How to Develop a Science Project (page 2)

— Centreville Middle School Science Fair
Updated on Sep 28, 2011

Step 3: Collect Background Information

Your background information should include the following kinds of information:

  1. History - Has any work already been done on your topic, and what was learned? 
  2. Significance - How is your topic important to us, or how does it make an important contribution to the world around us? 
  3. Facts - What facts are known about the topic and related terms? Define all terms and concepts included in your project. How are the topics/variables related? 
  4. Method - What are ways that this topic can be investigated?

Sources of background information include: 

  • books, magazines, and newspapers
  • computer searches
  • interviews and surveys
  • teacher assistance
When doing research, look under topics that are relevant to your topics and related topics and terms. For example, you may find nothing on your topic of "paper airplanes", but you will find information under "flight". Be sure to collect enough information to adequately support your hypothesis and explain your conclusion. 

Step 4: Developing a Hypothesis

Somewhere in your background information you should find some indication of what you expect to find. Write a specific statement or prediction giving the reasons why you expect this. 

Examples: I expect the seed to germinate faster as the temperature increases because.... 

I expect the motor oil to reduce friction the most because.... 

Step 5: Creating your Experimental Design

This should include: 

  1. An explanation of all project variables
    • Independent variable: the one you change 
    • Dependent variable: the one that you observe or measure (the one supposedly affected by the independent variable) 
    • Constant variables: other variables which could affect the dependent variable but which you keep constant
  1. A description of all groups
    • Experimental Group: the group in which the independent variable is changed. 
    • Control Group: the group in which the independent variable is not present or is in its normal state.

Note: You can have more than 1 experimental group. For example in investigating the effect of music on "studying ability", you would have a control group with no music, but you might have several experimental groups: classical music, rock music, rap. 

  1. The size of the sample groups. A frequent error is sampling too small a group. Can you really reach any significant conclusion on 3 plants? One abnormal plant would totally throw off your results. 
  2. At least one repetition of the steps to make sure that your first results are correct. 
  3. The step-by-step procedure

Example: Problem - What is the effect of fertilizer on plant growth? 

  • Independent variable: amount of fertilizer 
  • Dependent variable: plant growth measured by the height of the plant
  • Constant variables: amount of water, sunlight, soil type, minerals already in the soil, temperature 
  • Experimental Group: group of plants that received fertilizer 
  • Control Group: group of plants receiving no fertilizer 
  • Your procedure should be very clear and precise. Anyone should be able to duplicate your project if your procedure is clear enough. This is important because in reality every experiment is duplicated several times before we actually accept the results. 
  • Are you measuring the correct thing? Is plant height really the variable you want to measure? What about plant weight, width, number of leaves, or some combination of these? 

Step 6: Writing a Step-by-step Procedure

Write the procedure as you do the steps of a lab. Be very specific; don't assume that the reader knows how much, how many, or how long. Read your procedure to someone who doesn't know what you are doing. Ask them if they know enough to "do" the experiment. Use their questions to revise your procedure.  

Sample Procedures: 




Sample 1
Sample 2
Sample 3




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