Chapter 2: How to Plan and Conduct Physics Practical Investigations

Do you need help with your Physics practical assessment task? Read this article and learn how to apply the scientific method to design, conduct and analyse any Physics practical investigation.

Physics Practical Investigations

Physics practical investigations are an important part of your Year 11 & 12 Physics course. They are compulsory and weigh at least 60% of your overall school assessment mark.

Physics practical investigations involve the collection of primary data. They may include

  • undertaking laboratory experiments, including the use of appropriate digital technologies
  • undertaking fieldwork and surveys
  • constructing models

In this article we’re going to discuss:


How to Plan and Conduct any Physics Practical Investigation

Step 1: Know the essential scientific skills

The essential scientific skills required for practical investigations are listed below.

  1. Identifying types of variables (independent, dependent, and control variables).
  2. Assessing validity, reliability and accuracy.
  3. Determining the source of experimental errors.
  4. Drawing and analysing appropriate graphs, including a line of best fit.

You’ll need to be demonstrate a high level of competency in these scientific skills prior to planning your physics practical investigation.

For a detailed explanation on the essential scientific skills, read the Matrix blog ‘The Beginner’s guide to Physics Practical Skills‘.


Step 2: Apply the scientific method to design and conduct a practical investigation

When designing a practical investigation, you’ll need to apply the scientific method illustrated in the flowchart below.


The scientific method consists of four main stages:

  1. Questions and predicting
  2. Planning investigations
  3. Conducting investigations
  4. Analysing data and evaluating results.

The scientific method is explained in the table below.

StageSteps and Explanations
Questioning and predictingStep 1: Theory

A practical investigation must be designed based on a hypothesis or a theory. For example, a practical investigation involving projectile motions can be based on the equations of motions.

Step 2: Aim

Using a theory, we can make a prediction. This is the aim of the experiment.

Planning investigationsStep 3: Method

To design a valid controlled experiment, write the method by:

  • Justifying the selection of equipment, resources chosen and the design of an investigation.
  • Ensuring that all risks are assessed, appropriate materials and technologies are sourced.
  • Identifying variables as independent, dependent and controlled to ensure a valid procedure is developed that will allow for the reliable collection of data.
  • Including strategies that ensure controlled variables are kept constant and experimental control is used as appropriate.

When writing the method, we must ensure each step incorporates reliability, accuracy and validity. The purpose for the method of an experiment is to provide a clear instruction on how to conduct the experiment validly whilst improving accuracy and reliability of the results.

Conducting investigationsStep 4: Results

To conduct investigations:

  • Construct our equipment by selecting appropriate equipment.
  • Use appropriate technologies.
  • Ensure risk assessments are conducted and followed.
  • Ensure the selection and criteria for collecting valid and reliable data is methodical.
Analysing dataStep 5. Quantitative analysis of results: Graphs and calculations

To analyse data:

  • Identify trends, patterns and relationships; recognise error, uncertainty and limitations in data.
  • Apply, where appropriate, mathematical models to demonstrate the trends and relationships that occur in data.

Step 6: Qualitative analysis: Evaluation of method and errors 

To discuss experimental errors and suggest improvements

  • Assess the appropriateness of the method.
  • Evaluate the relevance, accuracy, validity and reliability of the data collected.

For more information on analysing and evaluating data, read Physics Study Guide Part 2: ‘How to Study for Year 12 Physics Data Analysis Task‘.



How to Write Physics Practical Investigation Report

When writing the Physics practical investigation report, it should include:

  1. Title
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Hypothesis or Theory the investigation is based on
  5. Aim
  6. Method
  7. Results
  8. Discussion
    1. Quantitative analysis of results: Graphs and Calculations
    2. Qualitative analysis: Evaluation of method and errors
  9. References

Let’s apply the scientific method to plan, design, conduct and analyse the practical investigation.

For a step-by-step explanation on how to write a practical report for your depth study, read this article, ‘How to Write a Practical Report: Depth Study Report Template’.



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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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