Science Fair Projects are entries in a contest.
Contests have rules.
If your want to get a good grade on your entry, you must follow the rules.
A summary of the requirements for an experimental science fair project is :
The project must present a hypothesis for a problem that can be tested experimentally with measurable results.
This page gives you an idea of the work you need to do from start to finish to design and develop an experimental science fair project.
Use the search on this website for more detailed descriptions of each step.
Note: The steps of the scientific method are in an order that I suggest for developing a science fair projects. Before starting your project, check with your teacher to make sure you are proceeding in the order required for the fair you are entering.
Let’s Get Started
1. Research: The process of collecting information.
It is important to keep a record of all the research done during the development of your project from start to finish. So, you need to keep a log book.
Topic: Pick a topic that interests you. Think about what you like to do or something you want to know more about.
Look for an experiment about your topic. For example, if you would like to know more about crystals, then look for simple experiments about crystals. You may even want to perform some of these experiments and use the information as part of your research. I call these exploratory experiments.
Ask yourself inquiry questions about any exploratory experiment you do. For example, “I wonder…Does the amount of salt used change the size of crystals formed?” “I wonder…If I use Epsom salt or table sugar instead of table salt, will different shaped crystals grow?”
If you are required to collect information from different sources, continue to search in different books, online sources, exploratory experiments, and ask knowledgeable people about the topic you are researching.
2. Purpose: This is a statement expressing the overall goal of your project. It identifies what you want to find out or prove.
The purpose identifies two variables, the independent variable and the dependent variable.
For example, “To determine how humidity affects the size of crystal formation.”
Dependent variable:Crystal Size
3. Testable Question with Measurable Results:
Your entire project is about the science question you choose. Because it is so important, I suggest that you do not make hasty decisions.
Use your purpose to write a question. For example: How does humidity affect the size of crystal formation? Note: The question has an independent variable (humidity) and a dependent variable (crystal size).
You need a question that is “testable.” This means that you can perform an experiment and the results will answer your question. Science fair rules also require that the experiment has measurable results.This means you can use measuring tools, such as clocks, thermometers, rulers, and scales to determine the changes. Other things to consider about this test are:Make sure that you have the ability to perform the experiment and that you can easily acquire the materials needed.
What affect does the Sun’s position have on shadow lengths?
What affect does humidity have on crystal growth?
What affect would food coloring in a solution have on the color of crystals formed?
How does temperature affect the ripening of bananas?
Measurable Results: Some changes cannot be measured with conventional tools. For example, how do you measure the ripening of bananas? This is a situation where you must design your own measuring tool,such as a color scale with values from 0 to 10. Since bananas turn from green to yellow to dark brown as they ripen, use shades of these colors, with zero being the beginning green color and 10 being dark brown. Shades of yellow will be numbers in between the scale values of “0” and “10.”
4. Hypothesis: This is your inference (guess based on knowledge) about the answer to your question.
Following is an example purpose, question, and hypothesis.
To determine if the type of solute in a solution affects the shape of crystals formed.
Question:What affect does the type of solute have on the shape of crystals?
5. Plan Your Experiment:
The purpose of the experiment is to test your hypothesis. For the previous hypothesis, you need an experiment that compares the shape of crystals grown from different types of solutions. These solutions will be made with water and different solutes, such as table salt, Epsom salt, and alum. All of these chemicals are easily obtained at a grocery or pharmacy. I would suggest using saturated solutions of each solute type.
You need to identify the controlled variables. Remember that your experimental purpose is to compare the changes of two variables, the independent variable and the dependent variable. Changing other things could affect the results of your experiment. Except for the two variables being compared, you need to control all others and keep them the same if possible.
The controlled variables for the example experiment of growing crystals include: type of water used (distilled water is suggested), amount of water, concentration of solutions (saturated solutions are suggested), types of surface crystals are grown on, environment crystals are grown. NOTE: If crystals for both types of solutions are grown in the same area, then both experience the same environmental changes, which include temperature, light, and humidity.
If you are revising an experiment that you have found in a book, you need to make the necessary changes in the materials list as well as the steps to the procedure. But before writing all the steps, you need to get approval from your teacher. He or she will be able to advise you about the safety as well as the “do ability” of the experiment. Note: “Do Ability” means that it is an experiment that you can obtain all the materials for and one that can be completed in the time frame of your project schedule.
Write Out Your Experiment: You need to include procedure steps for a control experiment (described in the next step). If you were doing the crystal experiment, you could start with procedure steps for a basic crystal growing experiment, such as the ones found here:Growing Crystals. Once you have decided on a basic plan, then make any changes necessary to test your hypothesis. This might be as simple as using the same procedure but changing the solute to make different types of solutions, such as Epsom salt, table salt, and alum.
6. Plan a Control Experiment:
A control experiment is the standard for the project experiment.This means that the results of the project experiment are compared to the results of the control experiment.
Don’t confuse controlled variables with the control experiment. They are not the same.
For the crystal experiment previously described, your control experiment would be the original experiment using salt. In other words, a control is an experiment that you use as a standard. Meaning that you compare the results of your experiment using Epsom salt, with the result of the experiment using the salt.For details on how to plan a control experiment, see How to Design an Experimental Control.
Search for each of the following on this website for more directions.
7. Conduct your Experiment and Record Results
8. Analyze the Results
9. Conclusion: The project Report or summary.
10. How to Write Reports: Conclusions and Abstracts.
11. Prepare a Project Display:
12. Prepare for a Project Presentation:
13. Prepare for Project Judging:
|Janice VanCleave’s Guide to More of the Best Science Fair Projects|