Every science fair project can be broken into eight primary sections. When you present your project to a class or the judges of the science fair, you will need to ensure that each of the main eight elements is adequately represented on both your presentation board and your lab reports. Understanding how each of these elements is incorporated into the larger project is critical if you want to ensure science fair success.
The purpose statement helps readers understand what you planned to accomplish with your project. Explain the basic reasoning behind the project, why you found the project compelling, and how you think the results of your experiment will be beneficial. A purpose statement is best if left short and sweet; you will have plenty of opportunity to expand on its points in other sections of your project. Try to sum up your experiment in four sentences or less.
The hypothesis is your rough estimation of what you believe would happen in your experiment. The hypothesis must answer a specific question related to your project. For example, if you were trying to determine which bubble gum held its flavor the longest, your hypothesis would look something like “I predict that Bubbly Sue’s Bubble Gum will hold its flavor longer than any other.” Follow your hypothesis with a short sentence explaining why you believe your experiment will turn out that way.
The materials list is relatively straightforward. You will simply need to make a list of everything you used to complete your experiment. Be sure to include specific amounts so another individual can repeat your experiment. You should also list any special equipment such as stopwatches, beakers, rulers or utensils used during the experiment. Readers of your experiment should be able to try it on their own using only your explanations and materials list.
Writing a procedure is necessary so you can perform each section of your experiment consistently. Also, much like the materials list, the procedure section helps another person carry out your experiment if desired. Number each step and write down everything you did over the course of the experiment in chronological order. If you tested the flavor of gum, your first step would be preparing several pieces of gum, the second would be chewing one piece and timing it and the third step would be recording how long the flavor lasted. Be as detailed as you can in your procedures.
The project log is a detailed recording of exactly what you did while planning and executing your experiment. You should start each day by writing in your project log. First, note the time and date. Next, write a brief description of what you were doing. Continuing with the gum example, a sample project log entry might read, “Jan. 10, 2011, 12 p.m.: Gathered gum samples for project and worked out rough procedure overview for testing each piece.” Everything you do over the course of your experiment should be documented here.
Summary Research Report
The summary report is a multi-page research essay that takes everything you learned during your project and translates it into text form. You will need to address your hypothesis, what led you to come up with it, how you conducted your experiments and the results you saw at the end of the project. This should be formatted like a traditional essay, with an introduction, several body paragraphs packed with details, and a conclusion that ties everything together. You will also need a detailed bibliography.
In the results area of your science fair project, you explain what happened during the experiment. You should include what you thought might happen and what you wanted to prove, as well as what actually happened. Use as much data as you can from your investigations and document your findings with charts or graphs whenever possible. The results section of your project should clearly explain to viewers what you learned during your experiments and how that lined up with your hypothesis.
The conclusion is where you summarize everything you learned from the experiment and compare it to what you expected would happen. Start the conclusion by listing your hypothesis and what that hypothesis was based on. Explain whether the results held up your hypothesis or disproved it, and then extrapolate on these findings to form an idea of where you could take your experiment in the future. You can mention changes you would make if you were to try your project again.
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