Fingerprint Findings

based on 129 ratings
Author: Nancy Rogers Bosse
3rd – 6th grades 
Difficulty of Project
Less than $5.00 
Safety Issues
Material Availability

Readily available or easily purchased at the grocery store 

Approximate Time Required to Complete the Project:

One or two days to gather the data from three different sets of family members; one day to write up the results and research; one day to prepare the science fair display 


To determine if people from the same family have similar fingerprints 

Materials and Equipment

  • White 8 ½ x 11-inch paper
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Black ink pad
  • Disposable wipes
  • Clear tape
  • Magnifying glass 

Background Information

Everyone person has a unique set of fingerprints. Fingerprints are made up of a combination of loops, whorls, and arches. Crime investigators use fingerprints to help solve crimes. Fingerprints are also used for other identification purposes. 

In this investigation, the fingerprints of family members are compared to determine if people from the same family have similar fingerprints. 

Terms, Concepts, and Questions to Start Background Research


loop: fingerprint patter involving ridges that enter and exit from the same side 

whorl: fingerprint pattern involving circular ridges 

arch: fingerprint pattern where ridges enter from one side and exit on the other side  


Everyone has a unique set of fingerprints. All fingerprints are made up of loops, whorls, or arches.  

Research Questions
  • What are different fingerprint patterns?
  • Does everyone really have a unique fingerprint?
  • Do biological siblings have similar fingerprints? 

Experimental Procedure

  1. Gather the necessary materials.
  2. Determine the ten subjects for this investigation. Subjects must be biologically related with the same parents to at least one other subject in this study.
  3. Cut the paper into 2-inch squares. You will need 10 squares
  4. Have each subject roll his or her right index finger on the ink pad. Then roll the inked finger onto one of the 2-inch squares. Be sure to write the subject’s name on the back of the square. Provide the subject with a disposable wipe to clean his or her finger.
  5. Once all the fingerprints have been collected, examine the prints using a magnifying glass. Categorize each print as either whorl, arch, or loop. Draw conclusions from the data collected. 



“Fingerprint Patterns” at the Thin Blue Line website ( 

“Taking Legible Fingerprints” Federal Bureau of Investigations, Criminal Justice Information Services.

“The History of Fingerprints” at

“How Fingerprinting Works” by Stephanie Watson at


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