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Author: Janice VanCleave

So You Want to Do a Project about Fingerprints!


To collect and identify fingerprint types.


  • Pencil
  • 2 white unruled index cards
  • Transparent tape
  • Magnifying lens


  1. Rub the lead of the pencil back and forth across one of the index cards. Then, rub your index finger across the pencil mark.
  2. Cover your smudged fingertip with a piece of transparent tape. Press the tape firmly against your fingertip.
  3. Carefully remove the tape and press the sticky side against the other index card.
  4. Examine the pattern on the tape by looking at it through the magnifying lens.
  5. Identify the pattern formed by your fingerprint by comparing it with the three basic fingerprint patterns: whorl, loop, and arch.




A copy of your fingerprint is left on the sticky side of the tape.


Your body has two layers of skin. The outer layer of skin is called the epidermis, and the inner layer is called the dermis. The boundary between the dermis and the epidermis is not straight and smooth but consists of small folds. These folds produce a series of ridges and grooves in areas where the skin is thick—the palm of the hand, the sole of the foot, and the fingertip, for example. The patterns formed by the ridges of the fingertips are called fingerprints. There are three basic fingerprint patterns—whorl, loop, and arch—but no two people have been found with exactly the same fingerprints, not even identical twins.

For Further Investigation

Since your hands are mirror images of each other, do you think the fingerprints of your left hand mirror the fingerprints of your right hand? A project question might be, How do fingerprints of two hands of a person compare?

Clues for Your Investigation

  1. Repeat the original investigation, examining the prints of each fingertip.
  2. Collect fingerprints from as many different people as possible and make comparisons of the prints of their two hands.
  3. Fingerprints of each hand can be collected and displayed.


References and Project Books

Allison, linda. Blood and Guts. New York: little, Brown, 1976.

Beckelman, Laurie. The Human Body. Pleasantville, N.Y.: Reader's Digest, 1999.

Parker, Steve. How the Body Works. Pleasantville, N.Y.: Reader's Digest, 1994.

The Human Body. Brookfield, Conn.: Copper Beech Books, 1995.

Silver, Donald M., and PatriciaJ. Wynne. The Body Book. New York: Scholastic, 1993.

Stein, Sara. The Body Book. New York: Workman, 1992.

Suzuki, David. Looking at the Body. New York: Wiley, 1991.

VanCleave, Janice.]anice VanCleave's Biology for Every Kid. New York: Wiley, 1990.

Janice VanCleave's The Human Body for Every Kid. New York: Wiley, 1995.

Walker, Richard. The Children's Atlas of the Human Body. Brookfield, Conn.: Millbrook Press, 1994.

Walpole, Brenda. Pocket Book of the Human Body. New York: Wanderer Books, 1987.

Wellnitz, William R Homemade Slime and Rubber Bones! Blue Ridge Summit, Pa.: Tab Books, 1993.

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