Junior Cert Science
Coursework B - The Investigations

Doing your own investigation:
If you are doing an investigation of your own choice, then you need only do one investigation instead of two if you are going to do those given by the Department of Education and Science.  Doing your own investigation is less time consuming, but more detail is required in your report.

Here are some important tips for writing up the report of your own investigation:

Section What you should write
1. Introduction
(10 marks)
Statement - Write a sentence that identifies the problem you are investigating.  Do not repeat the title of the investigation. For example:
We set out to investigate if by increasing the size of the pieces of calcium carbonate, did it react faster with dilute hydrochloric acid.

Reference - make reference to a minimum of two sources (book / web / person consulted etc)
For example:
In my investigation, I found useful information in the book
"Nature Study in Ireland" by Mary Lillaloo,
the website "http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/energy.html"
and "my aunt who is a marine biologist"
2. Preparation and Planning
(40 marks)
(i) Identification of variables and controls
You should identify at least four variables/controls. A variable would be something like volume or time that is changing and being recorded during the investigation.  A control is something that needs to be kept fixed in order to make the investigation a fair one. An example of a control would be keeping the temperature fixed for each trial, using the same thermometer for each temperature reading, etc.
(ii) List of equipment needed
You need to have a minimum of five pieces of equipment used in the investigations.  Where chemicals are used, a chemical is usually accepted as an item of equipment.
(iii) List of tasks
Generally a minimum of four tasks are required here. These are not the same as the more detailed steps needed for your procedure. Examples of tasks would include:
Length of wire to be measured
Graph of results to be drawn
Results to be recorded
Circuit to be set up
Get masses of chemicals
React the chemicals
Identify plant species
Repeat test four more times, etc.
3. Procedure
(40 marks)
(i) Safety Precautions
Any two safety precautions are to be given here. For example:
Safety goggles, gloves and lab coat (chemistry investigations)
Wellingtons and rain gear (biology investigations)
Safety goggles, care needed with electrical equipment and glassware (physics investigations)
(ii) Procedure
Give at least eight steps taken in conducting the investigation. "Set up the apparatus as shown in the diagram" would probably not be acceptable. More detailed and instructions are required. Number the steps you give. For example:
  1. The seeds were soaked in water at room temperature for 24 hours.
  2. The quadrat was thrown randomly.
  3. The current was measured using the ammeter.
  4. The length of wire was measured using a metre-stick.
  5. The volume of gas was measured at thirty second intervals.
  6. The pH paper was placed into the solution, etc.
(iii) Recorded Data/Observations
Include a table of data where possible. Make two comments about the results obtained. For example:
Comment on the time taken for a change to take place.
Refer to the shape of a graph drawn.
Mention how changing a condition in the experiment can affect the rate of reaction, etc.
4. Analysis & Conclusions
(40 marks)
Calculations/Data Analysis
Here they require two relevant statements on either your data, your calculations or your graph.  Poor statements will obtain four marks each. Slightly better statements will obtain seven marks each, while good statements will merit ten marks each. For example:
"The graph is a straight line going through the origin" will earn you 2 x 10 = 20 marks if this is true.

Conclusions
Now you are required to give at least two relevant conclusions based on either your data, your calculations or your graph.  Poor conclusions will obtain four marks each. Slightly better conclusions will obtain seven marks each, while good conclusions will merit ten marks each. For example:
"The resistance of the wire depends upon its temperature", "The speed at which a chemical reaction takes place will depend upon the size of the particles" will each earn you 2 x 10 = 20 marks if this is true.
5. Comments
(20 marks)
You are required to give at least three relevant comments on your investigation.
For example:
  1. What did you learn from this investigation (Do not repeat anything that you have written down already)
  2. How reliable was your data (give a reason)
  3. How could you improve this investigation if you were to do it again
  4. What sources of error were there (give a reason)
These guidelines are by no means exhaustive, but if you follow them carefully, you should do well in the science practical investigation.