Experiment Display and Demonstration
Thursday, May 21 – Oral Classroom Presentation
For this project you will design and carry out an experiment that follows the Scientific Method that tests a simple question. You should have at least 10 trials to test your hypothesis. Remember you need a question to answer with your hypothesis. Make a display that shows all of your steps. Write up your experiment formally and be able to explain how your experiment tested your hypothesis.
Science fair projects should be accompanied by a write-up that provides background information on subjects discussed. For example, a project about color preference of rabbits should come with a paragraph about color and a paragraph about rabbits, including information about the specific breed tested.
Be prepared to answer questions about the experiment. I recommend using this website to design your experiment: http://science.santacruz.k12.ca.us/pdfs/ScienceFairGuide.pdf
These are the guidelines that are used throughout the state for science fair competitions. Using these guidelines is excellent preparation for future projects.
Length and Expectations:
The length of any given section will be determined by the amount of information you can find and/or the space necessary to explain it thoroughly (depending on the section). Much like your American Government reports, your final report will be divided up into sections. Your report should obviously be fully edited for spelling and grammar. As with any report, every word must always be either your own (paraphrased from your research) or a quotation. Your report must be presented extremely neatly and typed.
While some class time will be available for working on your projects, most of this will be homework. As such, you will continue to have a lighter than usual homework load in language arts.
These are the dates that the following things must be brought in to be checked. Depending on your own plan, you will likely finish them earlier than this. For example, if you plan to start collecting data this month, you will need to formulate a hypothesis earlier than April. You may notice that only the bare bones of your report have specific due dates below. Your final report will have much more information than is listed, as is outlined below your due dates.
3/13: Choose both your topic and question by this date. Have them approved by both your parents and by Deric. This topic may not change after this day.
3/20: Plan an experiment that will test this question. Have it approved by both your parents and Deric.
3/27: Write an outline for your background research and turn it in along with an annotated bibliography of at least 4 sources. One must be a book.
4/10: Complete background research/report. Hypothesis write-up due.
4/17: Materials and Procedure of experiment write-ups due.
4/24: Recorded and analyzed data write-ups due.
5/1: Conclusions and abstract due, along with a sketch of your project board.
5/8: “Final” draft of report due. This includes all components listed below.
5/15: Actual final draft of all elements except for project presentation board due.
5/21: Oral presentations of reports and visual aids.
All reports must include the following:
The cover should have the title of the report, your name, and the date. It should be illustrated in some way that reflects the subject of the report.
The title page should have the title of your report, your name, the date, and your school name.
Table of Contents
This is a list of every section in the report and the page on which it can be found.
Includes your problem, hypothesis, step-by-step explanation of your procedure, and results of your investigation.
Your report must include at least two relevant illustrations that help readers understand your report. This does not include the cover.
You must keep a list of all of your source materials. List the Author, Publisher, Title, and Date of the publication if it is a book. You must use information from at least two books. If it is a website, you must list the URL, Page title, Website name, Author (if available), and date you accessed the site. It must be a reputable site to be used for report writing. This should come at the very end of the report.
The project report itself:
Science fair reports can be organized in a number of ways. The list below will guide you in selecting headings. The steps in the experimental scientific method as usually presented are: Observation, Hypothesis, Controlled Experiment, and Conclusion. To actually do a science experiment, many more steps are needed. The following more accurately reflects the course of an actual experimental investigation. I am here to help you with questions you have.
Initial Observations, Curiosity, Questions
You notice something, and wonder why it happens. You see something and wonder what causes it. You want to know how or why something works. You ask questions about what you have observed. You want to investigate. The first step is to clearly write down exactly what you have observed. How and why you chose your project is a very important element of this report. This is why it makes far more sense to work from a question you have about one of your interests, than it does to work backwards from an idea for an experiment.
Find out about what you want to investigate. Read books, magazines or ask professionals who might know in order to learn about the effect or area of study. Write a paragraph at least on each relevant area of background information. For example, if you were testing the effect of different fertilizers on the growth of bean sprouts, you would write at least a paragraph on bean sprouts, one on fertilizers, one on soil pH, etc. Keep track of where you got your information. This should happen before you formulate your hypothesis.
Title the Project
Choose a title that describes the effect or thing you are investigating. The title should be short and summarize what the investigation will cover.
State the Purpose of the Project
What do you want to find out? Write a statement that describes what you want to do. Use your observations and questions to write the statement.
Based on your gathered information, make an educated guess about what types of things affect the system you are working with. Identifying variables is necessary before you can make a hypothesis.
When you think you know what variables may be involved, think about ways to change one at a time. If you change more than one at a time, you will not know what variable is causing your observation. Sometimes variables are linked and work together to cause something. At first, try to choose variables that you think act independently of each other. At this point, you are ready to translate your questions into hypothesis. A hypothesis is a question that has been reworded into a form that can be tested by an experiment.
