As defined by the College Board, scientific inquiry consists of very specific processes and skills sets, which all students can learn.
Lab Objectives for AP Physics C
Students will be able to
1. Design experiments: Describe the purpose of an experiment, identify common lab equipment and describe its use, draw helpful diagrams, describe procedures to be used, including controls and measurements.
2. Observe and measure real phenomena: Make relevant observations with a variety of instruments.
3. Analyze data: Display graphs and tables, fit lines and curves, perform calculations, make extrapolations and interpolations.
4. Analyze errors: Identify sources of error and how they propagate, estimate magnitude and direction of errors, determine significant digits, identify ways to reduce error.
5. Communicate results: Draw inferences and conclusions, suggest ways to improve an experiment, propose questions for further study.
Science Practices for AP Physics 1 and 2
The student can
1. Use representations and models to communicate scientific phenomena and solve scientific problems, including creation, description, refinement, use, and re-expression of models.
2. Use mathematics appropriately, including justification and application of mathematical routines, as well as estimation of numerical quantities.
3. Engage in scientific questioning to extend thinking or to guide investigations, including posing, refining, and evaluating scientific questions.
4. Plan and implement data collection strategies in relation to a particular scientific question, including justification of the kind of data selected, planning a design, collecting data, and evaluating sources of data.
5. Perform data analysis and evaluation of evidence, including refining observations and measurements, and evaluating the evidence provided by data.
6. Work with scientific explanations and theories, including justification of claims with evidence, constructing explanations based on evidence, articulation of the reasons that scientific explanations are refined or replaced, making claims and predictions about natural phenomena, and evaluation of alternative scientific explanations.
7. The student is able to connect and relate knowledge across various scales, concepts, and representations in and across domains, including the connection of phenomena and models across spatial and temporal scales, and the connection of concepts in and across domains.
Inquiry is not the same thing as discovery. Students operate with full knowledge of physics formulas, laws, explanations, and theories. The inquiry process may be summarized as follows:
Student should be able to
• Pick the correct formula for the scenario and anticipate an outcome based on the formula
• Write a hypothesis
• Design an experiment to test the hypothesis
• Perform a numerical or graphical analysis
• Evaluate the analysis results (confirm, refute, inconclusive) based on evidence
In addition, the general vocabulary developed for AP Physics 1 and 2 around scientific models and experimental design is suitable for AP Physics C as well.
Parts of an Inquiry Write-Up
Introduction
• Includes the question
• Defines relevant vocabulary
• Provides relevant background information
Hypothesis
• Written as if were a true statement
...Provisional until the outcome of the inquiry is known, however, write the hypothesis as if it were already confirmed.
Procedure
• Provides an explanation of what the independent, dependent, and control variables are during the experiment
• Provides a list of materials needed to collect data
• Describes the steps followed to collect the data
• Includes a paragraph describing the error we can expect in the experiment due to the measuring instruments being used (ex. Meter stick has known error of ±3 mm)
Data Introduction / Table
• Should start with a paragraph introducing and explaining the contents of the data table
• Should be easy to follow and include units
Data Analysis
• Includes all relevant graphs and calculations necessary to determine the relationships revealed by the data
Dependent variable should be plotted on the y-axis, Independent variable on the x-axis.
• States the actual relationships determined during the experiment
On the graph, the equation is given in terms of x and y. Your statement of the equation should replace x and y with the actual variables measured.
• Includes a discussion of additional error that occurred while conducting the experiment due to how the measuring equipment was being used. (Ex: Object was moving while we tried to measure its length.)
Conclusion
• Includes a discussion of the validity of your hypothesis
Be sure to cite specific data from your experiment that either confirms or refutes your hypothesis.
• Includes a comparison of your experimental result to the known correct answer
Typically, this will require you to compare the equation you determined from your graphs to the known equation we have learned in class.
• Discussion of the influence of error on your confidence in the results and a suggestion for how error could be reduced in the future
• Includes a suggestion for an additional experiment which could be run to further our understanding of the concepts we are exploring
Graphical Analysis
Often, data is analysis is performed by using a graph. This page lists the steps in performing such an analysis, with an example.