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How to Write a Research Plan for a Science Project

How to Make a Rough Draft on Science Projects

How to Make a Rough Draft on Science Projects

A research plan outlines your proposed science fair project and must be approved by a science fair committee before experiments are done. For this reason, it contains no experimental data but instead offers the questions you plan to address, the significance of questions, background information and experimental design. Since a committee must approve your plan, provide a proposal that represents your ideas as important, doable and unique in its approach.

Make a list of "what, when, where and how" questions that relate to your topic. Be specific. Start with all the possible questions, then eliminate those that are too vague or those you cannot answer, given your time and resources. Science Buddies provides an example of this.

Describe the significance of your questions by considering how answering them might be helpful to others in the future. Think big but not unreasonable. Answering questions about bacteria growth, for example, has implications on disease prevention. Research each implication and offer statistics or solid facts on how knowing more would be important. Keep track of your information for your bibliography.

Build a foundation for your questions with background information. Determine what is already known, who figured it out and how these finding have already affected the world. Make sure your questions are not already answered by the work of other people. If they are, find holes in the background information and find new questions that address them. Ask anyone with experience on your topic for help if you have difficult finding background information. Keep track of where you get all information for your bibliography.

Describe a detailed step-by-step method for answering your questions. Individual experiments may be necessary for individual questions. List the necessary materials and equipment. Include exact amounts and explicitly state data collection methods.

Anticipate the results you might get through the method you outlined. Consider any problems you may encounter in your experiments and how you will address them. Think critically about your planned experiments. Make sure they address the questions you stated. If not, redo either your method or your question list.

Formalize a research plan. Make it easy to read and include the following sections: questions, significance, background and materials and methods. Possible problems may be its own section or part of the materials and methods section. Follow school guidelines regarding accompanying paperwork and the order of your sections. The bibliography has its own section and is always last. Check for good grammar and spelling.

  • Always cite whenever you use information from the Web or from books or people. Citations from reliable resources gives credibility to your project.
  • Network at your local university. Students and faculty doing research on a related topic can be a valuable resource.

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Dr. Alex Tan has been writing in science for more than six years. She is now working as a technical and science writer in California. Tan received her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University

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How to write a research plan.

At this point, you have a general idea of what your project will entail. It is now time to put together a more detailed plan on how to complete the project. In general, a research plan should outline the steps that will be taken to reach the project purpose or prove the hypothesis.

Usually a research plan is done before a project starts and after a hypothesis/purpose has been specified. For some competitions, like the Robot Design Competition, a formal plan may not have been written but it is useful to create one in hindsight to show what may have been an ad hoc plan. The contents of the plan will be the same but it will actually be easier to write.

The research plan should address the entire project, including any preparation that is necessary, such as building research apparatus or acquiring specialized research materials. It should present any experiments and how results will be evaluated. For an engineering project a research plan should outline the steps that will be taken. This may include preparation of scaffolding or other support or background requirements. It should describe the components and how they will be assembled or how they work together.

A research plan needs to be detailed . It is not sufficient to say, "I am going to make an airplane" or "I am going to see how a plant grows in dirt." The plan needs to indicate all the steps you plan on taking such that another person reading the research plan could repeat your process. A research plan outline can be a useful starting point.

The research plan must address safety and health issues. This means you must understand the materials and processes involved, as well as the risks and the way to minimize those risks. The risks should be enumerated as well as how they will be addressed. For example, if animals are used in an experiment, then their care, feeding, and housing after the experiment must all be addressed in the research plan.

Your mentor/adult-in-charge/supervisor will review your research plan and may suggest changes. Likewise, the research plan may have to be reviewed by a safety review committee before your experiments can begin. The more details in the plan, the better the chance that it will be approved without changes.

A research plan needs to be as long as necessary. It may fit on one page or many pages. 

  • A research plan is not a research paper and it does not need to include references unless these are related to the research plan.
  • A research plan MUST include any safety related information as well as any disposal procedures when necessary. This is usually the case for biological projects that detail with microorganisms, tissues, etc.

The following links provide a research plan outline as well as examples.

