Oscillations and waves

What to expect

In this topic we look at oscillations of bodies that move back and forth periodically, progressive waves that transfer energy and information through space, the interference effects of these progressive waves, and other phenomena, and standing waves, where waves combine to become stationary (and therefore transferring no energy at all).

Learning objectives

After studying this topic, you should be able to:

  • Describe simple harmonic motion, dispersion and guitar string frequencies
  • Discuss how a force that is proportional to displacement results in an oscillation
  • Distinguish simple harmonic oscillations from others
  • Connect oscillations and waves
  • Consider the formation of waves from wavelets


  • Oscillations

    An oscillation is a movement through a full cycle.

  • Waves

    A wave is a transfer of energy or information using oscillations of a medium, without moving the particles of the medium themselves. Waves can be modelled mathematically and have a number of different properties.

  • AHL Waves

    What is the Doppler effect? What are the equations for simple harmonic motion? How is the diffraction pattern formed for light passing through a single slit? What affects the interference patterns for two or more slits? What is thin film interference?