Science Fair Project Quick Start Guide

Copyright 2003-2019 by Shane Price. All Rights Reserved.
This is a BRIEF overview of the steps necessary to make a science fair project.  Please refer to the official How-To Guide for more details, pointers, and best practices.  Remember, your project must also follow the Official Rules.  For your convenience, each section below also links to the corresponding section in the How-To Guide.

Ready to Get Started?

Step 1 - Do some preliminary research and focus on an interesting, testable question.

What do you want to reasearch?  What do you like talking about?  What is of most interest to you?  Do a quick online search with a few words followed by "research" or "science project ideas".  For example, if you like video games, search video game research or video game science project ideas. (more)

Step 2 - Obtain preliminary approval.

Talk to your teacher or Adult Sponsor about your idea and make sure it is worthy of your time, fits within the rules, and has the potential to win the science fair.

Step 3 - Write a Research Plan.

To get started this can be as simple as filling out the Research Plan Form.  Usually though, students who are serious about science fair write a more formal research plan and include it as part of their Research Report to be presented at judging.

Step 4 - Submit your Forms for formal Approval.

Your project must be formally reviewed and approved BEFORE you begin conducting any experiments.  The forms below are designed so you can type directly on the form before printing.  To preserve your work, you must download and save a local copy before typing in them.
The following forms are REQUIRED for all projects and must be submitted for approval:
 Your project may require one or more of these forms as well.  See the Official Rules for more information. 
  • Form 1C: Regulated Research Institutional / Industiral Setting From - Required if conducting research anywhere other than home or school. (To be completed AFTER experimentation.)
  • Form 2: Qualified Scientist Form - Required if using animals, potentially hazardous biological agents, hazardous substances or hazardous devices; may also be required if research involves human participants.
  • Form 3: Risk Assessment Form - Required if using laboratory chemicals, microorganisms, potentially hazardous biological agents, potentially hazardous substances, potentially hazardous devices, or any activity that poses any potential harm.
  • Form 4: Human Participants Form - Required for all experiments involving human participants. 
    • Human Informed Consent Form - A completed, unsigned sample of this form must be included with Form 4.  During experimentation, all human participants (and parent or guardian, if applicable) are to read and sign copies of this form. You must keep the original signed Human Informed Consent Forms with your paperwork.
  • Form 5A and 5B: Vertebrate Animal Forms - required for all experiments involving vertebrate animals.
  • Form 6A: Potentially Hazardous Biological Agents Form - Required for research involving microorganisms, rDNA, fresh/frozen tissue (including primary cell lines, human and other primate established cell lines and tissue cultures), blood, blood products and body fluids.
  • Form 6B: Human and Vertebrate Animal Tissue Form - Required for research involving fresh/frozen tissue (including primary cell lines, human and other primate established cell lines and tissue cultures), blood, blood products and body fluids. If the research involves living organisms please ensure that the proper human or animal forms are completed. All projects using any tissue listed above must also complete Form 6A.
  • Form 7: Continuation/Research Progression Projects Form - Required for projects that are a continuation or progression in the same field of study as a previous project.  Form 7 must be accompanied by the previous year’s Abstract and Research Plan/Project Summary.

Step 5 - Conduct your experiment.

Once you have been granted formal approval for your project, you may begin your experiment.  Be sure to work in a safe manner under the supervision of an adult.  Keep a journal or log book to document everything: every observation, every measurement, and every change to your original procedures.  Take photos of your work.  It is better to have too much information than not enough.

Step 6 - Summarize your findings.

Make tables, charts, and graphs to visually present your data, then summarize your findings and write a conclusion in your research report.  Remember that your data must be the basis of the answer to your original research question.  Be sure to state if the data supports or rejects your hypothesis. 

Step 7 - Write your Abstract.

The final step in most research reports is the 30-second summary.  This brief, 200-250 word statement should provide a concise yet complete description of your experiment and your findings.  

Step 8 - Construct a Project Display Board or Poster.

Instead of the more traditional tri-fold board, consider displaying your project in poster form.  Your display should have visual appeal and be interesting to onlookers.  It should include all the basics of your project, including Title, Hypothesis, Procedure (summary is usually OK), Data and Analysis, Conclusion, and References or Bibliography.  The best displays include interesting photographs and easy to understand charts and graphs.

Step 9 - Create a 4-6 minute oral summary of your work.

What do you want the public to know about your project?  Although your project display board or poster should be able to tell your project's story on its own, you must present it to science fair judges.  Rather than simply reading your project board, your oral presentation should be the story of what you did, why you did it, why it was interesting to you, what you learned, and what you might wish to research if you continued your work.  Be sure to include commentary regarding notable data, interesting findings, and any suprises.  Remember to ask your audience for questions at the end.

Step 10 - Present your work at the Science Fair.

Dress nicely.  Set up a compelling project display that includes your completed Research Plan, your handwritten journal or notebook, and anything else that helps tell your story.  Include a photobook, detailed analyses of your data, and any props that others might find interesting.

 -- Updated 9/30/2019  SP

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