How to start a research project
1. Start with a question (about a topic that interests you)
Your question can then be developed in a number of ways, including talking to educators, professionals and parent supervisors. Try to narrow down a general topic to a very specific question.
Example: What are the effects of acidic deposits on the growth of sugar maple (acer saccharum) saplings?
2. Form a hypothesis
Make a prediction of what you think the answer to your question will be.
Example: I think that the saplings will not reach their maximum height.
3. Identify your variables
A) Independent variables are those which you can vary
The acid type and the dosage represent the two most important independent variables. Change only one independent variable at a time and deal with the variables from the most important to the least important. In this example, soil type, position on the slope, aspect, climate (direction of prevailing winds from the pollution source) etc. represent other variables. Not all have to be addressed at a science fair.
B) Dependent variables are those which you can measure to help answer your question
Examples: growth rate of sugar maple saplings, height, roots, general appearance (colour, number
of leaves, etc.), plant biomass, etc.
This refers to a sample that has been treated in every way like the other samples except that it does not experience the independent variables. Examples: The control pot will have a sapling just like the others except it will only be watered not acid treated, comparison of the treated samples with the control (baseline) allows you to draw conclusions on the growth of the saplings.
A replicate is a repetition of the experiment. The more replicates you do, the more you can be sure
about the outcome.
4. Have a project schedule
Budget your time, be consistent and persistent (don't change the methodology or procedure because progress is slow or different from what you expected). Don't lose interest.
5. Observe the dependent variable
Observations on the dependent variable are critical to the success of your experiment.
Analyze your results to determine which variables affected the growth of the saplings.
7. Have a conclusion
Do you accept or reject your hypothesis? Explain why you agree or disagree with your original hypothesis. Continuously back up your experiment by entering observations in a notebook, preparing data sheets or graphs, and talking to scientists or teachers. Keep all your notes and schedules, interviews, graphs, research, etc. in a notebook for presentation at the science fair. Take pictures of your experimental trials for your display board.
Prepare your display board and your report. A report is a paper summarizing your research in 200 words or less. It must include your objectives, a brief description of the methodology, the most important part of the results and a conclusion. A list of references must also be included in the abstract.