Academic Group 4 Subjects

Tips for Physics IA

Have you been searching for a topic to write your Physics SL IA on, or are you simply having trouble beginning the writing process? This post will provide you with the helpful tips you need to choose a topic, create an outline, and ensure overall success when writing your Physics IA. Since I have been in your shoes before, I hope that my personal experience with writing and succeeding at this IA can help you do the same.

The Purpose of the IA:

Keep in mind that the purpose of the Physics IA is not to show that you are a genius who has a complicated understanding of everything there is to know about physics. Your goal is to show that you have an excellent understanding of the concepts within your topic, and that you can apply your scientific thinking skills and document your entire process.

The goal is also not to flawlessly execute the experiment with no errors or mistakes. No experiment is ever done perfectly. The goal is to address these errors and explain why they changed your results the way they did.

Choosing a Topic

The biggest tips I can share for choosing a topic are:

  1. Choose a simple topic. An extremely complex topic will not always yield a higher score than a standard topic. 
  2. Choose something that you already know the outcome of. I recommend experiments that have been tried.
  3. Choose something that you already have knowledge about. Do not choose a topic that you have not learned yet in class. 

What you’re probably thinking right now: “Past experiments?? But I want to be original. I want mine to stand out!”

And my response: You still can! Although there is a good chance many people have written their IA over the same topic you have chosen, there are 2 things that will make yours stand out and unique to you: 

  1. your personal engagement statements, where you will relate the topic to your personal interests. Maybe express your interest in studying your topic or physics in general in the future.
  1. your documentation of your sources of errors, observations, and most of all, your conclusion. Depending on the resources and materials you are given, your sources of error may be different from someone else’s. It’s up to you to understand these sources and know how they affect your overall results. Therefore, your observations and conclusions will be unique as well. 

So, those websites you’ve been scrolling through to find a topic can actually be helpful to you if you narrow down your options using the 3 tips I provided above. At the end of this post, I have provided a list of some links you can go to for previously used topic ideas.

Don’t let choosing the content of the topic stress you out! You want to focus on how you are presenting your knowledge of your chosen topic through your experiment, simulation, or whatever your IA is going to be based on.

Creating an Outline

This is the one that I followed when I did my experiment-based IA. Your teacher may suggest a different outline, but this is the one that I see most commonly used in experiments.

  • Introduction: This includes background information about your topic, your personal engagement statements, and what exactly your IA plans to investigate. 
  • Materials Used: Include a labeled drawing or photo of your set up and all the materials you used.
  • Hypothesis: This is the starting point of your experiment. Based on your research, what is the theoretical outcome of your experiment?
  • How Error was Avoided: What did you do before, during, and after your experiment to minimize the amount of errors that would occur?
  • Variables:  List all independent and dependent variables involved in the experiment.
  • Method or Procedure: This is where you will explain every step you took to conduct your experiment. Though there is a page limit, so keep this as simple as possible.
  • Data Collected: This should be neatly organized in a table.
  • Calculations: Clearly show every equation and the steps you took. You can also add descriptions next to each step. This includes error calculations.
  • Processed Data: This is the data that results from your calculations for each trial, neatly organized in tables and graphs.
  • Evaluation: This is where you will identify the main sources of errors and explain them and their effect on your results.
  • Conclusion: Using your processed data, what was the outcome? Does it match your hypothesis? Why or why not? 
  • Works Cited: It is recommended you include at least one source somewhere in your IA to back up your claims and conclusions.

Other Helpful Tips

  1. When transitioning from one section to another, it is easy for your IA to seem choppy. When you first begin writing, it is okay to tackle the IA section by section. Then, go back and add flow and transitions. 
  2. Don’t be afraid to include additional diagrams or drawings throughout your IA if you find that that might be easier than explaining concepts/findings in words. Personally, this is what I did, and it really helped me to organize my thoughts. 
  3. Review and proofread your IA multiple times for grammatical errors, typos, and correct significant figures before submitting.  

A Final Note

So, the Physics SL IA is very doable, and it is not meant to turn you into an Isaac Newton. Chances are, you’ve already got all the tools and knowledge you need to write an amazing IA. You got this, and good luck! 

Links to Physics SL IA Topic Ideas:

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