Make a list of your answers to the questions you have. This can be a list of statements describing how or why you think the observed things work. These questions must be framed in terms of the variables you have identified. There is usually one hypothesis for each question you have. You must do at least one experiment to test each hypothesis. This is a very important step. If possible, ask a scientist to go over your hypothesis with you.
Design Experiments to Test Your Hypothesis
Design an experiment to test each hypothesis. Make a step-by-step list of what you will do to answer each question. This list is called an experimental procedure. For an experiment to give answers you can trust, it must have a “control.” A control is an additional experimental trial or run. It is a separate experiment, done exactly like the others. The only difference is that no experimental variables are changed. A control is a neutral “reference point” for comparison that allows you to see what changing a variable does by comparing it to not changing anything. Dependable controls are sometimes very hard to develop. They can be the hardest part of a project. Without a control you cannot be sure that changing the variable causes your observations. A series of experiments that includes a control is called a “controlled experiment.”
Experiments are often done many times to guarantee that what you observe is reproducible, or to obtain an average result. Reproducibility is a crucial requirement. Without it you cannot trust your results. Reproducible experiments reduce the chance that you have made an experimental error, or observed a random effect during one particular experimental run.
Some Guidelines for Experimental Procedures:
- Select only one thing to change in each experiment. Things that can be changed are called variables.
- Change something that will help you answer your questions.
- The procedure must tell how you will change this one thing.
- The procedure must explain how you will measure the amount of change.
- Each experiment should have a “control” for comparison so that you can see what the change actually did.
Obtain Materials and Equipment
Make a list of the things you need to do the experiment, and prepare them. If you need special equipment, a local college or business may be able to loan it to you. Another source of science materials are mail order supply houses such as Edmund Scientific in Barrington, New Jersey. Professional science supply houses are located in larger cities. They will have just about anything you will need. Many experiments can be done by improvising with material on hand.
Do the Experiments and Record Data
Experiments are often done in series. A series of experiments can be done by changing one variable a different amount each time. A series of experiments is made up of separate experimental “runs.” During each run you make a measurement of how much the variable affected the system under study. For each run, a different amount of change in the variable is used. This produces a different amount of response in the system. You measure this response, or record data, in a table for this purpose. This is considered “raw data” since it has not been processed or interpreted yet. When raw data gets processed mathematically, for example, it becomes results.
As you do experiments, record all numerical measurements made. Data can be amounts of chemicals used, how long something is, the time something took, etc. If you are not making any measurements, you probably are not doing an experimental science project.
Record Your Observations
Observations can be written descriptions of what you noticed during an experiment, or problems encountered. Keep careful notes of everything you do, and everything that happens. Observations are valuable when drawing conclusions, and useful for locating experimental errors.
Do any calculations needed from your raw data to obtain the numbers you need to draw your conclusions. For example, you weighed a container. This weight is recorded in your raw data table as “wt. of container.” You then added some soil to the container and weighed it again. This would be entered as “wt. of container + soil.” In the calculation section, do the calculation to find out how much soil was used in this experimental run:
(wt. of container + soil) – (wt. of container) = wt. of soil used
Each calculated answer is entered into a table in a Results section.
Not all experiments need a calculation section. However, if you do not have any calculations you may not be using the experimental scientific method. If you have calculations to make, you probably are using the experimental scientific method.
Summarize what happened. This can be in the form of a table of processed numerical data, or graphs. It could also be a written statement of what occurred during experiments.
It is from calculations using recorded data that tables and graphs are made. Studying tables and graphs, we can see trends that tell us how different variables cause our observations. Based on these trends, we can draw conclusions about the system under study. These conclusions help us confirm or deny our original hypothesis. Often, mathematical equations can be made from graphs. These equations allow us to predict how a change will affect the system without the need to do additional experiments. Advanced levels of experimental science rely heavily on graphical and mathematical analysis of data. At this level, science becomes even more interesting and powerful.
Using the trends in your experimental data and your experimental observations, try to answer your original questions. Is your hypothesis correct? Now is the time to pull together what happened, and assess the experiments you did.
Other Things You Can Mention in the Conclusion
- If your hypothesis is not correct, what could be the answer to your question?
- Summarize any difficulties or problems you had doing the experiment.
- Do you need to change the procedure and repeat your experiment?
- What would you do different next time?
- List other things you learned.
Try to Answer Related Questions
What you have learned may allow you to answer other questions. Many questions are related. Several new questions may have occurred to you while doing experiments. You may now be able to understand or verify things that you discovered when gathering information for the project. Questions lead to more questions, which lead to additional hypothesis that need to be tested.