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What Makes a Good Science Fair Project? (page 2)

— California State Science Fair
Updated on Sep 28, 2011

Judges are advised that students are expected to have a thorough understanding of the work that they have done. The students must know why the experiments they have assembled and operated can provide the answers they seek. They must correctly interpret the data they have collected. As judges, you should expect a logical answer to any of your questions about the technical terms they use or the equipment they have employed. Some students will attempt to accomplish research that is beyond their understanding, skills, or the capability of their equipment; it is preferable that they complete projects they have the ability to thoroughly grasp.

County coordinators are advised that some types of poor attempts at Science Fair projects are relatively easy to identify. In order to maintain the integrity and excellence of projects entered in the State Science Fair, it is preferred that you NOT recognize the following types of projects with awards at the local level, and that you NOT invite them to submit an application to the State Science Fair:

  • Artwork, photographs, or replicas (physical or computer-generated) that illustrate concepts but were not used or are not useful as experimental apparatus to collect comparative data; depictions of known scientific concepts are in this category
  • Experiments that indicate the students have not done rudimentary background research (e.g., they could have seen the experiment described in a textbook)
  • Displays of collections of things (unless the collections are used for comparative research that leads to scientific conclusions)
  • Experiments that merely find out "What happens if I do this?", without having a scientific reason for performing the procedure
  • Pontification of theories with no credible attempt at proof (e.g., using literature search of quotes to provide evidence for the theory)
  • Experiments that present results without analyses that predict the results, quantify results, show why those results occurred, or explain how they occurred
  • Experiments that do not check data points for repeatability or resolve widely divergent results
  • Experiments using apparatus so crude that measurements could not be realistically acquired to show the intended results

This guide was written principally by Anita Gale with assistance from the California State Science Fair Judging Policy Advisory Committee.

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