Table of Contents

  • Getting Started
  • Fair Overview
  • Privacy Policy
  • Club Documents
  • Fair Flyers
  • Fair Location
  • Robot Competition Registration
  • Robot Competition Judging
  • Robot Competition Webinars
  • Robot Competition Awards
  • Other Science fairs
  • Affiliated Fairs
  • Teams and Multiple Applications
  • Required Versus Optional
  • Precertification
  • Using Artificial Intelligence
  • Why register?
  • When to register
  • What to do after you register
  • No Team Projects for ISEF Events
  • Elementary project restrictions - Elementary Division not available after 2021
  • Restricted display items
  • Starting a project
  • When, Why and How to Register for the Fair
  • How to Write a Hypothesis/Purpose
  • Research Plan Outline
  • 2020 MSEF Senior Division Grand Prize Winner Research Plan
  • 2020 MSEF Senior Division Grand Prize Winner Abstract
  • 2020 MSEF Senior Division Runner Up Abstract
  • Precertification and ISEF Forms
  • Primary Project Image
  • Photograph and Figure Attribution
  • Research Paper
  • Slide Presentation
  • Online Judging
  • Video Presentation
  • Award Ceremony
  • What Judges Are Looking For
  • Follow on from Your Science Fair
  • Just the Basics
  • Integrating into Your Curriculumn
  • Spreading the News
  • Teacher Registration
  • Managing a school
  • Judge Qualifications
  • Judge Groups
  • Judge Registration
  • Judging Process
  • Special Awards
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb
  • Taiho Oncology
  • Church and Dwight
  • Educational Testing Service ETS
  • HostandStore.com
  • Integra Foundation
  • Otsuka America Pharmaceutical Inc.
  • Rider University
  • Sponsorship levels
  • List of Sponsors

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example of science fair research plan

How to Write a Convincing Science Fair Research Proposal

example of science fair research plan

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For students interested in the STEM fields, there are many extracurriculars to choose from. You might join the Math or Science Olympiad team, you could join the Computer Science Club, or you could even volunteer as a naturalist at a local conservation area.

If you are interested in scientific research, you might pursue the opportunity to secure a research assistant position or shadow various scientific researchers. But if you truly want to take the helm and guide your own research, your path may lead you to participating in the science fair.

The science fair is a traditional component of many high school science programs, with participation ranging widely from school to school and science fair to science fair. At some schools, the science fair might be a rite of passage expected of every student. At others, it attracts a handful of dedicated science die-hards.

Regardless, most science fairs feature presentations by students who have completed experiments, demonstrated scientific principles, or undertaken an engineering challenge. Participants are judged by a panel of experts who score each presentation according to a rubric. Traditionally, awards are presented for the top-scoring projects. 

There are many science fairs beyond school-sponsored fairs, too. Regional, state, national, and even international fairs are open to students who qualify through their schools and work their way up through the science fair circuit. Others, like the Regeneron Science Talent Search, are open through an intensive application process.

If you are considering entering a project in the science fair, you will need to think carefully about your subject matter, your experimental design, and the relevance of your work before committing to a project. Many science fairs will even require that you complete a formal research proposal to demonstrate the level of thinking you’ve put into your experiment before beginning it.

In this post, we will outline the purpose of a research proposal for the science fair, the common elements of such a proposal, and how you can go about writing a comprehensive research proposal that is sure to impress.

What is the Purpose of a Research Proposal?

A research proposal has three primary purposes. The first purpose is to explain what you intend to do. This is essentially what you will do in your experiment or project, summarized into a basic overview.

The second function of a research proposal is to explain how you intend to accomplish this. You will give a brief summary of the methods and techniques that you intend to employ, and list the materials that you will need to do so.

The final point of a research proposal is to explain why this project should be done. Here, you will discuss the important or relevance of this study. Basically, in this portion of your proposal you’ll answer the question, “so what?”

Now that you know the aim of a research proposal, you can begin to prepare to write one. -->

Step-By-Step Guide to Creating a Research Proposal

1. narrow down the subject area..

Before you go into your project in any sort of depth, you’ll need a fairly good idea of what your project’s focus will be. In order to narrow this down, you should consider a few different angles.

