Doing the research - AS-A2-Physics

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Nov 15, 2013 (3 years and 4 months ago)

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Dr
. S.M.Harding

2009

G496: Yr 13
Research and Report

A short written (max 2000 words) and verbal report based
on the individual work of a candidate summarising a topic
in physics of his or her own choosing that requires the
need to use and synthesise ideas from different areas of
the subject. The
criteria for assessment include the ability
to defend and explain the ideas involved during
questioning.

Walton High

2



C
ontents:

OVERVIEW

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3

T
HE NATURE OF THE TAS
K

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3

M
ANAGING THE
R
ESEARCH
B
RIEFING TASK

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3

A
SSESSING THE WORK

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3

WHAT YOU WILL DO

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4

CHOOSING A TOPIC

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5

I
N SUMMARY
:

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6

DOING THE RESEARCH

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7

BIBLIOGRAPHY AND REF
ERENCING.

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8

A
N EXAMPLE OF A

BIBLIOGRAPHY
:

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9

WHICH ONE ARE YOU?

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11

T
HE
M
INIMALIST

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11

T
HE
I
NQUIRING
M
IND

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11

DEVELOPMENT OF IDEAS

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11

S
TOPPING THE RESEARCH

IN TIME

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11

PREPARING FOR THE WR
ITING PROCESS

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12

M
ODELS
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12

A
TTRIBUTING AND ACKNO
WLEDGING
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12

K
NOWLEDGE OF THE APPR
OPRIATE PHYSICS

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12

STAGES IN WRITING TH
E ARTICLE

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13

PRODUCING A ROUGH DR
AFT OF THE CHUNKS

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14

PRODUCING THE FINAL
REPORT

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15

CHECKLIST

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16

TOPIC SUGGESTIONS

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17



Overview

This task is designed to assess the ability of a candidate to find information from a variety of sources; to
compare, analyse and evaluate the information obtained, and to synthesise and summarise the ess
ential
points. The Research Briefing gives candidates an opportunity to be rewarded for:



working independently;



drawing together ideas from different aspects of physics;



selecting and extracting information from a variety of sources;



applying knowledge and understanding of basic ideas to a new topic;



translating and interpreting information that may be available in a variety of forms;



placing physics ideas in a wider human or social context;



communicating scientific ideas in continu
ous prose using good English;



using published material as part of research.


The nature of the task

This task involves researching a topic of the student’s choice to produce a short paper of about 1500
-
2000
words, a Research Briefing. The student will n
eed to be able to explain the content of this work and to
respond to questions that test understanding and mastery of the material included. The task is modelled on
the professional activity in which members of a research group brief one another on recent
work in the
field, but adapted to the assessment of A
-
Level students.

The student should collect, analyse, evaluate and summarise information about a topic that involves a
significant range of physics ideas at a suitable level. The information is to be ob
tained from the candidate’s
own research using a representative range and variety of sources. These sources might include books,
journals, pamphlets, surveys, interviews, libraries, databases and web sites on the internet. The topic may
be experimental, th
eoretical or applied. The topic must be approved in advance by the class teacher. The
teacher should ensure that the student chooses a topic that will enable them to fulfil the assessment
criteria.

Managing the Research Briefing task

The outcome of the t
ask is a written Research Briefing (2

3 pages A4, about
2000

words), in the candidate’s
own words, that summarizes the key results and ideas in the topic studied. This must be based on the
candidate’s own independent study of sources.

Candidates must inclu
de a list of the sources that they have used, which the teacher can sample as
necessary to confirm authenticity.

The Research Briefing will be sent to Moderators, together with the teacher’s supporting notes about the
student’s response to questioning and

understanding of the material, and the overall assessment.

Assessing the work


T
he teacher must use three sources of evidence:

1.

the written Research Briefing including the list of sources used;

2.

the candidate’s ability to explain the Briefing verbally or by some other appropriate method, and to
respond to questions that test understanding of the topic, including questions about sources;

4

3.

observation of and interaction with the candidate during the

preparatory work.

