The Scientific Method
In its most basic form, the thought process in the scientific method can consists of the following tasks:
- Identifying a Problem
- Forming a hypothesis
- Designing and Performing Experiments
- Collecting and Analyzing Data
- Formulating Conclusions about the Hypothesis
You can find many different opinions on exactly what the scientific method is so, get help from your teacher for the guidelines you should follow for your science fair project.
The scientific method is a guideline for investigating scientific and technical problems. Scientists and engineers are formally trained in a scientific method but every person will modify the guidelines for their own work. When developing your science fair project keep an open mind.
If you are doing an experimental research project there is most likely a project process that you must follow. A key objective is for you to correctly apply the scientific method within your project process.
The outline presented here is a common project process that incorporates the scientific method. If you are using this outline for a school project, first show it to your teacher to get approval.
Ask yourself "What am I interested in?" or "What subject do I want to learn about?".
Example topics are plants, solar electricity, and Mars.
What questions do you have about your topic? What do you want to know? State the problem as a question.
In some cases you may want to research your topic before you identify an exact problem.
How does amount of water effect plant growth?
Can solar panels supply electricity to anything?
How fast does Mars orbit the Sun?
What do you need to learn about so that you can solve your problem or answer your question? Where can you search for information?
Learn as much as you can about your topic and problem. Research can be from many different sources including people, books, magazines, the internet, or your own experience.
After you do your research you may want to restate your question in a better way.
Does the amount of food given to a certain plant effect the growth of that plant?
Can one size solar panel do the work of any batteries?
Now that you have done your research, develop a hypothesis.
A hypothesis is a prediction. What is your prediction of the answer to your question? What do you think will happen?
Guess at what the answer to your question will be. This is not a mystery. You have educated yourself on the topic and by now you should be able to make a guess at the answer based on your learning. This is also called an "Educated Guess".
Examples of hypothesis statements:
I predict that a plant that does not get enough water will die.
I predict that the same one solar panel can be used to replace AA and C cell batteries but not D cell batteries.
How will you test your hypothesis? What tests will answer your question? You must test enough samples to prove your point.
Define the variables that will change from one experiment to the next. Amount of water? Amount of plant food?
Plan the tests you want to perform so that you have a good idea how much time you will need to complete them in the time allotted for your project. How long will you have to grow your plants to get good data?
9 plants total
3 tested with low amount of water
3 tested with the recommended amount of water (control group)
3 tested with too much water
9 battery operated items total tested with a solar panel
3 that use 2 AA cell batteries
3 that use 2 C cell batteries
3 that use 2 D cell batteries
Test your hypothesis by executing your experiments. Be sure to keep good records of your experiments so that you can analyze your results and present your data to others. Ask your teacher about the format for a journal or data collection.
What do your results tell you? Look at your experimental data. Organize it. Do you see any trends or information that proves or disproves your hypothesis?
Graphs are a big help. Graphs not only help you understand your data but they will also help others to quickly understand what you did.
Was your hypothesis right or wrong? It is OK to be wrong. The objective of the scientific method is to investigate a problem and work toward a solution. Sometimes you will end an experiment and have new questions. If so, those new questions are part of your conclusions. Sometimes a conclusion proposes a new hypothesis and new experiments with recommendations for further study.
Even if you have disproved your hypothesis you have still done a good job if you correctly applied the scientific method.