Physics Depth Study | The Comprehensive Guide (2021)

Do you have a Physics depth study? Learn the 5 depth study types as well as ideas and tools for your depth study to get you started.

Looking for Physics depth study ideas and examples?

When you are given a Physics depth study assessment, you might be confused about where to start just like many students out there. In this article, we explain what depth studies are and the process of choosing your depth study idea and topic.

This comprehensive guide to Physic Depth Study consists of the following chapters:


What are Physics depth studies?

A depth study is any type of investigation/activity that a student completes individually or collaboratively that allows the further development of one or more concepts found within or inspired by the Physics syllabus.

The flowchart categorises different types of depth studies:

Physics Depth Studies Category Flowchart


A depth study may be, but is not limited to:

  • A practical investigation or series of practical investigations
  • A secondary-sourced investigation or series of secondary-sourced investigations
  • Presentations, research assignments or fieldwork reports
  • The extension of concepts found within the course, either qualitatively and/or quantitatively


Physics depth study types and ideas

Most Physics depth studies are on:

  • Practical investigations or
  • Secondary-sourced investigations

A list of Physics depth study types and useful tools are provided below. For more information on each Physics depth study type, click the link.

Depth Study TypeIdeasUseful tools
Practical investigations
  • Design and conduct experiments
  • Test a claim
  • Test a device.
Secondary-sourced investigations
  • Make a documentary or media report
  • Conduct a literature review
  • Develop an evidence-based argument
  • Write a journal article
  • Write an essay – historical or theoretical
  • Develop an environmental management plan
  • Analyse a work of fiction or film for scientific relevance
  • Create a visual presentation
  • Investigate emerging technologies.
Data Analysis

A practical investigation, or secondary-sourced investigation may require a form of data analysis.

For example:

  • Construction and analysis of graphs/tables
  • Data analysis from a variety of sources
  • Research analysis, eg of longitudinal data, resource management data
  • Design and invent
  • Create a working model
  • Create a portfolio.

Fieldwork may be a starting point for a practical investigation or secondary-sourced study and could be initiated by the following stimuli:

  • An excursion
  • Engagement with community experts.

Source: NSW Education Standards Authority



Four steps to choosing your Physics depth study topic

The process for completing your Physics depth study is outlined below.

1Choose the type of depth study you would like to undertake if it is not prescribed by your school.Many schools prescribe the type of depth study that HSC Physics students will undertake. Although there are many different depth study types, most schools assign a practical investigation for their depth study assessment.
2Choose the idea for your chosen depth study type.NESA has provided a list of ideas for each depth study type.

  • For practical investigations, designing and conducting experiment is a popular choice.
  • For secondary-sourced investigation, making a media report, writing a journal article or creating a visual presentation is a popular choice.
3Choose the topic for your Physics depth study.Once your depth study type is defined, a good place to start choosing your topic is to think about which aspect of the HSC Physics course you find most interesting and/or enjoyable.

If you’re unsure of what topic you’re interested in, try scanning through the various topics in all four modules and see if anything jumps out at you.

For Year 11 Physics, the modules are:

  • Module 1: Kinematics
  • Module 2: Dynamics
  • Module 3: Waves & Thermodynamics
  • Module 4: Electricity & Magnetism

For Year 12 Physics, the modules are:

  • Module 5: Advanced Mechanics
  • Module 6: Electromagnetism
  • Module 7: The Nature of Light
  • Module 8: From the Universe to the Atom
4Conduct your Physics depth study.Once you have chosen the topic and type of depth study to undertake, think carefully about how you will approach and structure your work.

  • If you are doing a practical investigation involving an experiment and data analysis, you must follow the scientific method.
  • If you are doing a secondary-source investigation such as a media report, a journal article or a visual presentation, think about the story you’d like present and structure your work in a way that delivers that story coherently accompanied by detailed discussions of the relevant science. A science magazine such as Cosmos is a good source for secondary-sourced investigation.


For more guidance on choosing the right Physics depth study topic, read Chapter 1: Physics Depth Study Ideas and Topics.


Are you doing a practical investigation for your depth study? Access our library of sample Physics practical reports.

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Written by DJ Kim

DJ is the founder of Learnable and has a passionate interest in education and technology. He is also the author of Physics resources on Learnable.

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