Physics 271: Advanced Honors Physics I
Recitation #3: Problem Solving Checklist
0. NEVER write only the answer. You need to show where it came from
and why it is right.
1. Check that you have drawn at least one diagram and labelled it
clearly. This might involve copying the diagram from the problem
statement and adding extra labels, or making a diagram from scratch.
Make it pretty large to leave room for labels and make it readable.
Quantities from the statement of the problem should appear in the
2. Check that the meanings of any symbols you have introduced
yourself are clear. First, if the symbol is a label in the diagram,
make sure the diagram makes its meaning clear. If not, or if it is
not in the diagram, write a short phrase to explain what the symbol
3. Check that all vector quantities are written so that their vector
character is clear. In typesetting, boldface indicates a vector
quantity. In a diagram, if you draw an arrow to indicate the
direction and write the magnitude next to the arrow (this is how we
draw force diagrams). In handwriting, put an arrow over the quantity
to show it is a vector. Velocity is a vector, so write v with an
arrow over it. The x component of the velocity is not a vector, so
do not put an arrow over it. In a sum, you cannot add a vector to a
number. In an equation, you cannot have a vector on one side and a
number on the other side.
4. Check that each statement clearly follows from the previous
statement. (This is in the same spirit as Checklist Item #0 - you
can't state things without showing where they came from).
5. Check that you have stated the answer at the end of the solution.
The answer should be an equation in the form
desired quantity = expression in terms of given quantities
You might be tempted to save writing by just writing the right hand
side, but it is best practice to write the whole thing (this acts as
a final check that your expression is indeed for the quantity the
problem asked for).
To make it clear that it is the answer, PUT A BOX AROUND IT.
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