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How EXACTLY to write the perfect introduction for your IB Physics IA

ib physics scientific investigation ib physics syllabus 2024 ib physics syllabus 2025+
 

This article will walk you through:

  1. Things that Annoy the Examiner in your Physics IA Introduction 
  2. The 5-Step Blueprint for Writing Your Perfect IB Physics IA Introduction
  3. 3 BAD Examples of IB Physics IA Introductions
  4. 3 EXCELLENT Examples of IB Physics IA Introductions

Let’s get started!

As you know, the IB Physics Internal Assessment is a maximum 12-page write-up of an experiment that you have designed, carried out, collected data and analysed. Some students will choose to use a simulation for their IA. This article works for you too!

One of the most important aspects of the Physics IA is the introduction, as it sets the stage for the rest of the report and is crucial for obtaining a high score. We all want that 7 in IB Physics - right?!

In this blog, I will walk you through how to write the perfect introduction for your IB Physics Internal Assessment, concerning the marks given to "Personal Engagement" (abbreviated as PE) within the report.

 

 Things that Annoy the Examiner in your Physics IA Introduction 

 

Lots of students think that writing an introduction and waffling on about how much they love Ohm’s Law is what the examiner is expecting to read to show personal engagement.

That’s not the case.

IB Physics Examiners HATE this!

Here’s a direct quote from the May 2022 IB Physics Examiner Subject Report:

 

  • DO NOT write a section (or paragraph) with the heading ‘Personal Engagement’
  • DO NOT include artificial comments of interest in your research question.

This annoys the IB Physics examiners.

 

 

 

 

5-Step BluePrint for Writing Your Perfect Physics IA Introduction

 

STEP 1: Clearly State the Research Question

 

The first sentence of your introduction should clearly state the research question you are investigating. This will focus the Examiner’s mind and give them an idea of what to expect.

The research question should be well-defined with quantifiable variables. It should be scientifically interesting and suitable for the assessment of all the marking criteria. In this article, I’ll use the following research question as an example to help you understand the process of writing the best introduction:

How does the angle of incidence affect the power output of a photovoltaic cell?

If you need help getting the right research question for your IA, you can always choose one of my 100 IB Physics Research Questions from HERE

 

STEP 2: Provide a brief overview of the investigation

 

Give a very brief overview of the investigation, including the methods used and the results obtained. This will help the Examiner understand the context of the internal Assessment and the significance of the research question.

EXAMPLE

This investigation seeks to determine how the angle of incidence of direct sunlight affects the power output of a photovoltaic cell. The investigation used a solar simulator to measure the power output at different angles of incidence. The results showed a decrease in power output as the angle of incidence increased, due to less intense and less effectively absorbed light and increased reflection off the cell surface.

 

STEP 3: Explain why the research question is important

 

Show the examiners that you understand the importance of the research question and how it relates to the course material and the wider world. 

Let’s add this to our example introduction:

 

EXAMPLE

This investigation seeks to determine how the angle of incidence of direct sunlight affects the power output of a photovoltaic cell. The investigation used a solar simulator to measure the power output at different angles of incidence. The results showed a decrease in power output as the angle of incidence increased, due to less intense and less effectively absorbed light and increased reflection off the cell surface. Photovoltaic cells have the potential to provide a significant contribution to the global energy mix and optimizing their performance is of great importance. By increasing the efficiency of photovoltaic cells, the overall cost of photovoltaic systems can be reduced, which can make these systems more accessible and encourage their adoption. Photovoltaic systems are also a sustainable source of energy, as they do not produce greenhouse gases or other harmful emissions.

 

STEP 4: Show your personal engagement

 

This sentence should be very brief and not include any of the following words, ‘fascinated’, ‘amazed’, etc! DON’T overdo this section!

Let’s add personal engagement to this example introduction

 

EXAMPLE

This investigation seeks to determine how the angle of incidence of direct sunlight affects the power output of a photovoltaic cell. The investigation used a solar simulator to measure the power output at different angles of incidence. The results showed a decrease in power output as the angle of incidence increased, due to less intense and less effectively absorbed light and increased reflection off the cell surface. Photovoltaic cells have the potential to provide a significant contribution to the global energy mix and optimizing their performance is of great importance. By increasing the efficiency of photovoltaic cells, the overall cost of photovoltaic systems can be reduced, which can make these systems more accessible and encourage their adoption. Photovoltaic systems are also a sustainable source of energy, as they do not produce greenhouse gases or other harmful emissions. As a student who has always been interested in how we can harness the energy from the sun in a more sustainable way, I was eager to explore the physics behind the efficiency of photovoltaic cells in an experimental way.

