Physics Problem Solving

  1. Draw a diagram of the situation, if possible.
  2. Identify the specific question:
    1. What physical property is required?
    2. What object possesses this property?
    3. What are the units for this property?
    4. How many significant figures should the answer have?
  3. Identify the pertinent information given in the problem.
  4. Identify information that is required but must be obtained outside of the problem.
  5. Do any necessary unit conversions.
  6. Identify the general physical concepts and laws that are appropriate to the problem.
  7. List the appropriate equations.
  8. Restate the problem for clarity, if necessary.
  9. Solve the equations as necessary
  10. Do the necessary substitutions and calculate the result(s).
  11. State the answer in an appropriate form with reasonable units.  Clearly identify the answer in some visual way.

The order of these steps should be adjusted whenever it aids the solution.

Valid HTML 4.01 Strict
Thomas Fitzpatrick
St Joseph's Preparatory School
Philadelphia, PA
13 August 2008