Create Your Project Summaries (page 2)
By this step, you are ready to prepare your project summaries. Most science fairs require that projects include project summaries. The project summaries include an abstract and a research paper. This chapter gives information and examples for a project abstract and a research paper. Before writing your project summaries, decide on a project title (a descriptive heading of the project), which will appear on your abstract, on the title page of your research paper, and prominently on your display backboard. The project title should capture the theme of the project and be intriguing. Its purpose is to attract the attention of observers and make them want to know more. There are no set rules for the length of the title, but it should be short enough to be read at a glance. A rule of thumb is that it should be about 10 words or less. A good title for the sample project about moths' attraction to colored lights is "White or Yellow? Attraction of Moths to Light." Also check with your teacher about the requirements for the science fair you are entering.
An abstract is a brief overview of the project. It should be no more than one page long and a maximum of 250 words. It includes the title "Abstract," a project title, a statement of purpose, a hypothesis, a brief summary of your experiment procedure, data, and conclusions. The abstract is generally required to be part of the display. (For information about designing your project display, see chapter 10.) This gives judges something to refer to when making final decisions. The abstract is a very important representation of your project, so be sure to do a thorough job on this part of your report.
Your project report is a written report of your entire project from start to finish. The project report should be clear and detailed enough for a reader who is unfamiliar with your project to know exactly what you did, why you did it, what the results were, whether the experimental evidence supported your hypothesis, and where you got your research information. This written document is your spokesperson when you are not present to explain your project, but more than that, it documents all your work.
Because you'll be recording everything in your project log book as the project progresses, all you need to do in preparing the project report is to organize and neatly copy the desired material from the book's contents. Check with your teacher for the order and content of the report as regulated by the fair in which you are entering the project. Most science fairs require that the report be typewritten, double spaced, and bound in a folder or notebook. It should contain a title page, a table of contents, an introduction, an experiment, discussion, a conclusion, acknowledgments, and references. The rest of this chapter describes these parts of a project report and gives examples based on the sample moth project.
This is the first page of the report. The project title should be centered on the page, and your name, school, and grade should appear in the lower right-hand corner.
Table of Contents
This is the second page of your report. The table of contents should contain a list of everything in the report that follows this page, including a page number for the beginning of each section, as shown in Figure 9.2.
This section sets the stage for your project report. It is a statement of your purpose, along with some of the background information that led you to make this study and what you hoped to achieve from it. It should contain a brief statement of your hypothesis based on your research; that is, it should state what information or knowledge led you to your hypothesis. If your teacher requires footnotes, then include one for each information source you have used. The sample introduction shown in Figure 9.3 does not use footnotes.
This part of the report contains information about the project experiment. Describe in detail all methods used to collect your data or make your observations. It should include the project problem followed by a list of the materials used and the amount of each, then the procedural steps in outline or paragraph form as shown in Figure 9.4. The experiment described in Figure 9.4 includes instructions for counting the moths. Other things you should include, if they apply, are photographs and instructions for making self-designed equipment. All instructions should be written so that they could be followed by anyone to get the same results.
The discussion of your experimental results is a principal part of your project report. It describes the outcome of your efforts. Include experimental data tables and graphs to confirm results. (See Step 8 for information on collecting and organizing your data.) Include qualitative as well as quantitative results. Never change or omit results because they don't support your hypothesis. Be thorough. You want your readers to see your train of thought so that they know exactly what you did. Compare your results with published data and commonly held beliefs, as well as with your expected results. Include a discussion of possible errors. Were your results affected by uncontrolled events? What would you do differently if you repeated this project?
The project conclusion is a summary of the results of the project experiment and a statement of how the results relate to the hypothesis. In one page or less, it tells what you discovered based on your analysis of the data. A sample conclusion is shown in Figure 9.5. The conclusion states the hypothesis and indicates whether the data supports it.
If your results are not what you expected, don't panic. Assuming that your research led you to your hypothesis, state that while your research backed up your hypothesis, your experimental results did not. Refer to any published data on which you based your hypothesis. Say what you expected and what actually happened. Give reasons why you think the results did not support your original ideas. Include errors you might have made as well as how uncontrolled variables might have affected the results. Discuss changes you would make to the procedure if you repeated the project, and include ideas for experiments to further investigate the topic of your project. All information in the conclusion should have been reported in other parts of the report; no new material should be introduced in the conclusion.
The acknowledgments section is a short paragraph or two stating the names of people who helped you, with a brief description of their contributions to your project, as shown in Figure 9.6. It should not be just a list of names. Note that when acknowledging relatives, it is generally not necessary to include their names, just their relationship to you; for example, mother, father, sister, and so on. Identify individuals with their titles, positions, and affiliations (institutions), and list anyone who gave financial support or material donations. Do not include the monetary amounts of donations.
Your reference list is a bibliography of all the sources where you obtained information.