First, ask yourself what you’re interested in. You will be more likely to feel engaged and passionate about a project that is genuinely interesting to you, so take some time to carefully consider the areas of science that you find the most fascinating. Even if they don’t seem particularly well-suited to a science fair project at first, you never know what you might be able to come up with through some collaboration with mentors or through some background research. Keep a running list of areas of science that sincerely fascinate you.

Next, consider any specialized labs or equipment to which you might have access. Does your best friend’s mother work in a lab with highly specialized tools? Does your school have a state-of-the-art wind tunnel or fully equipped greenhouse? These are all possible resources you can utilize if you want your project to truly stand out. Of course, it’s completely possible to choose a project that shines on its own without any specialized equipment, but if you’re looking for every boost you might get, having access to specialized technology can be a great advantage to make your project truly unique.

Finally, consider if you know a teacher or other professional who might be willing to mentor you. You can also seek out a mentor specifically if you can’t think of anyone obvious. Having a mentor in your field will provide you with invaluable insight into practice and past research in the field.

In the ideal world, you would find a project that maximizes all of your resources, including your interests, access to equipment, and an enthusiastic mentor. Don’t worry if you can’t secure all three, though. Plenty of science fair participants go on to do quite well relying on only their own dogged determination and commitment to their subject matter.

2 . Decide How Your Experiment Will Be Done

If you have a mentor, teacher, or adviser willing to consult with you, schedule a time to sit down with them and discuss what you’d like to do. If you can’t find someone more experienced than you, even discussing your ideas with a trusted classmate, parent, or older sibling is a good idea. Sometimes the outside perspective will help to fine-tune your design or identify areas for improvement.

You should also begin some research at this stage to learn how similar projects have been conducted in the past. Use the results and limitations from these experiments to help guide your own experimental design.

As you do so, keep in mind any limiting factors. Remember to consider what equipment you have at your disposal, the time commitment you’re able to make, and the materials that you’ll need to acquire.

In addition, be sure to check the rules of the specific science fairs you’ll be attending. Some have strict regulations designed to keep you safe, like limiting the ways in which potentially hazardous chemicals can be used. Other rules are designed to keep the environment safe, like placing restrictions on how you dispose of foreign substances or non-native species. There are also ethical rules that govern the use of human participants or vertebrate animals in your studies. Make sure to check which rules govern the fair in which you’re participating and how they might impact your ideas before you put any more thought into your project.

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3. Background Research

Your background research should be fairly comprehensive at this point and will be the single largest component of your research proposal. You should focus on your research on relevant past studies that inform your work either by identifying areas for future research or by identifying limiting factors in their own research. You should also research past experiments that support or attempt to disprove your working theory.

Finally, your research should clearly show why the project is relevant. What is important about it? What does it add to the field? Why should we care? Make sure that you can communicate the scientific value of the project you’re proposing.

4. Write Your Proposal

Once you’ve chosen a project, decided how you’ll undertake it, and done the relevant background research, you are finally able to begin drafting your research proposal. Check with your school or science fair to see if there is a specific format or form that you’re required to adhere to. If not, and you are producing a general research proposal, follow this format:

This should be a one-paragraph description of the project, your hypothesis, and the goals of your experiment. Here, you provide a brief overview of your project for anyone who is skimming your work.

Introduction/Literature Review:

This is the bulk of your proposal. In your literature review, you present what is currently known about your project’s focus and summarize relevant research that has been done in the field. You will discuss previous discoveries in your field, including how they were made and what they lend to your current work.

You will also show what is interesting and ground-breaking about your research idea. In this section you will need to summarize why your project is relevant, what makes it important, and how the field or current base of knowledge could change or be improved due to your project’s results.

As you write your literature review, you’ll need to be sure that you’re using high-quality, accurate sources. It’s best to rely on scholarly journal articles or reference books. Be wary of using the Internet, as many sources are unverified. If you are using online resources, be sure to verify their source. Published, peer-reviewed scholarly articles are best.

It’s also important to include proper citations for every source cited. You’ll need to list all your sources in the appropriate format in your bibliography along with citing them in the text of your proposal when you quote directly or reference specific data. If you aren’t sure how to cite properly, check out the Scientific Style and Format page.

Hypothesis:

This is the working theory that you are testing and what you expect the results will be, based off what you have learned through your background research.

