Developing your science fair project

Anyone who has read a mystery novel or seen a “whodunit,” has seen the scientific method in action. It is a logical, organized mechanism for identifying and researching a problem and devising a strategy to solve it. There are 5 major steps of the scientific method.

Students conducting an engineering project should follow the engineering design process.

Scientific Method

Step 1: Determine the problem or question.

  • In this step you decide what it is that you will study.
  • This step identifies exactly what you want to learn and allows you to focus only on that material.
  • Still no ideas? Try some of the resources listed below.

Step 2: Develop your hypothesis

  • The hypothesis is an educated guess. It starts with researching the problem and finding out what others have learned. Then, using this information, make an educated guess or predication about the question at hand.

Step 3: Design an experiment to test your hypothesis

  • Design an experiment whose results will either support or disprove your hypothesis.
  • There should be at least two groups in your experiment. The first group has the experimental variable or the factor that is being tested. The second group is the control group which is identical to the experimental group in every way except that it lacks the variable.
  • Your Research Plan is a summary of Steps 1, 2, and 3—a description of background information leading up to your research question, a statement of your hypothesis, and an experimental plan to test your hypothesis.

Step 4: Conduct your experiment and collect the data

  • Run your experiment. In this step, you will be measuring the dependent variable, the thing that is being observed or measured. Any pieces of information that you collect regarding the dependent variable are called data.
  • Record all of your data in your data/lab notebook.

Step 5: Draw Conclusions from your data

  • Determine if your hypothesis is supported or disproved on the basis of your experimental results or data.
  • If your hypothesis is supported, repeat your experiment to support the quality of your data.

Other resources

  • Society for Science & the Public: SSP is the organization that manages the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair as well as the Intel Science Talent Search. On their web site, you can find additional information on completing a science fair project, the rules and guidelines, the rules wizard that will help identify the forms needed for different types of projects, and the awards available to those who attend the Intel ISEF.
  • Science News for Students: Aggregate science news from the Society for Science & the Public.
  • Science Buddies: This site has a topic selection wizard to help students narrow down an area of interest; an ideas directory; a science fair project guide; an Ask an Expert bulletin board; and tips and techniques to preparing for advanced competitions like the Maine State Science Fair.
  • Institute for Systems Biology - Baliga Labs: Baliga lab offers science resources and education modules. Labs are available at no charge.
  • The Why Files: Explore the science behind the news stories.
  • SciShow: SciShow explores the unexpected. Four times a week, Hank Green and Michael Aranda delve into the scientific subjects that defy our expectations and make us even more curious!
  • Science.gov: searches over 60 databases and over 2200 selected websites from 15 federal agencies, offering 200 million pages of authoritative U.S. government science information including research and development results.