Student Area - Project Planning and Selection

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[Student Area|Teacher Area|Judge Area]

Project Planning and Selection

1. Decide on the nature of the investigation.

  • Use the listed categories to determine your area of greatest interest.
  • Consult with science and/or mathematics teachers about the possibilities of doing research in the area of your choice.
  • Note that all projects involving vertebrate animals (including humans) must receive prior approval before the research begins. Prior approval is also required for some recombinant DNA and microbiology projects. See the “Biological Hazards” section of this site for clarification. 
    NOTE: For projects conducted in a university, hospital or research laboratory under the supervision of a Doctor, Professor or Scientist, endorsement(s) and supporting documents are due by October 12, 2017.  All other endorsements must be submitted by November 17, 2017.
  • Be scientific. Investigate and explore an interest--a fascination--an idea that raises a question that would be stimulating to answer. Improve upon a previous science fair project from a different point of view (new question).
2. Proceed scientifically.

  • Decide exactly what the question or problem is and state it clearly.
  • Consult with teachers and/or a coordinator concerning your area of interest. Be sure that the problem chosen is within your available abilities and resources.
  • Do research. The most important part of a research project is finding out as much as possible about the problem. Spend some time in the library at school, the regional library, and the main Chicago Public Library. If possible, visit the libraries of local colleges. For information about library sources, contact the local science fair coordinator and the school librarian. Some libraries may be closed to the general public, but many will allow you to use their collection on the premises.
  • Formulate a hypothesis* for testing. Design experiments to test the hypothesis.
  • Find ways to measure, observe, and record what happens in each aspect of the project. Remember that every experiment must have a control.**
  • Do not abandon negative results. Use them to modify the hypothesis; then test again. Set time schedules.
  • Remember that constant evaluation of the research takes place from the first step to the final conclusion.

Remember, good projects are the result of careful work, careful planning, and constant revision as data accumulate.


*hypothesis: An assumption used as the basis for action; a calculated guess subject to verification or proof from which conclusions may be drawn. Formulating and testing a hypothesis in mathematics is not as common a method of investigation as in other categories.
**control: A method to test or verify a scientific experiment by conducting a parallel experiment or by using other standards of comparison.