Materials and Methods:

In this section you’ll provide a precise, in depth description of how you plan to test your hypothesis and what tools or materials you’ll need to do so. Summarize your experimental design, specifically referring to how you will control and replicate the experiment. Also list the equipment and materials that you will need for undertaking your experiment.

Conclusion:

Here, you will reiterate how your proposed research will advance knowledge in the scientific field and outline any potential longterm impact that your work could have on theory or practice within the field.

Bibliography:

List all sources used in appropriate format. Refer to the Scientific Style and Format page if you aren’t sure how to do so.

What Happens After I Submit a Research Proposal?

After you submit the research proposal, it will be reviewed by your teacher or a science fair administrator or adviser. It will be approved, rejected, or returned for revisions based on its feasibility, value to the scientific field, and adherence to the science fair rules and regulations.

While larger, more selective science fairs will have to select only a limited number of candidates based on the merits of their research proposals, it is fairly uncommon for a science fair research proposal to get completely denied at the school level. Usually, in these cases, your proposal will be returned to you with requests for edits or further clarification. You have most likely consulted with your teacher or adviser throughout the process of developing your proposal, so nothing should come as a complete surprise when you receive feedback.

If your proposal is rejected and you don’t receive constructive feedback, don’t be shy about respectfully requesting some feedback to help you shape a better, more effective proposal in the future.

If your proposal is returned for revisions, you should feel encouraged. While you still have some work to do, this is generally a sign that with a few tweaks, your proposal will be accepted. Meet with a teacher, mentor, or adviser to review the revisions requested and address each thoroughly before returning the proposal for another round of review.

If your proposal is accepted, congratulations! It’s time to get to work. While your proposal itself was probably a time-consuming endeavor, your research will ultimately be easier for having taken the time and care to craft a precise proposal. Your research will be more focused and likely a smoother process due to all your careful planning, and you will be able to use large chunks of your written work in your final scientific report.

Don’t be intimidated if you’re getting ready to write a science fair research proposal. It can be a long process to fine-tune your project and focus your proposed research, but the work that you put in now ultimately makes your job easier in the long run.

Looking for help navigating the road to college as a high school student? Download our  free guide for 9th graders  and our  free guide for 10th graders . Our guides go in-depth about subjects ranging from  academics ,  choosing courses ,  standardized tests ,  extracurricular activities ,  and much more !

For more information about the science fair and opportunities for students interested in the STEM fields, see these valuable CollegeVine posts:

  • How to Spend Your Summer As a Prospective Math Major (And Why Math is a Great Career Path)
  • A Guide to STEM Scholarships
  • Summer Activities for the Future BS/MD Applicant
  • Ultimate Guide to the AP Research Course and Assessment
  • How to Choose a Project for Your AP Research Course
  • How to Get a Research Assistant Position in High School
  • An Introduction to the AP Capstone Diploma
  • How to Choose a Winning Science Fair Project Idea
  • How to Plan and Implement an Independent Study in High School
  • A Beginner’s Guide to the Science Fair
  • Guide to National Youth Science Camp

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example of science fair research plan

Learn STEM by Doing (and having fun)!

science fair board

The Ultimate Science Fair Project Guide – From Start to Finish

When our daughter entered her first science fair, we kept seeing references to the Internet Public Library Science Fair Project Resource Guide .  However, the IPL2 permanently closed… taking the guide with it.  Bummer !  After now participating in over a half-dozen elementary school science fairs (including a first-place finish!), we created our own guide to help other students go from start to finish in their next science fair project.  If this is your first science fair, have fun!  If you’ve done it before, we hope this is your best one!  Let’s science!

