Before you start your project, acknowledge that you are preparing an entry to a contest.
Contests, whether they are associated with sports or academics have rules. Football players must follow the rules to score. Science fair contestants must also follow the rules if they intend to receive a high score.
The basic rule for the science fair contest is that the entry must have a problem that can be discovered experimentally with measurable results.
There are other science fair project rules that must be followed and these may vary from one local fair to another. Your teacher is the source for a list of these for your fair.
Read the following information carefully. It contains a basic outline for a plant pigment project. Even though your project may not be about plant pigments, the example can assist you in designing a project about any topic.
Begin your research by reading different printed science materials, performing exploratory investigations, asking questions of knowledgeable people, and checking out information on the web. From your research information, decide on a topic that you find interesting, such as pigments in plants.
B. Project Research or “I Have a Topic, Now What Kind of Problem Can I Solve?”
If your topic is about plant pigments, find out as much as possible it:
1. Check out plant pigments on different web sites.
2. Search books for information on plant pigments.
3. As you research, write down inquiring questions, such as:
What is chlorosis? What is chlorophyll? How is chlorophyll produced? What effect does light have on the production of pigment in plants?
Select one of the inquiry questions that most interest you and proceed to the next step.
II. Project Question
Assume the inquiry question selected is: “What effect does light have on the production of chlorophyll?” Determine if this can be your science fair question by asking yourself these questions:
1. Is it about animals? No, it is not.
(If the answer had been yes, you would need special permission from your teacher to work with animals.)
2. Does it compare products? No, it does not. (If the answer had been yes, you would need to check with your teacher to make sure product comparison is an acceptable project. While some local fair encourage product evaluation some do not. Often, regional fairs have a special section for project comparisons.)
3. Can you state a hypothesis for the question? (A hypothesis is a guess about the answer to the question, but the guess must be based on facts. It must be something that is testable with measurable results.)
Yes, a hypothesis can be stated for the inquiry question.
(If the answer is “No, I cannot state a hypothesis for the question.”, then reword the question or select another one.)
Sample Project Questions:
Do choose a question that can be experimentally solved with measurable results. The questions “What is chlorosis?” “What is chlorophyll?” can be answered by reading : Chlorosis is the process by which green plants loose color due to lack of sunlight. The color loss is due to a lack of production of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is a green pigment in plants that give plants a color and absorbs light energy.
Do be specific. The question “How does light effect plant color? is too general. What kind of light? How is the plant color affected?
Do identify the cause and effected variables. The variable that causes the changes is called the independent variable.
“What effect does the amount of sunlight have on the color of grass?”
“What effect does the amount of sunlight have on the production of chlorophyll in grass?”
Since your research revealed that chlorosis is the loss of its green color, which is due to the lack of production of chlorophyll, you could write the following question.
“What effect does the amount of sunlight have on the rate of chlorosis of grass?”
Note: Any green plant could be used, such as green leaves on bushes ore trees.
It is important that the science question can be answered by doing an experiment. The experiment needs to have measurable results. This means that you need to be able to measure the amount of sunlight the plant receives as well as measure the color change in the plant.
You could measure the amount of sunlight by designing an investigation that covers the green plant for different amounts of time.
Now about measuring the color changes. You will have to create a color scale from your results. Pictures work best for this. Take a picture of the plant each day. Compare the pictures to create a color scale. More about this in the experiment section below.
III. Hypothesis: This is your predicted answer to the question. There is no one way to write a hypothesis. Follow the direction that your teacher gives. Following are different examples.
Question: “What effect does the amount of sunlight have on the color of grass?”
Hypothesis: If sunlight is needed to make chlorophyll, then as the amount of sunlight decreases the greater the fading of the plant’s color.
Question: “What effect does the amount of sunlight have on the rate of chlorosis of grass?”
Hypothesis: Since sunlight is necessary for chlorophyll production, then chlorosis increases as the amount of sunlight decreases.
You based your hypothesis on information recorded by other scientists. Now it is time to test your hypothesis.
IV. Project Experiment (Experiment designed to test a hypothesis)
The project experiment at this stage needs only to be a basic design in your mind and not a step?by?step procedure. Think about the experiment and ask yourself the following questions. If the answer to any of these questions is no, you need to redesign the experiment.
A possible experiment might be: Cover areas of grass with opaque materials, such as opaque plastic cups can be partially pushed into the ground. Remove a cup after 24 hours and take a photo of the grass that was covered. Do not replace this cup. Repeat this procedure with other cups each 24 hours for 10 days. Compare the photographs to determine how long it takes for chlorosis to occur.
* Determine if this can be your science fair experiment by asking yourself these questions:
1. Does it have measurable results? (Results that can be measured with an instrument such as a ruler, scale, stopwatch, or other type of scale, such as a dye fading scale.) Yes, while degree of color loss is not an exact measurement it can be ranked from least to most and time is an exact measurement.
2. Does it have an independent variable (variable being changed by the experimenter)? Yes, the duration of light.
3. Does it have a dependent variable (variable being observed that changes in response to the dependent variable)? Yes, the amount of loss of color.
4. Does it have a control ( test in which the independent variable is kept constant in order to measure changes in the dependent variable or a reference decided on by the experimenter as a standard for comparison)? Yes, the control could be one a clear container that allows full sunlight during the entire investigation. Since the other areas are covered by a container, thus restricting air flow, the control area must also be covered.
5. Controlled variables (not to be confused with the control) are all the variables that will be the same in each experiment, such as the same type of materials used to cover the grass, the same weather conditions, such as temperature and moisture of the soil.
IV. Data Data is the only way that a judge has to determine if you did an experiment. They like to see tables, charts, or graphs of the measured results. Any project that has data generally gets an automatic second look by judges. If there is no data, judges start to look for the reason why. Usually, the conclusion is that the student doesn’t understand what an experiment is or how to do one.
V. Start Work Once you have decided on your project question, hypothesis and basically how you are going to test your hypothesis experimentally and record your data, then start your project by designing the experiment step-by-step. Do perform the experiment 4 or more times. This is done by having 4 or more cups for each time segment. Record the results of each test and determine an average for the results.