District 12 District Science Day

Getting Started with Science Fair

There are lots of resources on the web regarding science fairs and science fair projects. We'd be interested in hearing what resources you have found useful in the past. We were just made aware of a new site which discusses why kids might want to do a science fair project. The Archimedes Initiative web site has a large collection of thematic video content involving participants in competitive science fairs. Check it out. It could be a really good resource to show students what it's like to develop and present projects.

The rules and forms for the following steps can be found in the current ISEF Rules and Guidelines booklet. Included here is also a pdf file with just the forms. (Here is a link to the complete ISEF Documents and Forms page.) A useful resource is Common SRC Problems. This list was generated from the SRC (The ISEF Scientific Review Committee) reviews leading up to the Intel ISEF. Read these to get pointers on what NOT to do.

  1. Find a research topic. Be observant all the time and ask questions of what you observe: what, what for, how, who, why, which, when, where, etc. Almost any question you ask can be a research topic. Scientists have made great discoveries from their observations and questions. Not all your questions can be studied at the moment. But you only need one question that you can answer by your own research. I recommend that you keep a secret journal of your observations and questions with their dates. Add your thoughts as you find answers to your questions, either through your own research or from research by others.
  2. Search for references. When you have a question, you need to do a search of published researches that may have already answer your question or are related to your question. You may need references to the method you propose to use. Even if your question has been answered, you can still do your research if you use a different method, a homemade device, or if you have reasons to think that the question may have a different answer. The most reliable primary references are researches published in "Peer reviewed journals". Primary implies original research. Peer reviewed means that experts in the field reviewed the paper before its publication. Your school library and all Ohio public libraries have free computer access to a research database called "Academic Research Premier (EBSCO HOST)" for searching articles published in peer-reviewed journals. You can get the complete text and references of some articles, and only the abstracts of others. If the complete text of an article is important, we can help you find the complete article on the Ohio University Library system. You need a minimum of five such references.
  3. Write a research plan that includes (a) Question (or Problem) being addressed, (b) Hypothesis (or Engineering goal), (c) Detailed description of method or procedure, including data analysis. (d) Bibliography of 5 or more primary references. The words in parentheses in items (a) and (b) are often used for engineering projects. See the instructions on how to write a research plan that come with the Student Checklist (1A) form (ISEF Form). Then complete the Student Checklist (1A) form without entering the actual start date and actual end date.
  4. Find an adult sponsor: a teacher, parent, or other adult with knowledge on the research problem. The adult sponsor will use the Checklist for Adult Sponsor (1) form to review with you your completed Student Checklist (1A) and research plan. He will used items 4, 5, and 6 on ISEF Form 1 to tell you if your projects need other forms besides ISEF Form 1A and 1B and you must secure additional signed and dated approval before you can start your experiment.
  5. Complete ISEF Form 1A and 1B and other required forms and approval before you can start experiments. Hint: To reduce errors and simplify the above process, don't date forms 1, 1A, and 1B until all requirements have been met. Then date ISEF Forms 1 and 1B before the actual starting date on form 1A. If your project requires other ISEF forms, be sure all these forms (except ISEF Form 1C) are dated before the actual starting date on ISEF Form 1A. ISEF Form 1C is required for research conducted in a regulated research institution, industrial setting, or any work site other than home, K-12 school, or field. ISEF Form 1C is supposed to be prepared, signed, and dated by the research supervisors at these sites after the research is completed. See ISEF Rules or ISEF Form 1C for instructions.