*Images from Unsplash

How to Use the STEMium Science Fair Project Ultimate Guide?

example of science fair research plan

If you are just starting off and this is your first science fair, here’s how to get started:

  • Start with the STEMium Science Fair Project Roadmap . This is an infographic that “maps” out the process from start to finish and shows all the steps in a visual format.
  • Getting Started – Why Do a Science Fair Project . Besides walking through some reasons to do a project, we also share links to examples of national science fair competitions, what’s involved and examples of winning science fair experiments .  *Note: this is where you’ll get excited!!
  • The Scientific Method – What is It and What’s Involved . One of the great things about a science fair project is that it introduces students to an essential process/concept known as the scientific method.  This is simply the way in which we develop a hypothesis to test.
  • Start the Process – Find an Idea . You now have a general idea of what to expect at the science fair, examples of winning ideas, and know about the scientific method.  You’re ready to get started on your own project.  How do you come up with an idea for a science fair project?  We have resources on how to use a Google tool , as well as some other strategies for finding an idea.
  • Experiment and Build the Project . Time to roll up those sleeves and put on your lab coat.
  • Other Resources for the Fair. Along the way, you will likely encounter challenges or get stuck.  Don’t give up – it’s all part of the scientific process.  Check out our STEMium Resources page for more links and resources from the web.  We also have additional experiments like the germiest spot in school , or the alka-seltzer rocket project that our own kids used.

Getting Started – Why Do a Science Fair Project

For many students, participating in the science fair might be a choice that was made FOR you.  In other words, something you must do as part of a class.  Maybe your parents are making you do it.  For others, maybe it sounded like a cool idea.  Something fun to try.  Whatever your motivation, there are a lot of great reasons to do a science fair project.

  • Challenge yourself
  • Learn more about science
  • Explore cool technology
  • Make something to help the world! (seriously!)
  • Win prizes (and sometimes even money)
  • Do something you can be proud of!

Many students will participate in a science fair at their school.  But there are also national competitions that include 1000s of participants.  There are also engineering fairs, maker events, and hackathons.  It’s an exciting time to be a scientist!!  The list below gives examples of national events.

  • Regeneron Science Talent Search
  • Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair
  • Google Science Fair
  • Conrad Challenge
  • Microsoft Imagine Cup
  • JSHS Program
  • Exploravision

What’s the Scientific Method?

Before we jump into your project, it’s important to introduce a key concept:  The Scientific Method .  The scientific method is the framework scientists use to answer their questions and test their hypothesis.  The figure below illustrates the steps you’ll take to get to the end, but it starts with asking a question (you’ve already finished the first step!).

scientific method - for the science fair

After we find a problem/idea to tackle, and dig into some background research, we create a guess on a potential solution.  This is known as our hypothesis.

Example of a Hypothesis

My brother can hold his breath underwater longer than I can (“our problem”) –> how can I hold my breath longer? (“our question”) –>  if I drink soda with caffeine before I hold my breath, I will be able to stay underwater longer (“our solution”).  Our hypothesis is that using caffeine before we go underwater will increase the time we hold our breath.  We’re not sure if that is a correct solution or not at this stage – just taking a guess.

Once we have a hypothesis, we design an experiment to TEST our hypothesis.  First, we will change variables/conditions one at a time while keeping everything else the same, so we can compare the outcomes.

Experimental Design Example

Using our underwater example, maybe we will test different drinks and count how long I can hold my breath.  Maybe we can also see if someone else can serve as a “control” – someone who holds their breath but does not drink caffeine.  For the underwater experiment, we can time in seconds how long I hold my breath before I have a drink and then time it again after I have my caffeine drink.  I can also time how long I stay underwater when I have a drink without caffeine.

Then, once we finish with our experiment, we analyze our data and develop a conclusion.

  • How many seconds did I stay underwater in the different situations? 
  • Which outcome is greater?  Did caffeine help me hold my breath longer? 

Finally, (and most important), we present our findings. Imagine putting together a poster board with a chart showing the number of seconds I stayed underwater in the different conditions.

Hopefully you have a better sense of the scientific method.  If you are completing a science fair project, sticking with these steps is super important.  Just in case there is any lingering confusion, here are some resources for learning more about the scientific method:

  • Science Buddies – Steps of the Scientific Method
  • Ducksters – Learn About the Scientific Method
  • Biology4kids – Scientific Method
  • National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences – Scientific Method

What Science Fair Project Should I Do?

science fair - keep an open mind

And science is no different.

Just know that if you can get through the idea part, the rest of the science fair is relatively smooth sailing.  Remember to keep an open mind and a positive outlook .  Each year 100s of 1000s of kids, teenagers and college students come up with new projects and ideas to test.  You’ve got this!

