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Wave Coursework

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Physics Coursework Plan

Investigating how the velocity of water waves depends on the depth of water

Background knowledge

Speed (V/ms-¹) = distance (D/m) ÷ time (T/s)

Using this equation I can calculate the speed at which the water wave travels at. The deeper the water, the faster the water wave travels


I am going to investigate how the velocity of water waves varies on the depth of the water and will find the relationship between these two variables.


 I believe that when the depth of the water is increases the velocity of the water waves will increase in proportion. Average speed = distance ÷ time


  • Tray
  • Support stand
  • Stop watch
  • Ruler
  • Water


Variables and constants

The only variables of this experiment are to be:

  • The depth of the water
  • The velocity of the waves

The quantites which will remain constant are:

  • The temperature of the liquid
  • The type of liquid
  • The height at which the tray is lowered from
  • The number of waves recorded
  • The same tray is used

To ensure a fair experiment, I will record my results 3 times. This will also increase the reliabilty of my results.

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Other results:

Length of tray - 40.50cm

Height lifted to – 13mm


During the experiment there were a few factors that could have potentially affected the results:

1. The waves curved at edges which means not all of the wave reached the end of the tray at the same time.

2. When I increased the depth of the water a small amount of the water spilled over the side after the tray was dropped.

3. The tray was

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directly proportional to the velocity squared only as proven satisfied pass the origin.

isdirectly proportional to   Depth

Hence Therefore:   V isdirectly proportional to  √Depth

The straight line shows that wave velocity increases proportionally with √Depth. Where there is a greater depth of water, the water has a greater mass and so, by conservation of energy, when it has a higher mass and height it will have a greater kinetic energy when dropped.

The increase in velocity begins to slow down with a greater depth as it has a greater surface area in contact with the tray; therefore, there is a greater amount of friction. The greater the friction, the quicker the kinetic energy decreases.


If I were to carry out this experiment again, I would make the following improvements/changes:

  • Use a deeper tray so that it can be raised to a reasonable height without splashing over the sides slightly.
  • I could investigate in a greater range of depths which could also increase the reliability of my results.
  • Investigate other factors that may vary a waves velocity.


AS Advanced Physics Salters Horners Heichemann, 2000

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This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Waves & Cosmology section.

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Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

3 star(s)

A graph would definitely improve this report but the general approach to gathering data makes sense on first reading. The results are consistent with theory. Some further comments about uncertainties with the timing and measurement of depth could have been included. Overall a good report but missing key information. 3 stars

Marked by teacher Pete Golton 06/06/2013

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