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Organizing and Conducting a Science Fair Project (page 2)

— The Ohio State University Extension Breads of the Harvest
Updated on Sep 28, 2011

Results -- What Happened?

What do you do with the data that you collect during the experimentation? Well, if your observations are in words, organize a neat log or charts. If your results are in numbers, organize the data in tables and graphs.

Of course, there are many ways to construct tables and graphs. Certain types will serve best for your data. Your teacher may be able to help you decide on what types of tables and graphs to use.

Drawing Conclusions

Once you have completed your experimentation and have collected data, what have you proved? Before you answer that question, consider that data is not always reliable. If you worked with bean plants, for instance, how do you know that all bean plants are exactly like your sample? The answer is, "You don't know." You can only predict or infer that the rest are like your sample. The probability of your sample resembling the total population is not very high if you used five bean plants in each group.

One way to increase the probability, then, is to test a large sample. Fifty, one hundred, or even one thousand bean plants would increase your ability to predict. As a further step, you could have more than one experimental group with each group receiving a different amount of fertilizer. This method would give you even more significant results.

Scientists use statistics to analyze the data collected in an experiment. A statistical treatment of data allows them to predict, or generalize, about larger populations. If you can find someone trained in statistical methods, ask for help in analyzing your data.

You must be careful when drawing conclusions. If someone else repeated your experimentation, would they get the same results? Look over your data. Study it. Do a statistical analysis if you can. Then you can say what you think your experiment shows or seems to indicate.

Your data will either support your original Hypothesis or it will not. You must state this in your conclusion.

Be especially careful that your conclusion is not a new Hypothesis. Any new Hypothesis must be tested.

Writing Your Research Paper

The value of scientific investigation would be lost if it were not reported to others. You have the opportunity to report your study in three ways: a scientific research paper, an exhibit and an oral presentation. At this point, we will consider the writing of your scientific research paper.

By now you have collected valuable information on index cards. You have made observations and kept detailed notes. Your list of materials and procedures have been recorded. Data has been organized in tables, charts, and graphs. You have a wealth of information.

Now you must organize that information into an orderly and presentable research paper. Check before you start about rules that your teacher or science fair organization might have in regard to the parts and order of the paper. A commonly used order is presented here. Work on one section at a time.

1. Abstract

The Abstract is a shortened version of your entire paper. Others can read your abstract if they do not have time to read your paper. It should include information about yourself at the top: name, address, school, grade in school, age, and category of your project. Below this information write three short paragraphs: the Purpose, the Procedure, and the Results (you may include conclusions in this section). The entire abstract should be about 200 to 300 words and fit on one page. It is easier to write the abstract after you have written the entire research paper.

2. Title Page

The title page bears the title of your project in the center of the page, several inches from the top of the page. Your name, school and grade in school would be placed in the lower right-hand corner of the page.

3. Table of Contents

List the sections of your paper and the page numbers where they begin. You will have to wait until you write or type your final version to be sure of the page numbers.

4. Purpose

The purpose that you have already composed is the same purpose use here. It should be three sentences or less after which you may include any hypotheses you have as to the outcome of the experiment.

5. Acknowledgments

In one or more sentences, say "thank you" to those who have helped you with your project. You should include those who gave you guidance, materials, and the use of facilities or equipment.

6. Review of Literature

It is now time to use those index cards. This section of your paper is your report to the readers of work and research conducted by others in the past that relates to your topic and facts that help introduce the readers to the topic.

7. Materials and Methods of Procedure

List the materials that you used. Then explain step-by-step what you did in your experimentation. If drawings will make it more clear, draw them on separate pages and include them in this section. Explain any materials that you constructed in detail.

8. Results

The Results section of your paper is organized into graphs, charts, tables, or day-to-day log. Make sure that you label your graphs or charts so that the reader can understand them. Refer back to the sample graphs.

9. Conclusion or Discussion

This section is your evaluation and interpretation of your results. Look over your graphs, charts, tables, or daily log and then write what you think the data shows or seems to indicate. You may include your opinions. Don't be afraid to admit where you might have made mistakes. Negative results are not bad; if you did not prove your hypothesis, then say so.

10. Bibliography or Literature Cited

This is a list of books, articles, pamphlets, and other communications or sources that you used for researching your topic and writing your paper. They are written or typewritten in this form:

Last name of author, First name, Title of Source (book), Place where published: Publisher, Date of Publication

Example of Book:

Smity, John D., A Study of Plant Life, New York: Johnson Printing Company, 1979.

Example of Magazine Article:

Jones, Thomas A., "The Development of the Chick," Animal Development Journal, June 1976, Volume 16; 27-34.

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