What Makes a Great Science Fair Project?  Start with a Problem To Solve

example of science fair research plan

As we discuss below, good science experiments attempt to answer a QUESTION.  Why is the sky blue?  Why does my dog bark at her reflection?  First, we will step through some ways to find TESTABLE QUESTIONS.  These questions that you create will be what you work on for your science fair project.  Pick something fun, something interesting and something that you are excited about.  Not sure what that looks like?  Step through some of the tips below for help.

Use the Google Science Fair Idea Generator

Are you surprised Google made a tool for science fair projects??  Our post called the low-stress way to find a science fair project gives a more in-depth overview about how to use it.  It’s a great first stop if you’re early in the brainstorming process.

Answer your own questions

example of science fair research plan

  • What type of music makes you run faster?
  • Can boys hold their breath underwater longer than girls?
  • How can I be sure the sandwich I bought is gluten free?
  • If we plant 100 trees in our neighborhood, will the air be cleaner?

Still stuck? Get inspiration from other science fair projects

example of science fair research plan

Check out the Getting Started section and look at some of the winning science project ideas, our STEMium experiments and our Resource page.  We’ve presented a ton of potential idea starters for you – take time to run through some of these, but our suggestion is to give yourself a deadline to pick an idea .  Going through the lists could take you longer than you think, and in many cases sometimes it’s just better to pick something and go for it!  The next section will take you through how to create testable questions for your project.

Starting Your Project: Find A Testable Question

The best experiments start with a question.  Taking that a step further, the questions you useyou’re your science fair project should be ones that are TESTABLE.  That means something you can measure.  Let’s look at an example.  Let’s say I’m super excited about baking.  OH YEA!!  I love baking.  Specifically, baking cakes.  In fact, I love baking cakes so much that I want to do a science project related to cakes.  We’ve got two questions on cakes that we created.  Which question below could be most useful for a science fair project:

1)  Can eating cake before a test improve your score?

2)  Why isn’t carrot cake more popular than chocolate cake?

The second question isn’t necessarily a bad question to pick.  You could survey people and perhaps tackle the question that way.  However, chances are you will get a lot of different answers and it will probably take a lot of surveys to start to pick up a trend.

Although, the first question might be a little easier.  How would you test this?   Maybe you pick one type of cake and one test that you give people.  If you can get five people to take the test after eating cake and five people take the test with no cake, you can compare the test results.  There might be other variables beyond cake that you could test (example: age, sex, education).  But you can see that the first question is probably a little easier to test.  The first question is also a little easier to come up with a hypothesis.

At this point, you’ve got an idea.  That was the hard part!  Now it’s time to think a little more about that idea and focus it into a scientific question that is testable and that you can create a hypothesis around .

What makes a question “testable”?

Testable questions are ones that can be measured and should focus on what you will change.  In our first cake question, we would be changing whether or not people eat cake before a test.  If we are giving them all the same test and in the same conditions, you could compare how they do on the test with and without cake.  As you are creating your testable question, think about what you WILL CHANGE (cake) and what you are expecting to be different (test scores).  Cause and effect.  Check out this reference on testable questions for more details.

Outline Your Science Project – What Steps Should I Take?

example of science fair research plan

Do Background Research / Create Hypothesis

Science experiments typically start with a question (example: Which cleaning solution eliminates more germs?).  The questions might come up because of a problem.  For example, maybe you’re an engineer and you are trying to design a new line of cars that can drive at least 50 mph faster.  Your problem is that the car isn’t fast enough.  After looking at what other people have tried to do to get the car to go faster, and thinking about what you can change, you try to find a solution or an answer.  When we talk about the scientific method, the proposed answer is referred to as the HYPOTHESIS.

example of science fair research plan

  • Science Buddies
  • National Geographic

The information you gather to answer these research questions can be used in your report or in your board.  This will go in the BACKGROUND section.  For resources that you find useful, make sure you note the web address where you found it, and save in a Google Doc for later.

