perform an experiment in a vacuum. the class room temperature tends to rise. it is difficult to control the class room temperature. Improving the external and internal physical factors relating to the accuracy of the experiment is not always easy. the instrumental uncertainty in time would be reduced to ∆t = ±0.Conclusion and Evaluation 33 that are available at your school. when as a result of the measurement process.pdf. Using a position sensor instead would improve both the accuracy of the measurement of time. Or. I would use Vernier Motion Detector 2 http://www. you find information about Vernier accessories at http://www.

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