Fingerprint Findings

4.0 based on 132 ratings

Updated on Feb 26, 2010

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

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

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.


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?

  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

Nancy Rogers Bosse has been involved in education for over forty years – first as a student, then as a teacher, and currently as a curriculum developer. For the last fifteen years she has combined a career in freelance curriculum development with parenthood – another important facet of education and probably the most challenging. Nancy lives in Henderson, Nevada with husband and their three teenagers.