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How to Develop a Science Project (page 3)

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

Step 7: Developing the Materials List

This should be a complete list of all materials including details and amounts.

Bad Materials List

Good Materials List

water

500 ml of distilled water 
watch 
stopwatch with .01 sec accuracy 
people 
40 subjects  10 males, age 10 - 14  10 females, age 10 - 14  10 males, age 15 - 19  10 females, age 15 - 19 

Step 8: Collecting Preliminary Data

To see if your procedure works and if you will get the kind of data you need, do a short run of your experiment. Show the data to the teacher, and make any revisions in your procedure required. For example: 

  • If it takes too long to get data, shorten your procedure. 
  • If something is too awkward to measure, alter slightly what you are doing. 

Step 9: Collecting your Data

This is the heart and real fun of your project: doing what you've been planning for so long. There is a tendency to hurry or to forget to record everything that happens, even data from tests that seem to not work. So many projects are ruined because data is lost or good records are not kept. To judges, your records and data are the most impressive part of your project.

Note: Make sure that all measurements are in Metric units: centimeters, grams, milliliters, etc. Not only is this how scientific data is recorded, but you will not have to use fractions (just decimals). 

Step 10: Making a Data Table

The key to starting to interpret or analyze your data is a good Data Table. A good table should have the following parts: 

  • Title
  • Column (Variable) Titles
  • Units listed for each variable

Note: Use a computer spreadsheet to make a table. It is already arranged in columns and rows. You can then graph from the spreadsheet, and you can cut and paste the table into a word processing document. 

Basic Format:

Sample Table

Effect of Temperature on Plant Growth

    Temperature Plant Growth
    (oC)
    (cm)

    10

    14.2

    15

    15.7

    20

    17.1

    25

    18.9

Step 11: Analyzing your Data

When organizing data into tables and graphs, always be sure to label columns/axes correctly and include units of measurement. 

  • Organize data into a table. 
  • Find appropriate measure of central tendency: mean, median, mode.
  • Select correct graph(s) to display what you want to show: 
    • Bar graph for comparing 2 - 4 independent groups.
    • Line graph if the independent variable is numerical, and a trend (upward or downward) is indicated.
    • Circle Graph (pie chart) if graphing parts of a whole (percentages).
    • Scatterplot (x-y graph) when you are trying to show a possible relationship between 2 variables.
    • Box and whisker plot to show distribution of data within each group.

Step 12: Writing the Discussion Section

In this section you will discuss what your data shows; it is not the conclusion. Things you will need to discuss include: 

  • Does your data show a relationship or reveal some pattern? 
  • Is there a significant difference between your 2 groups? 
  • What possible sources of error are there?
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