The Research Briefing must:



be in the candidate’s own words;



explain the main results and ideas in the topic studied, and what they are based on, where relevant
how they have developed or changed, or are novel or disputed;



give arguments for the importance and/or interest of the topic, which may include its relevance to
specific issues (e.g. scientific, technological, ethical, social, economic or environmental).

What you will do

1.

To begin choose a suitable topic for research


2.

Spend some time collecting relevant information from a range of sources in order to obtain a sample
of the information available.

This initial phase of the research may be spread over several weeks, and is carried out in your own time
and some lessons. W
e will monitor you during the project and are willing to offer tactful advice at any
stage during the work, so that you become fully aware of how to maximise your performance. If help is
asked for it will be given, as far as possible, in a way which allows

you to gain credit for using such advice
in
your

own way.

3.

The next stage is to select an interesting aspect /issue/ application/ problem which has arisen from
the material surveyed and to research it more thoroughly.

W
e expect you to

hand in a substantial

first
draft.

4.

Then
summarize

the findings of the research in the form of a written report or article addressed to
scientifically knowledgeable readers.

5.

You should use word
-
processing and other IT packages.

6.

All information sources consulted must be listed
and published material used should be given full
references.



5

Choosing a topic

What makes a good choice?



Something that interests you



Something you know very little about



Something you saw on the news/in a magazine/journal



Something that is not just about

a very small part of physics



Something that has a wider impact in society

You can approach the search for a suitable topic in a variety of ways
-

from a personal interest, a television
documentary, a radio programme, a newspaper etc.
-

each of which is eq
ually valid. You could, of course,
look randomly through copies of the “New Scientist” magazine to see if you can find, in those pages,
something you have a desire to follow through.

Once you have generated one or two topic ideas you need to
actively purs
ue your teacher

in order to
investigate the suitability of your ideas. Only then will you be in a position to choose your area of study
for Research and Report. Having made this initial decision you now have to discover how you are going to
get yourself
into that
huge

area of study.

When reading through articles/technical literature you need to be
responsive

to possible ignition points,
openings, opportunities which might provide pathways into your chosen field. Don’t just read straight
through complete
articles
-

look for ignition points: titles can be inviting .... ends of articles are often
interesting .... looking for places where the author summarises .... ends of paragraphs might provide a
trigger mechanism.

You have to get your brain working
-

try
to cultivate alertness to points of departure that could provide a
route into a seemingly huge area of study. You need to dig, penetrate and inquire
-

this process is vital
because looking for tracks gives purpose to the research
-

without purpose you are

seriously handicapped.

Throughout both the research and the writing you are always trying to find ways of limiting/coming in
at/shaping/targeting a particular area of study. You have to decide: what sounds intriguing; what might be
followed up; how to fo
llow up leads; where else to look for information etc. With this strategy you will be
looking into a narrowing field of study which you have come into from various ignition points/trigger
mechanisms/points of departure/directions and which in all likeliho
od is going give you an excellent chance
of producing an interesting article and a favourable assessment.


6

In summary
:

Identify your broad AREA for study .....within that area look hard for departure points which strike you as
intriguing and “follow
-
up
-
abl
e”. Put yourself in a moderately active position
-

dig, penetrate and inquire, to
see if there isn’t something you can find which, however fanciful or modest, you have something of a
design to follow through.

A cautionary word regarding your choice of top
ic



A topic which is irrelevant to your interest will result in the writing being uninspired.



Broad topic areas do not lead to reports with a well supported thesis.



Topics that can only be researched from one source result in summaries
-

not a research paper. Topics
that are novel and interesting often lead to first class pieces of work.



Topics which are technically too difficult ought to be avoided.



Topics requi
ring key material that is unavailable are a waste of time.



7

Doing the research

You must do your own research from a range and variety of sources:



books



journals



pamphlets



surveys



interviews



libraries



data bases



visits



web sites on the Internet.



Be flexibl
e (up to a point) .... be prepared to shift your ground when you come across other sufficiently
intriguing ignition points ...... always saying to yourself; “Is this essential?” At the same time be
firm/steadfast in keeping to the track of the finished pr
oduct you are aiming towards. You have got to
be tough and decisive .. judge alternative strategies on merit ... reject some ... follow up others ... chuck
out whole sections of previous research if it makes sense to do so. It’s hard but you must be cons
tantly
fighting for good clear lines if the final product is to be fresh and exciting. It is a classic mistake to try to
include everything
-

don’t do it!




