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Home > Science Fair Project > Designing

Science Project Guidelines

by Elizabeth Stryjewski
Kennedy Space Center

Designing your experiment

Simplicity
Keep things as simple as possible. Many students think that they need to have many variables in an experiment to make the experiment valid. This is not the case. Its much better to test only one variable thoroughly than to test many at once. For example, if you're investigating the effects of freezing temperatures on tropical plants, don't add different lighting sources and nutrients as well. Only look at the effect of freezing temperatures.

Controls
All experiments need to have an appropriate control. You need to have a standard to test your experimental results against. For example, if you're studying the effect of freezing temperatures on tropical plant growth, you will probably put some of your plants outside for a few cold nights. When you take them back in your house to see how the cold affected their growth, youll need to have some plants that were not exposed to those cold temperatures to compare them to. The plants that did not see the colder temperatures are called a "control". All experiments must have controls and its worth taking time to figure out what a good control would be for your experiment.

Sample Size
You will need to have several "subjects" in your experiment. For example, back to the effects of freezing temperatures on tropicals, youll need to set several plants out in those temperatures, not just one.

Time
Allow enough time for the experiment to be repeated. Also, allow enough time for complications- things dont always (if ever) go right the first time and you might need to start your experiment over again. Begin early! Understand the project before you begin, and allow 6-8 weeks to complete the experiment.

Keep a detailed notebook

  1. Dont cross anything out, you might need to refer back to it later.
  2. Entries should be dated with the date and the number of days into the experiment.
  3. Include all observations, dont assume youll remember points and particulars. What might not seem important at the time might be an important result later and might actually support your conclusion, so youll want an accurate record of it.


  1. Defining a problem
  2. Formulating a hypothesis
  3. Designing your experiment
  4. Collecting data
  5. Formulating a conclusion
  6. The Final Presentation: Tips For the Science Fair


Back to
Science Fair Projects



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