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Department of Physics

PHYS1101 Discovery Skills in Physics (2010/11)

Details of the module's prerequisites, learning outcomes, assessment and contact hours are given in the official module description in the Faculty Handbook - follow the link above.  A detailed description of the module's content, together with book lists, is given below.  For an explanation of the library's categorisation system see

Content and Teaching Methods

Introduction and Safety

Dr M. Szablewski

1 lecture in Michaelmas Term

The laboratory arrangements will be discussed and important safety information will be given. Attendance is compulsory.

Errors Lectures

Dr H.L. Vaughan (TBC)

3 lectures in Michaelmas Term

Syllabus: Errors in laboratory work: systematic and random errors, combination of errors, common sense in errors.


Measurements and their Uncertainties, I.G. Hughes and T.P.A. Hase (OUP), E

The Laboratory Notebook

Dr H.L. Vaughan

1 lecture in Michaelmas Term

Good practice in keeping a laboratory notebook.

Skills Sessions

Dr R.M. Potvliege and others

5 three-hour sessions in Michaelmas Term

Syllabus: Safety in the laboratory. Introduction to instrumentation: oscilloscopes, function generators, circuits. Verifying physical laws, measurement technique, statistics of measurement, dimensional analysis, graph plotting. Applications of material from the errors lectures. Electronic document preparation. Information literacy, including introduction to sources of reference material.


Measurements and their Uncertainties, I.G. Hughes and T.P.A. Hase (OUP), E
Practical Physics, G.L. Squires (CUP, 2001), B
Physics by Experiment: A Practical Handbook, S. Freake (OUP, 2001), B

Report Writing

Dr G.H. Cross

1 lecture in Michaelmas Term

Syllabus: Developing a scientific style of writing.

Discovery Experiments

Dr R.M. Potvliege and others

4 three-hour sessions in Michaelmas Term

Syllabus: Introductory experiments in physics (one per week) using structured scripts, with students working in pairs. One experiment forms the basis for a summatively-assessed written report. One of the sessions takes the form of an Enterprise Seminar.

Full Experiments

Dr M. Szablewski and others

8 three-hour sessions in Epiphany Term

Syllabus: Full experiments in physics (one per week), with students working in pairs. Two experiments form the bases for summatively-assessed extended written reports.  One session is devoted to one-to-one oral feedback from the marker of the first full experiment report.

Group Problem Solving

Dr C. Lacey

Fortnightly one-hour workshops and 1 one-hour presentation session in Epiphany Term

Syllabus: Students will be divided into groups to investigate practical problems requiring the formulation of mathematical models. Groups will work together on assigned problems during the workshops, which begin in week 7 or week 8. Each group will also give a presentation on an assigned problem. Composition of the individual groups and exact hours of attendance of each group will be publicized around the middle of Michaelmas Term.

Laboratory Information

Students are required to attend one 3-hour laboratory session every week. The laboratory sessions are 2.15 p.m. to 5.15 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Students must sign the attendance list at the start of each session.
At the introductory lecture you will hear a talk detailing the management of the laboratories and safety issues. A list showing laboratory days and group assignments will be published before the end of teaching week 1.
Each student must buy his/her own lab book, available from large stationers. Laboratory scripts will be provided and background material is available on DUO.

Problem exercises

See For this module the problem exercises relate only to the Errors Lectures.

Advance notice

All students who will be taking the Level 2 physics laboratory module in 2011/12 must ensure that they are available to undertake a week-long project following the end of the examination period in June 2011. Subject to formal approval by the University, these projects will take place in weeks 26 and 27 (6-17 June 2011) and will contribute to the summative assessment for the Level 2 module. Further details will be announced.