Start off by looking around. What have you noticed recently? What are you curious about? Do you wonder why something behaves the way it does or what makes something happen? Once you've decided on a topic of your own, find out as much as you can about it.
Getting a Focus
Comb the library for books, magazines, and websites. Don't forget to take notes and write down the sources of your information. Ask the librarian to point you in directions you may not have thought of. Older students can contact companies or professionals who might be willing to be interviewed. And how about physicians, dentists, and veterinarians--they're all scientists.
Investigate your topic to learn as much as you can about it. That will help you narrow your focus to a single question or a hypothesis (an educated guess). Take notes and keep careful track of where you're getting your information. If your topic involves more than one question, make sure you state each question clearly.
Developing a Procedure
Envision how you're going to answer your question or test your hypothesis. This is called developing a procedure. What experiments do you plan to conduct? Exactly how will you conduct them? What materials will you need? How will you measure your results?
Check in with your teacher. Does your project look as if it's headed in the right direction? Can your teacher suggest any modifications or improvements? Does the project conform to the rules and regulations of the science fair?
Conduct your experiments using the scientific method, and repeat them a number of times to ensure accuracy. Make personal observations--don't rely on someone else's material. Keep careful notes of everything you test, observe or measure, and don't rely on your memory - write down every single detail.
Explain your project in a short report that tells what you did and exactly how you did it. Include a list of sources from which you gathered your background information. Jazz up your presentation with a colorful poster, chart, or other illustration that you can display at the science fair. And don't forget to practice your presentation in front of relatives or friends so you won't be too jittery when the big day arrives.
The Scientific Method
Here's a brief overview of the steps for scientific success:
- Write a research question.
- State a hypothesis.
- Develop a procedure.
- State your results.
- Write your conclusions.