Physics Investigation - PHYS6170

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2024 to 2025
Spring Term 6 15 (7.5) Christopher Lynch checkmark-circle


To provide experience in laboratory based experimentation, data recording and analysis and drawing of conclusions.
To develop report writing skills for scientific material.
To develop the ability to undertake investigations where, as part of the exercise, the goals and methods have to be defined by the investigator.
To develop skills in literature searches and reviews.

The module has two parts: Laboratory experiments and a mini-project. For half the term the students will work in pairs on a series of 3 two-week experiments. A report will be written by each student for each experiment.

Experiments include:
Solar cells.
Hall effect.
Gamma ray spectroscopy.
X-ray diffraction.
Optical spectroscopy.

Mini-projects. For half the term, the students will work in pairs on a mini-project. These will be more open-ended tasks than the experiments, with only brief introductions stating the topic to be investigated with an emphasis on independent learning. A report will be written by each student on their project.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 55
Private study hours: 95
Total study hours: 150


This is not available as a wild module.

Method of assessment

Practical (16.7% - max. 10 pages)
Practical (16.7% - max. 10 pages)
Practical (16.6% - max. 10 pages)
Assignment (50% - max. 25 pages)

Indicative reading

An Introduction to Error Analysis; Taylor, J.R. (1997)
Writing for Science and Engineering: Papers, Presentations and Reports; Silyn-Roberts, H. (2013)
Scientists Must Write; Barrass, R. (2002)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes. On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
An ability to identify relevant principles and laws when dealing with problems, and to make approximations necessary to obtain solutions for laboratory projects.
An ability to execute and analyse critically the results of an experiment or investigation and draw valid conclusions. To evaluate the level of uncertainty in these results and compare them with expected outcomes, theoretical predictions or with published data; thereby to evaluate the significance of their results in this context.
An ability to use mathematical techniques and analysis to model physical behaviour.
Competent use of appropriate C&IT packages/systems for the analysis of data and the retrieval of appropriate information.
An ability to present and interpret information graphically for project reports.
An ability to communicate scientific information, in particular to produce clear and accurate scientific reports.
A familiarity with laboratory apparatus and techniques, including relevant aspects of Health & Safety.
The systematic and reliable recording of experimental data.
An ability to make use of appropriate texts, research-based materials or other learning resources as part of managing their own learning.

The intended generic learning outcomes. On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
Have a knowledge and understanding of:
Problem-solving skills, in the context of both problems with well-defined solutions and open-ended problems; an ability to formulate problems in precise terms and to identify key issues, and the confidence to try different approaches in order to make progress on challenging problems. Numeracy is subsumed within this area.
Investigative skills in the context of independent investigation including the use of textbooks and other available literature, databases, and the interaction with colleagues to extract important information.
Communication skills in the area of dealing with surprising ideas and difficult concepts, including listening carefully, reading demanding texts and presenting complex information in a clear and concise manner. C&IT skills are an important element to this.
Analytical skills – associated with the need to pay attention to detail and to develop an ability to manipulate precise and intricate ideas, to construct logical arguments and to use technical language correctly.
Personal skills – the ability to work independently, to use initiative, to organise oneself to meet deadlines and to interact constructively with other people.


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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