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Planning a Science Project


When conducting a science fair project, it is important to plan ahead and to keep your information organized.

Know the Rules!

Be sure to avoid running into big problems half way through your project. You certainly don’t want to start on a topic that’s not allowed and or plan to use material that is forbidden. Read the rules first.

Know how much space you will have for your information. Find out whether you can use three posters or if you are limited to one or two.

Some science fair regulations require that you fill out an application and submit a research plan. Some programs require that you submit an abstract and some require a full research paper. Read over all the rules so you’ll know what is expected of you ahead of time.

Tri-fold displays are most common at science fairs, but sometimes they are not allowed because of space restraints. If a tri-fold is recommended for your project, it’s a good idea to use this design. Don’t be tempted to buck the system and come up an original design that may fall over or collapse at the worst possible moment.

Find stiff back support for your display but don’t use clunky, heavy wood.

Develop a Research Plan

  1. Ask yourself a few questions: What do you want to find out? What are you most interested in studying? Is it possible to do this in the time available? Are there resources? Would it be possible to acquire all the necessary tools?
  2. Choose a topic and gather the tools.
  3. Come up with a hypothesis.
  4. Carry out the plan, make observations, maintain a research journal and record everything.
  5. Note what happened. Was this expected? Why or why not?
  6. Organize your thoughts. Label 5 sheets of paper with the following headings:
    • Problem (or question) and Hypothesis
    • Materials
    • Method
    • Results
    • Conclusion
  7. Fill in the information for each of these sheets. Start designing and printing polished versions of these.
  8. Record all results, numbers, and data that would work in a chart. Design charts or graphs to show data.
  9. Write an abstract that includes plan, procedure, observations, data, conclusion.

Remember that you may be required to defend and explain your project in a conversation with the judge. Know your material!

The Display

Make several models of the overall display on regular white paper. Place the title across the top of one poster (if you use tri-fold). Arrange your information in a logical order, left to right and top to bottom. Ideally you should place the introduction at the top left and your conclusions on the lower right.

Create pithy, factual explanations to display on white or gently-hued paper. Use a sensible font like Times New Roman or San Serif. Don’t use swirly, fancy font! That will only look unprofessional.

The display should include the abstract, hypothesis, the methods and procedures, the results, and conclusions.

Indlude headings for list of tools, data, photos, research, graphs, charts, and diagrams.

Design Tips

Use colored paper or mat board to create background for white page materials.

You may want to cut out colored arrows to guide the reader through the sequence to make it clear. If you do this, make the arrows subtle and professional-looking.

Use wide tape to create a frame around the edges to give your poster a sharper look. You could use black, white or colored tape. Cut a long piece of the tape first and position it gently on one edge of your poster. Fold over the back edge and trim the ends.

Try to create a frame about an inch wide.

Do the tape frame first to avoid damaging your finished poster.

Be careful! Don’t use bright contrasting colors. A few matching, muted tones are best.

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