8

Bibliography and referencing.


ALWAYS write down the details of where you have got the
information from
-

author, date, publisher, title
etc for EVERYTHING, ALWAYS



A
nd if you do not do this you will be in trouble.

In the wider world, such as the world that you will be entering in the not too distant future, when you
write a report you cann
ot just write down information without saying where you got it. This is what
referencing is. Your text should be littered with references, for example like this:




Lakin & Wellington
2
call these situations ‘critical
incidents’ and say that they are invaluable for
communicating to pupils about the nature of science. How teachers react to these incidents is, they say, a
good indicator of their own view of the nature of science. Though teachers are often tempted to ‘rig
’ or
‘conjure’ in order to ensure that demonstrations or practical work produces the right answer their
preferred response is to ‘talk their way through it’. However, Driver et al
1
make the following comment:


To use practicals ‘going wrong’ as a course of critical analysis and ‘talking one’s way through it’ with a class
requires confidence in the subject, knowledge of potential explanations, a tolerance of uncertainty and the ability to
handle d
iscussions productively without feeling that authority is threatened. Paradoxically the teachers who are
most likely to find themselves in situations of practicals ‘going wrong’ may be those least equipped to capitalise on
the opportunities.


This links b
ack to the findings of Lakin & Wellington
2
; lack of confidence in one’s ability to deal with
situations which enable the nature of science to be discussed fruitfully will mean that such situations will be
avoided.

Quotes
indented and
smaller type
with gaps

top
and bottom

This number is
important

9


And these references e.g. 'Lakin & Welli
ngton
1
' refer to a publication that you have listed in your
bibliography.

An example of a bibliography:




1. Driver, R., Leach, J., Millar, R. and Scott, P. (1996)
Young
People’s Images of Science.

Buckingham, OUP




2. Lakin, S. and Wellington, J. (1994) Who will teach the ‘nature of science’?
International Journal of Science
Educa
tion,
16 (2), 175

190.




3. QCA (1999). National Curriculum Review Consultation Materials: Science,
http:
\
\
www.qca.org.uk/ncr/pdfs/ncr
-
science.pdf


I cannot emphasise too strongly the im
portance of keeping track of where you get things. This is good
training and you will have to be meticulous. Every photocopy, every note you write, everything you use
from a website WRITE down:

For a book

For a magazine/journal article

For a website

Author(s) name and initial

Author(s) name and initial

The name of the organisation or
person who is responsible for the
content

Title

Title of article

The URL

A magazine or journal title

Website
-

has the NAME
as well
as
the URL

Book title

Alphabetical order

Where published and publisher

Title, issue number and page numbers

Author(s) + date of publication

Title of article

10

Date of publication

Title of magazine/journal


Where published

Date of publication


Name of
publisher

Issue number


Page numbers

Page number



There is nothing worse than getting to the end and having to go back and find things. Trust me on this.

Why bother?

Apart from the fact that it is good training, you get marks for it.



Searching the
Internet…

The Internet is not edited. Anyone can write anything so
BEWARE
.

Start in
Google

and go to
Advanced Search


w
here is says Domain type in

.ac.uk, .edu


and this means that you will only get material that is published by universities in the US

and
UK. You can expand your search afterwards but this is always a good place to start.


.ac.uk, .edu


and this means that you will only get material that is published by universities in the US and
UK. You can expand your search afterwards but this is a
lways a good place to start.


11

Which one are you?

Experienced teachers know that, once the initial research has been underway for two or three weeks, the
efforts of each of their students will correspond with one of the following “type” descriptors:

The M
inimalist

-

one who has taken a somewhat unintelligent approach to the initial stages of research; may have been
flippant, insincere, closed
-
minded, disorganised, shallow or superficial, and as a result has made little
progress.

