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1. Reading Graphs

2. Gradient

3. Plotting Graphs

1. Reading Graphs

Graphs in Physics will have lines that are either straight-lines or smooth-curves.

Graphs may, however, consist of several of these lines.

Some will pass through the origin (0,0), some will not.

Example:

Use the graph, showing the speed of a car against time, to answer the questions

3. How long does it take for the car to reach a speed of 7 m/s?

4. At which two instants (times) does the car move with a speed of 15 m/s?

7. Can the graph tell us whether the car is going uphill or downhill?

2. Gradient

Look at the two graphs below.

We can measure the slope (gradient) of the line and express it as a number.

1. Choose two points (P1 and P2) one near to each end of the graph.

P2 (x2,y2)

P1 (x1,y1)

2. Mark out a large triangle using the two points you have chosen.

P2 (x2,y2)

P1 (x1,y1)

Increase in x values

m = y2 – y1

x2 – x1

Worked example:

45

40

35

30

25

20

15

10

0

0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60 65 70 75 80 85 90 95 10 10

0 5

Exercise:

Find gradients of the following lines:

Q1.

18

17

16

15

14

13

12

11

10

9

8

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6

5

4

3

2

1

0

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 1213 14 15 16 1718 19 20 21 2223 24 25

Q2.

18

17

16

15

14

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10

9

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

1

0

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 1213 14 15 16 1718 19 20 21 2223 24 25

Q3.

18

17

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9

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5

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3

2

1

0

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 1213 14 15 16 1718 19 20 21 2223 24 25

Refer to the following graph for Q4.-Q6.

B

C

1. Choose the point at which you wish to find the gradient.

Look at the graph below. Mark on the diagram the point, G, where the gradient is the

greatest.

3. Plotting Graphs

Graphs are plotted to show the relationship between two quantities. The quantity that

you control and change is usually plotted on the x-axis. You should vary this quantity

in regular steps in the experiment. The quantity that is dependent on the quantity that

you control or change is plotted on the y-axis.

a) Label both axes prominently with the names and units of the variables. The SI

method is recommended e.g. “x/m” or “I/A” etc.

b) Give a title to the graph.

c) Use a convenient scale to draw the graph as large as available space allows.

(i) Avoid using “3-scales” and other awkward scales. Such scales usually

lead to errors in plotting and reading from the graph.

(ii) The paper can be placed either in the landscape or portrait position.

d) Do not attempt to join all of the points on the graph. It is not likely that you

would obtain a straight line or a smooth curve. Rather, use a transparent ruler to

help you draw the best straight line or a flexi-curve to draw a smooth curve

through most of the points.

e) When determining the gradient of a straight line, draw a large triangle and use

the co-ordinate method to determine the gradient.

f) Evidence of how a reading is obtained from the graph must be shown.

(i) When finding the gradient ensure that a triangle is drawn on the graph

paper.

(ii) Reference lines to find a point on the horizontal axis corresponding to a

point on the vertical axis or vice-versa.

The following two diagrams show good examples of straight-line and smooth-curve

graphs.

Notice how the lines do not pass through every point but pass close to all of the points.

Exercise:

Look at the following graphs and determine if they are drawn correctly or if there are

any mistakes. For the cases where there are mistakes state the mistake and suggest a

way that they could be corrected.

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

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