 

STEP 5: Be clear and concise

 

Avoid unnecessary detail. Write it in a way that is easy for the examiner to follow. You should be able to complete your introduction in around 150 words.

You’ll want to spend some time checking if you can condense your introduction down to around this size.

OK - let’s see if we can condense this Introduction:


PERFECT PHYSICS IA INTRODUCTION

This investigation aims to understand the effect of direct sunlight angle on the power output of a photovoltaic cell using a solar simulator. Results showed a decrease in power output as the angle of incidence increased due to less intense and less effectively absorbed light and increased reflection off the cell surface. Optimizing photovoltaic cell performance is important as it can reduce the cost of photovoltaic systems and promote their adoption as a sustainable source of energy. As a student with an interest in sustainable energy, I was eager to experimentally explore the physics behind the efficiency of photovoltaic cells.

(100 WORDS)


 

What do you think?

  • It explains what the investigation is about. ☑️
  • The research question is clear â˜‘️
  • It describes how you carried out the investigation â˜‘️
  • It briefly explains the results â˜‘️
  • It gives a real-world context of why you would investigate this research question â˜‘️
  • It gives some personal engagement on why you would want to investigate this particular topic â˜‘️
  • It is clear, concise and under 150 words. â˜‘️

 

 

3 EXCELLENT Examples of IB Physics IA Introductions

 

Research Question: How does the length of a bridge affect the sag of a bridge when a constant mass is applied to the centre of the bridge?

INTRODUCTION

This investigation aims to model and determine the relationship between the length of a bridge and the amount of sag, or deflection, that occurs when a constant weight is placed in the centre of the model bridge.

In this report, various lengths of my model bridge were tested under constant weight and the results were analysed to conclude that the deflection of the bridge is directly proportional to the cubed length of the bridge.

Understanding how a bridge’s length affects its structural integrity is crucial in the design and construction of safe and efficient bridges. I recently visited San Francisco, known for two iconic bridges: the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge. The safety and stability of these bridges directly impact the well-being and economic prosperity of San Francisco, which could be said for any community worldwide. I was eager to explore the physics behind this in a school laboratory setting. (152 WORDS)

Let’s analyse this introduction:

  • It explains what the investigation is about. ☑️
  • The research question is clear â˜‘️
  • It describes how you carried out the investigation â˜‘️
  • It briefly explains the results â˜‘️
  • It gives a real-world context of why you would investigate this research question â˜‘️
  • It gives some personal engagement on why you would want to investigate this particular topic â˜‘️
  • It is clear, concise and under 150 words. NEARLY!

 

Research Question: How does the strength of a magnetic field affect the period of oscillation of a pendulum?

INTRODUCTION

The investigation aims to determine the effect of the strength of a magnetic field on the period of oscillation of a pendulum. This investigation was conducted by measuring the period of oscillation of a pendulum in different magnetic field strengths using a stopwatch and a magnet, resulting in the conclusion that the period of oscillation of a pendulum is directly proportional to the square of the voltage applied to the electromagnet that produced the magnetic field.

The principles behind electromagnetic damping and levitation of pendulums are used in high-speed trains, maglev trains, seismometers and accelerometers. I live in China and there is much excitement about the prototype of new high-speed Maglev trains capable of reaching 620 kilometres per hour, which is thought to be a quake-resilient system. I would like to explore the topic of electromagnetic effects on a pendulum to help better understand the developments of this technology and my home country. (153 WORDS)

Let’s analyse this introduction:

  • It explains what the investigation is about. ☑️
  • The research question is clear â˜‘️
  • It describes how you carried out the investigation â˜‘️
  • It briefly explains the results â˜‘️
  • It gives a real-world context of why you would investigate this research question â˜‘️
  • It gives some personal engagement on why you would want to investigate this particular topic â˜‘️
  • It is clear, concise and under 150 words. NEARLY!

 

Research Question: "How does the mass of a toy parachute affect the terminal velocity of the parachute in free fall?"