The Inquiring Mind

-

one wh
o has fought hard to select a topic area which seems interesting/promising and who has, in the
process, rejected a number of alternative topics which seemed rather obscure, less interesting, too
technically demanding or simply too limited and limiting. Th
rough reading has found some ignition points,
trigger mechanisms, pathways into the subject area, and has begun to follow up some of these through
further literature searches.

-

-

don’t be a minimalist.

Development of ideas


As you proceed with the process

of collecting information from a
reasonably representative range of
sources of information
, you must dig, penetrate, inquire! Too many people want to settle for the first and
second ideas that come to them. But vigorous turning over of the ground is lik
ely to yield a third .... and a
fourth. Explore those ideas as far as you can. There is nothing easy about this
-

it’s just something you
have to do during the next few weeks.

All the time, you will be aiming to get a clearer and clearer picture of the n
ature of the finished product in
your mind
-

you will need to identify chunks that are going to be there and, increasingly, shape everything
you do towards that finished product. Sketch out a plan of the chunks that you identify as components of
the finis
hed product. This play may well change several times, simply because as you read .... getting into
more and more material .... you will have possible next steps, other references to look at, which may cause
you to overturn an earlier decision. Make a det
ailed list of the sources of information you consult this
record will form the basis of your bibliography.

Stopping the research in time


That’s hard too
-

we all feel there’s more to be done
-

more to read. You tell yourself “I’m not ready to
write this thing yet
-

I’ve only just begun to get going”. But it is important to say “HALT” .... and work from
12

what you’ve got. You do have to be
able to say
-

in plenty of time
-

“That’s it! That’s it! I’m not going to
look at another source or another record.”

Preparing for the writing process

Models

Work from some good model ... i.e. any writers that you have found good to listen to
-

good to re
ad
-

try to
get hold of anything that he or she has written or spoken.
You need good models
. You need to find writing
that appeals to you
-

obituaries; cook books; radio (Alistair Cook or the late Brian Redhead). If you can start
to get pleasure from ot
her people’s writing or speaking then you can start to get some of that into your
writing too. As you read your own paragraphs aloud .... listening to what you write .... you will hear how
well it reads.

Attributing and acknowledging

All the time you must

be attributing and acknowledging the sources that you are working from. Even when
you think you have rewritten somebody’s article, in your own way, it is so obvious to a reader that you have
plagiarised it
-

that you’ve taken somebody else’s idea and are

trying to pass it off as your own.

Knowledge of the appropriate physics

Your knowledge of the appropriate physics has to be central. This means that all the time you have to be
adapting it, integrating it, and shaping it into the final product.



13

Stages

in writing the article

Your article is a complex piece of work. While writing you have to focus on the title, martial ideas, arrange
them attractively, attempt to write crisp pleasing English and remain constantly alert to the threads of your
argument
-

remembering what you have said .. and where you are heading!

REMEMBER


YOU ONLY HAVE 2000 Words

A rough outline of the sections:


Title

The overall


title of your research.

Abstract

A 200
-
300 word summary of your paper (not in the word count)

Contents
page

Again not part of the word count

Aim

What you were researching, and why.


THE NEXT SECTIONS ARE PARTY OF YOUR 2000 WORD LIMIT

Introduction

Could be why you are interested, could be a bit of history/background

Chunk 1

This is the first main section,
split into a logical set of sub
-
headings Include references that say
which information came from which sources.

Chunk 2

This is the second main section, split into a logical set of sub
-
headings Include references that say
which information came from which
sources.

14

And you could have Chunk 3, Chunk 4…

Analysis

What you think and how the physics comes together and what range of physics you have used

THE FINAL SECTIONS ARE NOT PART OF YOUR 2000 WORD LIMIT

References

Alphabetical list, to include texts, web add
resses, private communications etc.

Acknowledgements

If anyone gave you specific help of great value.



This adds up to a tough task so it’s wise to begin where you are actually strongest
-

in the middle so
concentrate on that middle bulk

initially.

Producing a rough draft of the chunks

The first thing, obviously, is to be clear .... to be transparently clear in your expressions .. not easy .. not
easy at all. Have more short sentences than you might normally have ... people tend to write long
senten
ces ... they think that’s what mature writing is all about ......
have some shorter, crisper sentences.

