Experimental Science Projects:
An Introductory Level Guide
introductory level guide presents basic information for doing
a science project. For a more detailed treatment see Experimental
Science Projects: An Intermediate Level Guide.
To quickly jump to a section below
| Observations | Information
Gathering | Title | Purpose
| Hypothesis | Procedure
| Materials |
| Data | Recording
Observations | Results | Calculations
| Questions | Conclusions
| What If My Science Project Doesn't
The following material assumes
you are doing an experimental science project, and not a written
report to present information on a science subject. As you read
the various steps, you may want to follow along with an example
You notice something, and wonder why it happens. You see something
and wonder what causes it. You want to know how or why something
works. You ask questions about what you have observed. The first
step is to write down what you have noticed.
Find out about what you want to investigate. Read books, magazines
or ask professionals who might know in order to learn about the
effect or area of study. Keep track of where you got your information.
TITLE THE PROJECT
Choose a title that describes the effect or thing you are investigating.
The title should summarize what the investigation will deal with.
STATE THE PURPOSE OF THE PROJECT
What do you want to find out? Write a statement that describes
what you want to do. Use your observations and questions to write
Make a list of answers to the questions you have. This can
be a list of statements describing how or why you think the observed
things work. Hypothesis must be stated in a way that can be
tested by an experiment.
DESIGN AN EXPERIMENTAL PROCEDURE TO TEST
Design an experiment to test each hypothesis. Make a step-by-step
list of what you will do to answer your questions. This list is
called an experimental procedure.
for Experimental Procedures
- Select only one thing to change in each experiment. Things
that can be changed are called variables.
- Change something that will help you test your hypothesis.
- The procedure must tell how you will change this one thing.
- The procedure must explain how you will measure the amount
- Each type of experiment needs a "control" for comparison
so that you can see what the change actually did.
OBTAIN MATERIALS AND EQUIPMENT
Make a list of the things you need to do the experiments, and
prepare them. If you need special equipment, a local college or
business may be able to loan it to you. Another source of science
materials are mail order supply houses such as Edmund Scientific
in Barrington, New Jersey (phone 1-609-457-8880 for a catalog).
Professional science supply houses are located in larger cities.
They will have just about anything you will need.
DO THE EXPERIMENT AND RECORD DATA
Do the experiment and record all numerical measurements made.
Data can be amounts of chemicals used, how long something is,
the time something took, etc. If you are not making any measurements,
you probably are not doing an experimental science project.
RECORD YOUR OBSERVATIONS
Observations can be written descriptions of what you noticed
during an experiment, or problems encountered. Keep careful notes
of everything you do, and everything that happens. Observations
are valuable when drawing conclusions, and useful for locating
experimental errors .
Perform any math needed to turn raw data recorded during experiments
into numbers you will need to make tables, graphs or draw conclusions.
Summarize what happened. This could be in the form of a table
of numerical data or graphs. It could also be a written statement
of what occurred during the experiments.
Using the trends in your experimental data and your experimental
observations, try to answer your original questions. Is your hypothesis
correct? Now is the time to pull together what happened, and assess
the experiments you did.
Things You Can Mention in the Conclusion
- If your hypothesis is not correct, what could be the answer
to your question?
- Summarize any difficulties or problems you had doing the
- Do you need to change the procedure and repeat your experiment?
- What would you do different next time?
- List other things you learned.
TRY TO ANSWER RELATED QUESTIONS
What you have learned may allow you to answer other questions.
Many questions are related. Several new questions may have occurred
to you while doing experiments. You may now be able to understand
or verify things that you discovered when gathering information
for the project. Questions lead to more questions, which lead
to additional hypothesis that can be tested.
WHAT IF MY SCIENCE PROJECT DOESN'T WORK?
No matter what happens, you will learn something. Science is
not only about getting "the answer." Knowing that something
didn't work, is actually knowing quite a lot. Experiments that
don't turn out as planned are an important step in finding an