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1. Think Up a Topic
The first and most difficult step is thinking of a topic. Two helpful hints are to A). Consider what topic INTERESTS you, and B). Come up with a TESTABLE question about the subject. Scientists are interested in their research topics and are curious to find results. Real science projects answer testable questions, and yours should too.
2. Ponder Your Purpose
After selecting a topic, try to explain the purpose of your experiment in 1 to 3 sentences. You can start by writing: "The purpose of this project is __________." Example: "The purpose of this project is to determine if earthworms, Lumbricus terrestris, affect soil nutrients." Share with a teacher before getting started.
3. Hone a Hypothesis
A hypothesis is a smart guess of what will happen in the experiment. Make sure to write down the hypothesis before starting the experiment, as it may change. Example: "I predict that plants will grow better in soil containing earthworms than in soil without earthworms." OR "If a plant is placed in soil with earthworms, then it will grow better than a plant in soil without earthworms."
4. Search and Research
Learn about your topic by finding books and articles at the library or online. Look up your topic in an encyclopedia to learn general information. The more you read, the more informed your experiment!
5. Muster Up the Materials
Make a list of materials, gather them, and get started! It is not unusual to adjust your method or add materials to your list as you do the experiment. Start early. Take good notes. Do your experiment many times to make sure you have enough data.
6. Be Vigilant About the Variables
Variables help control conditions so you can collect results and make conclusions. The independent variable is the "thing" changed by you in the experiment. The dependent variable is what changes when the independent variable changes.
7. Determine Your Data
How do you make sense of the data? If your results are words: Organize your observations into charts or logs. If your results are numbers: Record numbers into tables and graphs. Wait to interpret the data in the conclusion.
8. Create a Conclusion
You completed your experiment. You recorded the results. Now it is time to make sense of it all! Restate your original hypothesis. How accurate was your prediction? Consider the reliability of your data when making conclusions. What can you infer from the results?
9. Write Your Report
Report your findings to the world. Scientists reveal discoveries in written reports, and you will too. Organize your information into an orderly research paper. Here is a commonly used format: Abstract, Title Page, Table of Contents, Purpose, Acknowledgements, Literature Review, Materials and Methods of Procedure, Results, Conclusion, and Bibliography.
10. Present Your Project
Make a beautiful display that represents the hard work put into your experiment. Choose a tri-fold board that can stand on its own. Summarize the sections of your report onto your board in concise, easy to read descriptions. Include pictures, graphs, and diagrams if you have them. Hard work always shines through at the fair!