Obviously you want some variety, but long sentences just to prove you’re a mature writer? .... very bad
idea! .... and usually too much information has

gone into the sentence
-

you’ve lost control
-

and it doesn’t
come across clearly.

A rough draft ought to be a cut and paste job comprising various sections and sentences that can be
properly arranged once they are written down. You can inspect them at l
eisure, shuffle them, strengthen
them, and begin to tie them together. This method is what a rough draft ought to be
-

this is where the
word processor is very, very helpful because you can constantly shift things around ... you can say “I
thought it was
going to be in section 1 ..... I now want to be in section 3 ....

Keep your reader in mind from the word go. You article needs to read aloud well.
-

you need to be linking
all the time
-

the whole thing needs to be put together with consummate care. So,

when writing, read what
you write out loud to yourself. At all times you should be doing this
-

you will start to cultivate a critical ear
-

you will find that things sound boring
-

you’ll find that there’s no link between strands of your argument.
15

What

you are doing is putting yourself on the receiving end of what you write
-

you’re putting yourself in
the position of the reader.

Calculate! Calculate the effect on your reader. Read your stuff out loud .... critically... is it clear? .... are the
links

there? .... is it attractive? ..... is it boring? ..... and all the time be conscious of what it’s like to read
your piece of work again.


Hack it to bits ....... then hack it to bits again ...... and go on shaping, refining, strengthening, re
-
ordering et
c.
etc.

At all costs you should try to avoid the commonest form of rough draft which students do i.e. writing the
essay out in an orthodox way
-

in pencil or biro
-

then copying out a neat, almost word for word version to
hand in. THIS IS VIRTUALLY USELES
S .... combining two dismal qualities that lack any fringe benefits; you
learn nothing between drafts one and two .... and ..... it takes long joyless time to complete.

ALWAYS go back to your AIM
-

what is it

that you are trying to do.

Producing the fina
l report

The final report will be straightforward to write IF



You have put the chunks together in a way that is logical (two/three things that you are comparing, the
development of an idea/machine/thing)



The chunks contain lots of information



The informati
on includes a fair amount of physics from different areas



You understand the physics



You have kept track of which information you got from which sources



16

Checklist

Make sure you do the following



Word process your report on A4 paper


Number all the
pages



Cover sheet with Title, Name and Abstract (200 words written when you have finished the
report)


Word count of the main text must be
max
2000

words
. Write this on the cover sheet. (
word
will count it for you)



Put tables of data in an appendix
unless they contribute to your discussion. Footnotes and
appendices do not contribute to your word count



Use a logical structure: Abstract, Contents, Aim, Introduction, Chunk 1, Chunk 2, (Chunk 3..),
Analysis and conclusion(which includes a summary of t
he idea or argument), Evaluation of
Sources, References, Appendices


REFERENCE everything in the text e.g. (Baxter
et al.

1979) and list at the end. See the
coursework guide for guidance. References are
not

the same as a bibliography. The
following websit
e can help generate references


http://www.neilstoolbox.com/bibliography
-
creator/reference
-
book.htm


Make sure that Illustrations and graphs are relevant, commented on and used to help explain
the physics


Fully Justify your text and use a 1.2
-
1.5 line s
pacing, it looks neater and is easier to read and
comment on


Write about what YOU think in the Analysis part.


Spell
-
check/grammar check and get someone
critical

to proofread your work for clarity





17

Topic Suggestions



Autofocus systems in cameras

• Bend it like Beckham (the physics of football)

• Could an asteroid destroy the Earth?

• What are the technological difficulties in getting a man to Mars?

• How fast can we go?

• Hybrid cars
-

is there a future?

• Optical tweezers

• Power from wast
e

• Roller Coasters

• Satellite communications

• Speech synthesis and recognition

• Superconductors

• The Sun, the largest fusion reactor in the Solar System
-

but for how long?

• What is the evidence for the existence of black holes?

• What is the evidence for the Higg's field?

• Why did the Millenium Bridge wobble?

• What is ‘Blu
-
ray’ technology?