Recommended Best Practices
Selecting a project often appears to be a difficult task. Fortunately projects do not need to be highly complex in order to be successful. When choosing your Field of Study, pick a research question that interests you, as you may be working on it for a while! If you are more interested in building something that can solve a problem, read the information on Engineering Projects. If you need ideas for science projects here are some suggestions:
- Check out our web site at edisonfairs.org and look at winning titles from previous year. (COMING SOON!)
- Check out this web site: https://apps2.societyforscience.org/AbstractSearch/Abstract/Index for ideas and inspiration. (However, do not copy projects or only make minimal changes. Your project should be original).
- Good scientists use a process called the Scientific Method to study things they see in the world around them. What follows are the steps you need to follow, but first get yourself a sturdy project notebook. It doesn’t need to be fancy, just something you can use to record what you do for several weeks or months and then display with your project at Regional Science and Engineering Fair.
- Observe. Look at the world around you. Find subjects that interest you and start to formulate questions about them. Narrow the questions down to something you might be able to investigate in a few months.
- Do a thorough literature review. Find out everything that is known about the subject you have selected. Write notes in your notebook. Be sure to list your reference sources (where you found the information) as you will need this information to fill out the Application Form
- Formulate a Hypothesis. Based on your research in your notebook, organize everything you have discovered, and then make an estimate of what will happen. Knowing certain things are true, you then predict what might happen if you change something. Your experiment, when successful, will allow you to determine if your hypothesis was correct or not.
- Discuss your ideas and plans with your teacher/adult sponsor. You may discover that what you plan to do costs thousands of dollars, needs equipment you don’t have, or will take several years to complete. Your teacher/adult sponsor may have suggestions to help you (teachers, see information for additional funding).
- Design an experiment to test your hypothesis. Your research plan will describe how you plan to do your experiment, changing only one variable at a time and keeping all the other parameters the same. You will need to have a control so that you can compare results of your experiment with a standard for which the variable is unchanged. Make sure that you have three or more seeds/plants/animals in each of the control and experimental groups. Even better, have several experimental groups (e.g. more than one concentration of chemical you are testing, more than one time point, more than one kind of plant, etc). Make measurements in metric units when possible. Repeat the test more than once to see if your results are reproducible.
- If you are having a difficult time generating a control, make sure that you don’t have an engineering project. (Engineering projects have a goal (making something,or making something better) instead of a hypothesis, and don’t have a control.) Still struggling? Maybe your project is a demonstration (not acceptable) or product testing (acceptable for grades 6-8 only).
- Identify any SRC/IRB preapproval requirements (Additional Forms) for your project. Consult our website to see which additional Project Forms may be required for your project.
- Complete the RSEF Entry Form and get approval from your parents/guardian and teacher. Date the Forms now, BEFORE you start the experimental part of your experiment.
- Get SRC preapproval (if necessary). If you checked any of the boxes on Form 1 question 3, 4, or 6, you must get SRC pre-approval before you begin unless you are doing the experiment at a Registered Research Institution (RRI). In this case, make sure that the University or company has given approval and that the professor or researcher in charge fills out the necessary paperwork and date it before you begin work.
- Perform your Experiment. Once you have received approval from the RRI or from our SRC committee (check the web site home page to see your status) you may begin your experiment. Carry out your experiment as outlined in your research plan. If things don’t go as planned and you need to make changes to the research plan, make sure that the SRC pre-approves the changes as well. Send an email note to the SRC Committee including your project number and the changes you wish to make. Approval is usually granted in 48 hours or less.
- Record in your notebook all your experiments, how you did them, the results and any analysis you performed. The information should be detailed enough so that another person could repeat your experiment using your project notebook as a guide. You should also repeat your experiment–real data is reproducible. Graph your results. Include photographs or drawings of your experimental setup if you can.
- Evaluate the results of your experiment. Draw conclusions from your data. Did the results cause you to ask more questions? If there is time you may wish to do more experiments; if not, you can put your ideas into the “Future Research” category on your project board. Winning projects often use statistics to analyze the data.
- Prepare your science fair exhibit and/or Paper. See the Handbook Information pages for Project Display & Safety Rules and Helpful Display Hints for a successful project board.
- Prepare and bring your Project Abstract(s). Remember you will need to bring multiple copies of your abstract, project board, project notebook, and any display items to Check-In day.