Science Fair Projects

Conducting a Science Fair Experiment

Whether you are doing an elementary science fair project, or a high school or middle school science fair project, there are several important things to keep in mind while you perform your experiment.

It is extremely important to make careful and detailed observations and measurements. There are two kinds of observations you can use.

Types of Observations

1. Quantitative Observations. This involves measuring variables, which
could be size, weight, time, distance, number of things, etc. In the tomato example, there are many variables you could measure: the height of the plants, the number of leaves, the number of tomatoes, the circumference and weight of the tomatoes. Which of these variables are most important to testing your hypothesis?

2. Qualitative Observations. This is describing your observation in words. How did something look, or smell or feel? What happened when you did or changed something. If possible, draw a diagram or take a picture or video to help record and explain what you see. You should also record any problems you have. For the tomato example, this could include a description of which plants are bushier or seem more vigorous, which have greener leaves, which tomatoes are brighter red, whether there were any insect problems, etc.

Record Observations in Science Notebook

ALL parts of your science fair experiment MUST be recorded in a notebook or journal of some kind. This includes all the experimental steps you perform and all of your observations. Record the entries in the notebook immediately; do not wait until later, and then have to rely on your memory. For the tomato example, record how many seeds are planted and when, how much fertilizer is given to which plants, when the plants are watered, how many flowers you see, and finally, the measurements of the harvested tomatoes.

There are special, bound laboratory notebooks available. These are helpful but not absolutely necessary. Just make sure that all of the information is recorded all in one place in some kind of notebook.

Science Fair Project Results and Conclusions

The experiment may be done, but you still have some work left to do. And in many ways, this may be the most important of all!

Analyze Results and Reach Conclusions

It is time to analyze your results and draw conclusions. The results may support your hypothesis, but don’t get discouraged if they do not. Negative results are common in science experiments, and will not adversely affect how judges view your science fair project. Do NOT try to change any data to support your hypothesis.

You must take the raw data – the observations and numbers you recorded- and analyze it to draw a conclusion. Perform any calculations needed. Make graphs or charts to show changes or compare outcomes. Which variables had the biggest effect? Summarize your results and state a conclusion.

Was the outcome what you expected? If so, that’s great. Your conclusion would be that your data support your hypothesis. It is important to note that you can NOT PROVE the hypothesis with your experiment. You can only say that the data support or do not support the hypothesis.

If the results were not what you expected, you should review your hypothesis, experimental design and procedures to try to determine why not. Was there an error in your design or the way you conducted the experiment? Was your hypothesis incorrect? Analyzing why your results were different than expected is a necessary and important part of any science experiment.

Science Fair Display Board Requirements

Your science fair display board is the way you present your project to the world. It is how your project will be viewed and judged. You worked hard to pick a great project, design and conduct a valid experiment and reach conclusions. Now, make sure to put the same care and thought into your display and presentation.

The keys to a good science fair display are simplicity, clarity and neatness. Make sure that the judges can understand your hypothesis, experiment and conclusions quickly and easily. Everything must be neat, organized and lined-up well. No sloppy work, crossed-out words, erasure marks, pictures falling off, etc. And triple-check your spelling!

What You Need

You will need the following things for your science fair display:

  • a white, tri-fold cardboard display board. These are available at office supply stores and on-line. A colorful background may work with some presentations, but more often it is distracting. Keeping it simple usually works best.
  • bright colorful lettering for the titles and descriptions. Either print them using a computer, or buy premade adhesive letters. Both of those look neater and more professional than hand written lettering.
  • colorful construction paper behind your typed descriptions, charts and graphs acts as a frame to set them off from the white background. Color coordinate your display to make it eye-catching and pleasant to look at.
  • include at least one photograph, drawing, chart or graph.
  • your logbook, which you used to record your experimental data.

Science Fair Display Board

Be sure to include all of the following items on your science fair display board:

  • the title
  • a purpose statement
  • an abstract (if required)
  • your hypothesis
  • the procedure
  • data and results – charts, graphs, analysis
  • your conclusions

Your Logbook

Your logbook, which should be neat and legible, should also be a part of your display. It should include:

  • a title page
  • a table of contents
  • a purpose statement
  • an abstract
  • your hypothesis
  • a list of materials
  • the prcedure
  • all data
  • charts, graphs,and all analysis of your data
  • youru conclusions
  • background information (including a correctly formatted bibliography
  • acknowledgements (Did you receive help or materials from teachers, parents, a librarian, etc.)

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