A Science Fair brings together skills often taught separately in most schools, such as research, writing, math, grammar, spelling, statistics, ethics, logic, critical thinking, computer science, graphic arts, technical skills, scientific method, presentation, and public speaking. As a student, you can be taught how to choose a topic, follow the scientific method, perform an experiment, prepare a written report and presentation. However, you will likely not be given these science fair tips for success.
1. Choose a project you will enjoy doing. Don’t do a project because someone else wants you to, or because you want to win a prize. Your attitude is an important factor in achieving science fair success.
2. If you never try, you never win. Don’t be afraid to try something because it might not work out. Not all experiments are successful, experiments fail and hypotheses are rejected, but the project can still be successful if you follow the scientific method. You can learn from experimental failures as much or more than from those that work as you expected or wanted. So long as you stick to the scientific method and present your project well, you can be successful.
3. Begin your research journal before your even select a topic. As you search for the topic, record every idea and source of information in your journal. You may need to refer to that information in the future. Your journal should never be copied or look as if you wrote it all in one sitting.
4. The more you know, the better your project will be. You should have more background information than you will ever need. Include the information in your bibliography and research notes, however, learn to recognize what is relevant and what is fluff. Ask yourself why each reference is significant to your work.
5. Use a variety of references for research. Do not rely on the Internet which can have inadequate or incorrect information. Learn how to use a reference library. Include interviews of experts if available and appropriate.
6. Memorize and follow the scientific method. The process is often more important than the results. Base your research paper, display or backboard, and oral presentation on the scientific method. Judges want to see every step of the method reflected in your work.
7. Choose a project that has significance and practical application. Answer the questions: “Why did I do this experiment?” “What difference does this project make?”
8. Keep your hypothesis narrow in scope. Students often become enthralled with the research and experimentation stages and keep asking more questions and changing direction to pursue those instead of completing the original project. Stick with your original hypothesis and save other ideas for future years.
9. Learn and use only the metric system which is favored by scientists. Don’t mix inches and centimeters or ounces and grams.
10. Follow the rules in your research paper. You paper should be well-written, focused, organized, and edited. Refer to yourself in the third person, as “this researcher.” Write in your own words. If you use information directly from a resource, be sure to credit the source correctly. Your paper should be typed, clean and enclosed in a plastic cover or notebook. Be sure it has every element, including footnotes or citations, and a bibliography. Do not put your name on the paper.
Success is often defined individually. Not every student will win first place. You may gain more than ribbons or trophies from the Science Fair if your definition of success includes learning perseverance, critical thinking skills, as well as the ability to lose and win gracefully.