Conducting a Science project
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Start by skimming through general science books, science magazines and Internet sites , just to get some idea of what different fields of science might have of possible interest to you. If an article or section catches your attention, make notes. That is, after reading it carefully, write out the main idea of the whole article in one sentence. You may also want to list major sub-ideas. Write questions. Start with specific questions the article answers or asks. Then questions you might ask the author, if you could, relating to the content of the article. Try to make connections with your previous knowledge of science. And be sure to include bibliographic data, so that you can find it again if you decide you do want to use the article in your project.
Make a list:
As you go along, make a list of possible topics (preferably in the form of questions) for a science project. It is much easier to eliminate the "not so good" ideas later than to add "better " ones late in the game. Some times, after further study and reflective thinking, an idea which at first seemed poor may turn out to be the greatest. And what looks great at first glance, may bomb. The longer the list you work from, the better your chances of finding a winner.
It is common for students to look through books or websites of "Science Fair Projects" for interesting or easy experiments. That is all right if you then determine what hypothesis it is supposed to test, and fill in all the background information leading to the hypothesis. Several experiments which relate to the same, or closely related questions can often be combined to make a great project. Be sure that the experiments you choose are appropriate to your grade level and ability (not too simple and not difficult).
Data That Raise a Question:
What do you already know that causes you to ask the question? If you don't know anything, then you won't think of any questions. (If you did not know something about addition, you would never think to ask, "What is 5 plus 3?") Your notes from the sources which brought you to your topic, plus perhaps some previous knowledge, provide the data that allowed you to raise the question. This also helps to explain how the question is related to the field of study.
One of the more difficult aspects of science is asking the right question. In the history of science we find many investigations which gave results that were useless, misleading, or just plain wrong, because the wrong question was asked. The question needs to be carefully thought out and carefully worded to be sure the answer will tell you what you want to know. The question then becomes the title of your project.
This is research to find what others have learned about this, and closely related questions. Answers to your question may have already been suggested. Report on each one, and the reasons for it being suggested. How was each one tested? Perhaps after reading over what others have done you will think of another possible answer. Otherwise, select one of those suggested. If possible, design a different test of the same hypothesis. Repeating the tests that other researchers have done is also an important part of science, don't just take their word for a final conclusion. Reading about the work of those who found answers to similar questions may suggest a way to answer your question.
This part of the report should also explain how the question and its answer fit into the overall field of study. Include social, economic, and environmental concerns.
The Hypothesis :
Remember that an hypothesis is not just a prediction. An hypothesis is a statement of cause and effect relationships which lead you to expect that the predicted outcome will occur.
Very important, do not be concerned if the prediction turns out to be false. Rejection of the hypothesis does not mean that the project is a failure. In fact, sometimes scientists state their hypothesis in such a way that they expect the prediction to be false. Why? Because it may be difficult to get test results that are absolutely "Yes" or "No". As in a case where test results need to be interpreted by statistical analysis, or probabilities. In proving the hypothesis false, the data may show the pattern looked for, but impossible to predict.
For example: Which amount of fertilizer will produce the largest crop of peas? The information, if available, for making a reasonable prediction would be extremely complex, providing opportunities for many errors. To save time and effort while ending up with the same results, we use the null hypothesis; "The amount of fertilizer used will not effect the size of the crop, therefore any difference in size of the crops of plants given different amounts of fertilizer will not be significant."
The hypothesis must be carefully stated in such a way that predictions made from it can be tested by experiment or controlled observation. An untestable hypothesis has no place in science!
Restate the Hypothesis in
Because...[hypothesis]..., if...[conditions of the experiment]..., then...[predicted result].
Because the amount of fertilizer will not effect the size of the crop, If six groups of plants are each given a different amount of fertilizer, then all six crops will be the same size.
Test the hypothesis by experiment or controlled
(This explanation is specific to experiments, but similar plans are required for observations.)
Write out in complete detail exactly what you will do:
What materials and supplies will you need?
What safety precautions will you use?
What will you do, exactly, step by step?
What factors will you control, how?
What factor will you change, how?
What will you measure?
What data will you record?
What differences will you look for?
What do the results mean, how will you decide?
Have the plan approved:
Get approval of your supervisor (teacher) before implementing your plan. This is for guidance, as well as a check for safety and legality. Many books list activities which are no longer acceptable.
Keep a running record:
While carrying out you experiment remember to record (write down) every thing you do as you do it, everything you see happen (not what the book says should happen) as it happens, including any mistakes, accidents, or changes in plan along the way.
What new questions were raised by the results of your test?
Writing the Report:
The format of the final report should follow the cycle of " Thinking Like A Scientist ". Before completing the final draft of your report, have it read by family, friends, or fellow students. Not only for errors such as spelling, but for parts they don't understand and could be rewritten to be clearer. Be ready to answer questions and explain your project to teacher, judges, or anyone who reads your report.
Planning the Display:
In planning a display, remember it should be a summary of the project. It should give the viewer a quick idea of what you did, why you did it, how you did it, and what the results were. Photographs of the work in progress are a good idea. Data in graphs and charts are helpful. The display should include your lab notes and final report, for those who are interested in the details. Plan the display and share the plan for editorial opinions before starting construction.
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