INTRODUCTION

This investigation aims to determine the effect of the mass of a toy parachute on its terminal velocity during free fall. The investigation was conducted by measuring the time it took for the parachute to fall a certain distance, and calculating the terminal velocity for each trial, resulting in the conclusion that the mass of the toy parachute is directly proportional to the square of the terminal velocity. This investigation can have real-world applications in fields such as skydiving and aeronautics. As a student who has always been interested in the physics of flight and air resistance, this research question caught my attention and I was eager to conduct this experiment and explore the physics behind it through an experimental approach.” (121 WORDS)

Let’s analyse this introduction:

  • It explains what the investigation is about. ☑️
  • The research question is clear â˜‘️
  • It describes how you carried out the investigation â˜‘️
  • It briefly explains the results â˜‘️
  • It gives a real-world context of why you would investigate this research question â˜‘️
  • It gives some personal engagement on why you would want to investigate this particular topic â˜‘️
  • It is clear, concise and under 150 words. â˜‘️

 

3 BAD Examples of IB Physics IA Introductions

 

Research Question: How does the length of a bridge affect the sag of a bridge when a constant mass is applied to the centre of the bridge?

INTRODUCTION

I have decided on the topic of architecture which involves mechanics is mainly because architecture is a combination of multiple subjects, such as physics, history, mathematics, and art. Since I have travelled to a lot of places around San Francisco, noticing different kinds of human structures I became curious about how they work and they don’t just crumble from a small weight. Also during the summer holiday, I went on a drawing architecture course which mainly focused on the drawing aspect of architecure I began questioning what kind of forces effect structures like buildings and bridges. This made me more curious about the buildings and bridges that I have seen around me. (112 WORDS)

Let’s analyse this introduction:

  • It explains what the investigation is about. ❌
  • The research question is clear âŒ
  • It describes how you carried out the investigation âŒ
  • It briefly explains the results âŒ
  • Spell and grammar check âŒ
  • It gives a real-world context of why you would investigate this research question â˜‘️ (BUT THERE’S A LOT OF WAFFLE!)
  • It gives some personal engagement on why you would want to investigate this particular topic â˜‘️ (BUT THERE’S A LOT OF WAFFLE!)
  • It is clear, concise and under 150 words. â˜‘️

 

Research Question: How does the strength of a magnetic field affect the period of oscillation of a pendulum?

INTRODUCTION

Watching as a high-speed train that seem to elevate momentarily paused the fight between blank panther and Killmonger in Marvel’s Black Panther, I could not help but wonder the mechanisms involved in its motion. Then, a quick google search and ploughing through a series of search results led me to the underlying concepts involved: Electromagnetic induction and Eddy current breaking, using an eddy current brake. This device is used to slow a moving object by dissipating its kinetic energy. The drag force in an eddy current brake is an electromagnetic force between a magnet and a nearby conductive object in relative motion due to eddy currents induced in the conductor through electromagnetic induction. Fascinated by this phenomenon and having an understanding of this concept through my physics class, I sought to investigate magnetic breaking by placing a conductor in a magnetic field using a simple pendulum set-up I was familiar with. (151 WORDS)

Let’s analyse this introduction:

  • It explains what the investigation is about. ❌
  • The research question is clear âŒ
  • It describes how you carried out the investigation â˜‘️
  • It briefly explains the results âŒ
  • It gives a real-world context of why you would investigate this research question â˜‘️ (BUT THERE’S A LOT OF WAFFLE!)
  • It gives some personal engagement on why you would want to investigate this particular topic â˜‘️ (BUT THERE’S A LOT OF WAFFLE!)
  • It is clear, concise and under 150 words. NEARLY!

 

Research Question: "How does the mass of a toy parachute affect the terminal velocity of the parachute in free fall?"

INTRODUCTION

When I was young, I was fascinated with toy parachutes. I would throw them out my bedroom window and add different toys to them. I now want to join the national Air Force, specifically the parachute division. In my research to reach my career goal, I began reading articles like, “The effects of mass and radius of a parachute on terminal velocity” and as a student who has always been fascinated by the physics of flight and air resistance, this research question caught my attention and I was excited to conduct this experiment and explore the physics behind it.

Let’s analyse this introduction:

  • It explains what the investigation is about. ❌
  • The research question is clear âŒ
  • It describes how you carried out the investigation âŒ
  • It briefly explains the results âŒ
  • It gives a real-world context of why you would investigate this research question âŒ
  • It gives some personal engagement on why you would want to investigate this particular topic â˜‘️ (BUT THERE’S A LOT OF WAFFLE!)
  • It is clear, concise and under 150 words. â˜‘️

 

CONCLUSION

 

The introduction of your IB Physics Scientific Investigation is crucial for obtaining a high score. It sets the stage for the rest of the report and is an opportunity to demonstrate your personal engagement and understanding of the research question. By clearly stating the research question, providing a brief overview of the investigation, explaining why the research question is important, and showing your personal engagement, you will be able to write an effective and compelling introduction. Remember to be clear and concise and to stay focused on the research question throughout your report.

 

Hope this helps!

 

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