IB Physics IA: The Complete to Structure Your Paper

In this guide, we show you exactly how to work on your IB Physics IA from start to finish.

Whether you’ve already started by looking at Internal Assessment topics or you first want to learn more about the subject before you start writing, you’ll find this post useful.

Let’s begin. 

Key Takeaways

  • Physics internal assessment requires you to conduct independent research on a physical experiment and develop a report for your findings.
  • Your work mostly centers around a topic of your choice, so ensure you focus on an area that fascinates you.
  • There’s no official word count for the project, but you should make it 6 to 12 pages long.

How to Write Your IB Physics IA

Physics internal assessment can be challenging to execute. However, it’s not impossible to complete it on time if you have the right lead.

To save you time, and the frustration that often comes with IB assignments, check out the following on the easy way to write your IA in the Physics subject from start to finish.

1. Select the Right Topic

Start your project by choosing a compellingPhysics IA topic.

  • Look at your syllabus for subjects covered in class or create a list of ideas even if not explicitly taught in your classroom.
  • Choose a topic that allows you to test the correlation between two variables while maintaining other factors constant.
  • Opt for simplicity, as investigating straightforward physics topics tends to be more manageable within the specified period.
  • If a topic allows you to collect primary data and provides the opportunity to consult secondary sources to validate or invalidate your hypothesis, go for it.

Keep in mind that your topic can take the form of either experimental or simulation-based research.

2. Design Your Experiment

With your chosen topic in mind, proceed to create a comprehensive and a practical plan for your physical experiment. Ensure the plan includes all relevant details necessary to conduct the experiment. 

Explicitly outline the data you aim to record and detail the methodology you will employ to collect this data.

If you find that essential equipment is lacking for the experiment during the planning phase, consider this a sign that the topic might be too intricate. In such cases, return to the initial step and select a different, more feasible topic to explore in your internal assessment.

3. Record Your Data

Conduct your experiment and document the pertinent data, making sure you include all variables you employed.

You have the option to record the data manually or input it into software like Microsoft Excel for analysis.

Keep in mind that initial records may lack accuracy, and, even if precise, could pose challenges in data interpretation. Therefore, conduct your experiment a minimum of five times to minimize the likelihood of random errors.

Emphasize the importance of maintaining consistent conditions for each repetition of the experiment, regardless of how many times you conduct it. This uniformity ensures the reliability and validity of your data.

4. State the Uncertainty of Your Experiment

Repeating your physical experiment doesn’t eliminate errors. It only reduces them. Therefore, it’s ideal to acknowledge and estimate the uncertainties inherent in your experiment.

Your experiment may have two errors, and they’re as follows:

  • Systematic Errors: These can originate from tools like digital meters and stopwatches, typically associated with a ±1 uncertainty on the last digit. They may also stem from the techniques employed in conducting the experiment, including certain human factors such as reaction time.
  • Random Errors: Independent of equipment and techniques, random errors are inherent in physical experiments and often arise from recording fluctuations. So repeating the experiment at least five times can help to mitigate the occurrence of these errors.

Understanding and quantifying both systematic and random errors contribute to a more accurate assessment of the experiment’s reliability.

5. Use a Linear Graph to Extract Results

Use your hand or a software solution such as Microsoft Excel to create a linear graph and plot the results.

In the case of a linear correlation, ensure that the graph highlights points corresponding to measurements, with a best-fit line passing through these points. If the relationship between variables isn’t inherently linear, manipulate them to generate a linear curve that maintains proportionality.

Once you’ve plotted the graph, analyze the linear parameters of your physical experiment.

Focus on the gradient and y-intercept, as these quantities closely link to the experiment’s physical constants. This analysis helps to determine whether the experimental outcomes align with your expectations.

6. Estimate Uncertainties

You have to establish the estimate of uncertainty before you compare your experiment results to real values. You can use a tool to get these errors or calculate them manually if you don’t have access to the right tool for the job.

Refer to section 1.2 of the IB Physics IA core syllabus to understand how to derive the estimate of uncertainties in your physical experiments.

This crucial step ensures a comprehensive assessment of the reliability and accuracy of your results in relation to real values.

7. Evaluate Your Results

First, note that evaluation accounts for 25% of the final grades for this internal assessment project. 

Your goal is to assess the results and pinpoint potential errors in your experiment. Use the graph that you generated to identify values of physical quantities along with their uncertainties, and then compare this data with your expected results.

It’s acceptable if the outcome deviates from your expectations. What matters is the analysis of the results and a coherent explanation for any discrepancies. Revisit your procedure, identify potential causes of errors, and articulate the implications of your results in relation to the investigated relationship.

This analytical approach ensures a comprehensive evaluation that goes beyond the mere presentation of data.

8. Write Your Report

The final step is to write your IB Physics IA report.

Your writing should be clear and comprehensive. After reading the paper, your teacher should have the impression that you invested your time and resources to conduct an in-depth physical experiment.

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