Skills for Physicists - PS370

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2018-19 2019-20
Canterbury Autumn
View Timetable
4 15 (7.5)


UK Advanced Level Physics Examinations with a normal minimum attainment of a
Grade C on the main Physics A - Level. Any generally accepted equivalent of this
content and attainment is regarded as an acceptable prerequisite.
Co-requisites: PH304 Astrophysics, Space Science and Cosmology, PH321 Mechanics, PH322 Electricity and Light, PH323 Thermodynamics and Matter.





Standard Lectures
How Physical Sciences are taught at Kent.
Library use. Bibliographic database searches.
Error analysis and data presentation. Types of errors; combining errors; Normal distribution; Poisson distribution; graphs – linear and logarithmic.
Probability and Statistics. Probability distributions, laws of probability, permutations and combinations, mean and variance.
Academic integrity and report writing skills.

Laboratory experiments
A choice of experiments in weekly sessions. Some of the experiments require two consecutive sessions to complete.

Choice of (among others): Deduction of a law, Wind tunnel, Probability distributions, Geometrical optics on the magnetic board, Computer–aided study of electrical and electronic circuits, Heat engines, Waves, Firing projectiles with the model catapult, mechanical simulation of stabbing action, etc.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

14 hours of lectures, 30 laboratory hours.

Total study hours: 150.


This is not available as a wild module.

Method of assessment

100% coursework with must-pass components:

  • 24% for non-lab components [Library Quiz, Prob. & Stats, Errors and Graphical Data Representation, Doing well in Tests, IT Skills]
  • Must-pass component: average mark of 40% required for the lab report component.
    (The lab report component contributes a weight of 50% to the final module mark)
  • 26% for other lab-related components [Lab dilligence, Keeping a well-organised lab book, Online lab assessments on Moodle, compulsory end of year presentation]

  • Preliminary reading

    J. Taylor "An Introduction to Error Analysis" Q182.3, 3 copies (Sausalito, California: University Science Books, 1997, ISBN 093570275X).
    L. Kirkup "Experimental methods" Q182.3, 3 copies (John Wiley and Sons, 1994, ISBN 0471335797).
    David C van Aken, William F Hosford, Reporting Results, 0521723485 (Cambridge University Press, 2008)

    See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

    See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

    Learning outcomes

  • An ability to identify relevant principles and laws when dealing with problems, and to make approximations necessary to obtain solutions.
  • An ability to solve problems in physics using appropriate mathematical tools.
  • 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.
    Subject-specific skills:
  • 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.
  • 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.
    Transferable skills:
  • 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.

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