Here are a few guidelines for how to think of and do 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. Due to limited time and
resources, you may want to study only one or two specific events. Write down
concisely your statement of the problem and what solutions or insights are
invited by what you know and don't know about it. Consider what the solution
Research Your Topic
Go to the library or internet and learn everything you can on your topic.
Observe related events. Gather existing information on your topic. Look for
unexplained or unexpected results. Also, talk to professionals in the field,
write or email companies for specific information, and obtain or construct
Organize and Plan Your Quest
Organize everything you have learned about your topic. At this point you
should narrow your thinking by focusing on a particular idea. Your background
research should help you. Think about what you hope to prove, how you intend
to do it, what you need, what might go wrong, and where you can get help. Make
an outline of all these keys issues to guide you and be ready to adapt.
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 your research plan with your sponsor or teacher.
Certain projects require more time because they need prior Scientific Review
Committee (SRC) or Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval. The SRC and IRB
reviews are to insure the safety of the participant and others. 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. Also leave
time to write a paper and put together an exhibit.
Plan Your Experimental Design
Give careful thought to experimental design. Once you have a feasible project
idea, write a research plan. This plan should explain how you will do your
experiments and exactly what they will involve.
Consult Your Adult Sponsor
You are required to discuss your research plan with an Adult Sponsor and
obtain a signature of approval. In reviewing the Research Plan, your Sponsor
should determine if additional forms and/or IRB/SRC prior approval is needed.
You and your Adult Sponsor may use the forms checklist or contact USEF.
Gather Equipment & Supplies
Gather or purchase all the equipment, material, and supplies you are going to
need to conduct your experiments.
Conduct Your Experiments
During experimentation, keep detailed notes of each and every experiment in
your journal notebook, measurement and observation. Do not rely on your
memory. 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 in both control and
experimental groups to be statistically valid.
Examine and Analyze 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.
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 hypothesis, you still have
accomplished successful scientific research.