Science Fair Projects

The Scientific Method is a tool that scientists use to answer questions. The Scientific Method involves the following steps:

  • Making an observation.
  • Identifying a problem.
  • Stating a hypothesis.
  • Conducting an experiment.
  • Reaching a conclusion.

Making An Observation

Take a look at the world around you. You may notice something, and wonder why it happens. You see an event and wonder what causes it. You want to understand or explain how or why something works. You have questions about what you have observed. The first step towards putting together your science fair project is to write down what you have observed.

Gather Your Information

Find out as much as you can about what you want to investigate. Read books, go online, or ask professionals in order to learn as much as possible about the subject of your science fair project. Be sure to keep a record of the information you have gathered and where that information came from.

Give Your Project A Name

Choose a catchy title. Make it specific. Usually, it's best to have your title be a question or you could begin your title with something like :

  • The Effects of...
  • The Study of...
  • An Investigation of...
  • A Comparative Study of...
  • The Observation of...

Identifying a Problem

The problem is the question to be answered. What is it that you want to find out? Write a statement that describes what you want to do. For example, you might notice that a specific area in your yard will not grow grass. This observation might lead you to ask a question, "Why won't grass grow in this area?"

Stating A Hypothesis

A hypothesis is simply your best guess as to what will happen and you make predictions based upon the hypothesis. Start with a list of answers to the questions you came up with. This can be a list of statements describing how or why you think what you observed happened. A hypothesis must be worded in a way that can be tested by an experiment. A hypothesis is not a question. You can use the "if", "then" process to formulate your hypothesis. For example, "If" I do this, "then" this will happen. Or, in the case of noticing that grass will not grow in a specific area of your yard, you could state, "If" I change the pH of the soil, "then" grass will grow in that area.

Design An Experiment To Test Your Hypothesis

Begin by designing an experiment to test your hypothesis. Create a step-by-step list of what you will do to prove your hypothesis. This is called creating an experimental procedure.

Guidelines For The Experimental Procedure

  • Choose one thing to change in your experiment. Things that can be changed are called variables. In our grass example, we could use the addition of lime to change the pH of the soil. Lime would be the variable.
  • The procedure must explain how you will change this one thing. Again, we could state that we will add differing amounts of lime to the soil to create different soil pH and test the effects of how well or poor grass grows in differing pHs.
  • The procedure must include how you will measure the amount of change. Did the grass grow, if so, how would you document which pH was most effective?
  • Your experiment needs a "control" so that you can see whether or not your experiment actually worked. A control is a portion of your experiment that does not include your variable. Or, in our grass growing experiment, a control would be a pot of soil that does not have any lime added to it that has grass seeds in it to see if you can grow grass in it.

Gather Your Materials And Equipment

Make a list of the things you need to do the experiments, and prepare them. For the grass growing experiment, we would need soil pots, grass seed, lime, litmus paper to determine the pH of the different soils, and a way to measure the grass that is growing.

Conduct Your Experiment And Record Your Data

As you conduct your experiment, record all numerical measurements you make. This can be the amounts of chemicals used, how long something is, the time something took, the pH of the soil, etc. If you are not taking any measurements, you will have a hard time proving the results of your science project.

Record Your Observations

Observations are written descriptions of what you noticed during your experiment, or problems you encountered. Keep notes of everything you do, and everything that happens. Observations are important when drawing conclusions, and can be used when looking for experimental errors.

Convert Your Calculations

Perform any math needed to turn the raw data that you recorded during your experiment into numbers that you will use to make tables, graphs or to demonstrate your conclusions.

Summarize Your Results

Described what happened with your experiment. You could do this as a table of numerical data or graphs. You could also write a statement of what occurred during the experiment.

Reaching A Conclusion

Using your experimental data and your experimental observations, try to answer your original question. Was your hypothesis correct? This is where you pull together what happened in your experiment, and assess the experiments you conducted. If your hypothesis was not correct, what could be the answer to your question? List any difficulties or problems you had conducting the experiment. Do you need to change your procedure and repeat your experiment? Do you need to form a new hypothesis and conduct a completely different experiment?

What If My Science Project Didn't Work?

If your science fair project didn't work, you still learned something. Science is not about getting "the answer." You actually learned a lot by knowing that something didn't work. You can rule out a variable and look for a different answer to your question. In our grass growing experiment, if you can grow grass in the control pot, then you can conclude that the pH of the soil is NOT the reason grass does not grow and you can conduct another experiment. Perhaps it is the amount of light that patch of soil receives, or, could it be the amount of water it receives? Now, you have two more experiments you can conduct to answer your original question, "Why won't grass grow in this area?"