Additional Research Tips

For your own science fair project, there will likely be rules that will already be set by the judges/teachers/school.  Make sure you get familiar with the rules FOR YOUR FAIR and what needs to be completed to participate .  Typically, you will have to do some research into your project, you’ll complete experiments, analyze data, make conclusions and then present the work in a written report and on a poster board.  Make a checklist of all these “to do” items.  Key things to address:

  • Question being answered – this is your testable question
  • Hypothesis – what did you come up with and why
  • Experimental design – how are you going to test your hypothesis
  • Conclusions – why did you reach these and what are some alternative explanations
  • What would you do next? Answering a testable question usually leads to asking more questions and judges will be interested in how you think about next steps.

Need more help?  Check out these additional resources on how to tackle a science fair project:

  • Developing a Science Fair Project – Wiley
  • Successful Science Fair Projects – Washington University
  • Science Fair Planning Guide – Chattahoochee Elementary

Experiment – Time to Test That Hypothesis

Way to go!  You’ve found a problem and identified a testable question.  You’ve done background research and even created a hypothesis.  It’s time to put it all together now and start designing your experiment.  Two experiments we have outlined in detail – germiest spot in school and alka-seltzer rockets – help show how to set up experiments to test variable changes.

The folks at ThoughtCo have a great overview on the different types of variables – independent, dependent and controls.  You need to identify which ones are relevant to your own experiment and then test to see how changes in the independent variable impacts the dependent variable .  Sounds hard?  Nope.  Let’s look at an example.  Let’s say our hypothesis is that cold weather will let you flip a coin with more heads than tails.  The independent variable is the temperature.  The dependent variable is the number of heads or tails that show up.  Our experiment could involve flipping a coin fifty times in different temperatures (outside, in a sauna, in room temperature) and seeing how many heads/tails we get.

One other important point – write down all the steps you take and the materials you use!!  This will be in your final report and project board.  Example – for our coin flipping experiment, we will have a coin (or more than one), a thermometer to keep track of the temperature in our environment.  Take pictures of the flipping too!

Analyze Results – Make Conclusions

Analyzing means adding up our results and putting them into pretty pictures.  Use charts and graphs whenever you can.  In our last coin flipping example, you’d want to include bar charts of the number of heads and tails at different temperatures.  If you’re doing some other type of experiment, take pictures during the different steps to document everything.

This is the fun part….  Now we get to see if we answered our question!  Did the weather affect the coin flipping?  Did eating cake help us do better on our test??  So exciting!  Look through what the data tells you and try to answer your question.  Your hypothesis may / may not be correct.  It’s not important either way – the most important part is what you learned and the process.  Check out these references for more help:

  • How to make a chart or graph in Google Sheets
  • How to make a chart in Excel

Presentation Time – Set Up Your Board, Practice Your Talk

Personally, the presentation is my favorite part!  First, you get to show off all your hard work and look back at everything you did!  Additionally, science fair rules should outline the specific sections that need to be in the report, and in the poster board – so, be like Emmett from Lego Movie and read the instructions.  Here’s a loose overview of what you should include:

  • Title – what is it called.
  • Introduction / background – here’s why you’re doing it and helping the judges learn a bit about your project.
  • Materials/Methods – what you used and the steps in your experiment. This is so someone else could repeat your experiment.
  • Results – what was the outcome? How many heads/tails?  Include pictures and graphs.
  • Conclusions – was your hypothesis correct? What else would you like to investigate now?  What went right and what went wrong?
  • References – if you did research, where did you get your information from? What are your sources?

The written report will be very similar to the final presentation board.  The board that you’ll prepare is usually a three-panel board set up like the picture shown below.

science fair board

To prepare for the presentation, you and your partner should be able to talk about the following:

  • why you did the experiment
  • the hypothesis that was tested
  • the data results
  • the conclusions.

It’s totally OK to not know an answer.  Just remember this is the fun part!

And that’s it!  YOU DID IT!! 

Science fair projects have been great opportunities for our kids to not only learn more about science, but to also be challenged and push themselves.  Independent projects like these are usually a great learning opportunity.  Has your child completed a science fair project that they are proud of?  Include a pic in the comments – we love to share science!!  Please also check out our STEMium Resources page for more science fair project tips and tricks .

STEMomma is a mother & former scientist/educator. She loves to find creative, fun ways to help engage kids in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math).  When she’s not busy in meetings or carpooling kids, she loves spending time with the family and dreaming up new experiments  or games they can try in the backyard.

COMMENTS

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