Science Fair: Getting Started

  1. Pick your topic: Brainstorm all of your interests. Think of activities or things that interest you or maybe something you have always wondered about. Use simple ideas to begin with.
  2. Start a log book: A log book is a notebook that must be bound with stitching or glue so that the pates are not removable. Use only ink to write in your log book. Be sure to put your name and the name of your school on the front of your log book. Include things like notes on readings, bibliographic information, thoughts, ideas, trials, raw data (measurements and information collected during experimentation), copies of graphs or charts, and photos. (You may staple these items in the book if necessary.) Make certain to date every entry you make in the log book, and do not leave out any information, even ideas that may not have worked out. Write about your topic, all your thoughts, ideas, what you know already about your topic, and remember to date the pages. Your log book should contain accurate and detailed notes of everything you do for your research project. The log book will be useful when it comes time to write your abstract and research paper and will also be helpful when putting together your display board. The book must be bound—either stitched or glued. Organize with divider labels. NO COMPUTER GENERATED LOG BOOKS WILL BE ACCEPTED!
  3. Organize and Theorize: Organize everything you have learned about your topic. Narrow down your hypothesis by focusing on a particular idea.
  4. Make a Timetable: Put together a calendar with important dates. (Deadlines for specific tasks) Make certain to allow time for paperwork.
  5. Plan Out your research. Research: Study everything you can find about your topic. Talk to professionals in the field, take notes and record phone numbers. Write to companies for information or visit their Web sites. Remember to put any information found during the research phase in your log book. Organize everything you have learned with an outline. Put notes, papers and information into your project notebook. Begin to narrow down your information by focusing on a particular idea. This helps define questions and answers, and it also helps to identify the procedure for testing. Be certain to study the rules pertaining to your project. Some projects have specific rules about where the work must be done, who must be present, and what is allowed.
  6. Define: Does your project fall into the category of science or engineering? The process is slightly different for each. Here are a few tips to help with this process:
    • Science Process: define the problem, find a purpose, write a hypothesis, develop a procedure, analyze results, draw conclusion
    • Engineering Process: define the problem, find a goal, develop design criteria, build and test prototype, analyze results, draw conclusion
  7. Consult Your Adult Sponsor: You are required to discuss your Research Plan with your Sponsor and get his/her signature of approval. Your Sponsor should review the research plan and determine if you need additional forms and/or IRB/SRC approval. YOU MUST FOLLOW ALL SAFETY RULES.
  8. Conduct Your Experiments: Give careful thought to designing your experiments. As you conduct your research and experimentation, keep detailed notes of each and every experiment, measurement, and observation in your log book. Change only one variable at a time when experimenting.
  9. Examine Your Results: Did the experiments give you the expected results? Were there errors in your observations? Did you follow the exact steps each time you performed the experiment? The answers to these questions will help with examining your results.
  10. Draw Conclusions: Which variables are important? Did you collect enough data? Should you conduct more experiments? Never alter your results to fit your theory. An experiment is done to support or refute a hypothesis; therefore there are no wrong experiments.
  11. Prepare Your Report: Your written report is a complete discussion of your research including the problems, hypothesis, materials, procedures, results, graphs, charts, conclusions, acknowledgements, and bibliography.
  12. Make Your Display: Your display should be attractive, simple, and informative. Follow the size and safety limitations carefully to avoid disqualification. The display board should be lightweight and self supporting. Use concise wording, bulleted text, and graphics whenever possible. Use photos, a good title, strong, large lettering and labels with simple, yet striking color combinations. Make sure to label any charts or graphs. There are rules and regulations regarding items that are NOT ALLOWED with your project during the fair. CONSULT the official rules and regulations to determine what you can safely display with your project.