CREATING A QUALITY SCIENCE FAIR PROJECT





1. PROJECT DATA BOOK:

A project data (log) book is your most treasured piece of work. Accurate and detailed notes make a logical and winning project. Good notes show consistency and thoroughness to the judges and will help you when writing your research paper. Data tables are also helpful. They may be a little ‘messy’ but be sure the quantitative data recorded is accurate and that units are included in the data tables. Make sure you date each entry.



2. THE RESEARCH PAPER:

A research paper should be prepared and available along with the project data book and any necessary forms or relevant written materials. A research paper helps organize data as well as your thoughts. A formal paper is always written in the third person. A good research paper includes the following sections:



• TITLE PAGE AND TABLE OF CONTENTS: The title page and the table of contents allow the reader to follow the organization of the paper quickly and easily.

• INTRODUCTION: The introduction sets the scene for your report. The introduction includes the purpose, your hypothesis, problem or engineering goals and what you hoped to achieve.

• MATERIALS AND METHODS: Describe in detail the methodology you used to collect data, make observations, design apparatus, etc. Your research paper should be detailed enough so that someone would be able to repeat the experiment from the information in your paper. Include detailed photographs or drawings of self-designed equipment. Only include this year’s work.

• RESULTS: The results include data and analysis. This should include statistics, graphs, pages with your raw collected data, etc.

• DISCUSSION: This is the essence of your paper. What patterns did you observe as a result of your experiment? Compare your results with theoretical values, published data, commonly held beliefs and/or expected results. Include a discussion of possible errors. How did the data vary between repeated observations of similar events? How were your results affected by uncontrolled events? What would you do differently if you repeated this project? What other experiments should be conducted?

• CONCLUSIONS: Briefly summarize your results. State your findings as the relationship of one variable with the other. Support those statements with empirical data (one average compared to the other average, for example). Be specific and do not generalize. Never introduce anything in the conclusion that has not already been discussed. Also mention practical applications. You should always credit those who have assisted you, including individuals, businesses and educational or research institutions. However, acknowledgments listed on a project display board are a violation of SCSF display rules and must be removed.

Be sure to proof read your paper carefully before submitting it. Spell Check and Grammar Check do not always find the errors.



3. THE ABSTRACT:

After finishing your research and experimentation, you need to write an abstract. The abstract needs to be a maximum of 250 words on one page. An abstract should include the a) purpose of the experiment, b) procedures used, c) the data and your conclusions. It also may include any possible research applications. Only minimal reference to previous work may be included. The abstract must focus on work done in the current year and should not include a) acknowledgments or b) work or procedures done by a mentor.



4. VISUAL DISPLAY BOARD:

You want your display board to both attract and inform. Make it easy for interested spectators and judges to assess your study and the results you have obtained. You want to “catch the eye” of the judges and convince them that your research is of sufficient quality to deserve their closer scrutiny. Most displays boards have three sections and are free standing. For the most part, the displays are put on a table. Most judges get a chance to look at your display board before the interviews. Make the most of your space using clear and concise displays. You never get a second chance to make a first impression! Please be sure to reference the Display and Safety Rules in the International Rules and Guidelines; this information is also available on the Society for Science & the Public website at societyforscience.org



HELPFUL HINTS FOR YOUR DISPLAY BOARD:




a)   CURRENT YEAR:   Make sure your display reflects your current year’s work only. Prior year’s data books are permitted at your project.

b)   CREATE A GOOD TITLE:   Your title is an extremely important attention-grabber. A good title should simply and accurately present your research and depict the nature of the project. The title should make the casual observer and especially the judges to want to know more.

c)   TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS:   Many projects involve elements that may not be safely exhibited at the Science Fair, but are an important part of the project. You might want to take photographs of important parts/phases of your experiment to use in your display. Credit must be given for all photographs. Do not use photos showing faces at your local fair.

d).   BE ORGANIZED:   Make sure your display follows a sequence and is logically presented and easy to read. Reach out to the “skim-reader”. A glance should permit anyone (particularly the judges) to locate quickly the title, abstract, experiments, results and conclusions. When you arrange your display, imagine that you are seeing it for the very first time. Highlight your results using key graphs that show the relationships of two variables tested. Use the graphs to give a “picture” of the data for your viewers. These graphs will provide an easier method of viewing the data rather that just seeing the recorded quantitative data.

e)   EYE-CATCHING:   Make your display stand out. Use neat, colorful headings, charts and graphs to present your project. Pay special attention to the labeling or graphs, charts, diagrams, photographs, and tables to ensure that each has a title and appropriate label describing what is being demonstrated.

f)   CORRECTLY PRESENTED AND WELL-CONSTRUCTED:   Be sure to adhere to the size limitations and safety rules when preparing your display. Display all required forms for your project. Make sure your display is sturdy and all of the materials on the display board are properly secured, as it will need to remain intact for quite a while. Note: Water based glues can cause printer ink to run. Keep your materials light, but strong. Double Check to be sure there is no spelling or grammar errors on your display board.




Please Note: The judges are judging your research, not the display. So don’t spend an excessive amount of time or money on the display board. You are being judged on your science not the show!