NINE STEPS TO A SUCCESSFUL SCIENCE FAIR PROJECT
First Time Selecting a Science Fair Topic: How-to-Start-a-Science-Fair-Project
- Pick your topic.
Get an idea of what you want to study. Ideas might come from hobbies or problems you see that need solutions. Select a topic that addresses a real world problem that can be investigated through experimentation. Due to limited time and resources, you may want to study only one or two specific issues.
- Research your topic.
Go to the library or Internet and learn everything you can about your topic. Observe related events. Gather existing information about your topic. Look for unexplained or unexpected results. Also, talk to professionals in the field, write or e-mail the companies for specific information, and obtain or construct needed equipment.
- Organize. (Start a log/data book)
Organize everything you have learned about your topic. At this point you should narrow your hypothesis by focusing on a particular idea. Your library research should help you.
- Make a timetable.
Choose a topic that not only interests you, but can be done in the amount of time you have. Use a calendar to identify important dates. Leave time to fill out the forms and to review the Research Plan with your adult sponsor. Certain projects require more time because they need prior Scientific Review Committee (SRC) or Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval. Allow plenty of time to experiment and collect data. Even simple experiments do not always go as you might expect the first time or even the second time. Allow enough time to write a paper and put together an exhibit.
- Plan your experiments.
Once you have a feasible project idea, write a research plan. This plan should explain how you will do your experiments and exactly what it will involve. All students participating in the Intel ISEF and affiliated fairs are required to complete the Checklist for Adult Sponsor, Research Plan (1A) and Approval Form (1B). These should be completed and approved BEFORE you go any further!
- Consult your adult sponsor.
You are required to discuss your research plan with an Adult Sponsor and obtain a signature of approval. In reviewing Research Plan (1A), your sponsor should determine if additional forms and/or IRB/SRC prior approval is needed.
- Conduct your experiments.
Give careful thought to experimental design. During experimentation, keep detailed notes of each and every experiment, measurement and observation. Keep an accurate journal and do not rely on your memory. Having a thorough and detailed journal is what judges use to determine the depth of your work and many times to separate the good projects from the GREAT PROJECTS.
- Remember to change only one variable at a time when experimenting
And make sure to include control experiments in which none of the variables are changed.
- Make sure you include sufficient numbers of test subjects in both control and experimental groups.
A group must have five or more subjects to be statistically valid.
- Examine your results.
When you complete your experiments, examine and organize your findings. Did your experiments give you the expected results? Why or why not? Was your experiment performed with the exact same steps each time? Are there other explanations that you had not considered or observed? Were there errors in your observations? Remember that understanding errors and reporting that a suspected variable did not change the results can be valuable information. If possible, statistically analyze your data.
- Draw conclusions.
Which variables are important? Did you collect enough data? Do you need to conduct more experimentation? Keep an open mind – never alter results to fit a theory. If your results do not support your original hypothesis, you still have accomplished successful scientific research. An experiment is done to prove or disprove an hypothesis.