So for a school assignment, i am required to measure the Specific Heat Capacity of copper and from this, i need to create a research question. I have been told that i need to include the dependent and independent variables in the research question.

so, would the specific heat capacity of an object be considered as a Dependent variable? If i said it is, the SHC is dependent on the object itself (i rearranged the heat formula). But if this is not a dependent variable, what would be? Independent variable or maybe control? Please help explain, thank you.


There are three key definitions to keep in mind.

Heat capacity: The ratio of the amount of heat transferred to or from an object to the resulting increase or decrease in its temperature.

Molar heat capacity: A measure of the amount of heat necessary to raise the temperature of one mole (one molecular weight) of a pure substance by one degree Kelvin.

Specific heat capacity: A measure of the amount of heat necessary to raise the temperature of one kilogram of a pure substance by one degree Kelvin. (Sometimes defined per gram of the substance).

Heat capacity depends on the amount of mass or moles of an object. The other heat capacities are properties of the substance and are independent of the amount of the substance.

Hope this helps.

  • $\begingroup$ I googled what affects SHC and from Wikipedia it said 'specific heat capacity is a function of the structure of the substance itself. In particular, it depends on the number of degrees of freedom.' So is that why you said 'other heat capacity are properties of the substance' So Specific heat capacity IS a dependent variable? $\endgroup$ – GoNK Apr 15 '19 at 23:58
  • $\begingroup$ Bob please help $\endgroup$ – GoNK Apr 16 '19 at 9:55
  • $\begingroup$ @FredWeasley Yes, but once you select a substance and its structure, the molar and specific heat capacities are properties of that specific substance and not the amount of that substance. My answer only addresses the dependence of heat capacity on the amount of mass. $\endgroup$ – Bob D Apr 16 '19 at 9:59
  • $\begingroup$ ok thanks Bob!! $\endgroup$ – GoNK Apr 16 '19 at 10:01
  • $\begingroup$ I should add that specific heat also depends on temperature. It is usually specified for a particular temperature and considered to be constant over a range of temperatures $\endgroup$ – Bob D Apr 16 '19 at 10:35

The independent variable is what you manipulate. However, note that in physics, while you cannot manipulate it, time is always considered to be the independent variable when you are doing experiments where you are looking for relationships that are a function of time.

The dependent variable is the variable that you are measuring, that changes as a result of what you are manipulating. This variable depends on what you are doing to the independent variable.

A control is something in the experiment that doesn't change, such that you can compare the control's results to the results of something that did change. Normally, controls are used in biology experiments because of the enormous number of potential variables in those experiments, but it is not common to use controls in physics experiments.

  • $\begingroup$ I am measuring the Specific heat capacity of copper but it doesn't change when I manipulate the mass or the amount of heat copper gaining. So.... $\endgroup$ – GoNK Apr 16 '19 at 1:54
  • $\begingroup$ Is specific heat capacity a function of temperature? $\endgroup$ – David White Apr 16 '19 at 2:16
  • $\begingroup$ yea but i will still get similar results, the temperature difference only changes the accuracy of my SHC value $\endgroup$ – GoNK Apr 16 '19 at 5:09
  • $\begingroup$ However i did measure the time it takes for the copper and water to reach equilibrium, but i dont think this is relevant $\endgroup$ – GoNK Apr 16 '19 at 5:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.