• The Scientific Method

    Ok, So, I know that this will be the most boring web page you have ever read. But it is important stuff if you want to have a successful science project.
     
    All projects should use the Scientific Method.  The Scientific Method is a series of steps that scientists use to investigate a topic so they can learn more about it.  We will go through each step and give examples.  All of these steps should be recorded in your laboratory notebook as well as on your display.  The experiment that we define is very simple, and you should NOT use it as your experiment.
     
    Objective: 
    This is what you hope to learn or determine.  For example:  "I want to see if it is always cloudy when it rains."  Your statement of your objective should be clear and easy to understand.  This is also often called your Goal or Question. 
     
    Hypothesis:  
    This is what you think will be the outcome of your experiment.  For example:  "I think it will always be cloudy when it rains."  You should make this prediction BEFORE you start your experiments.  
     
    Research:  
    This is work you do on the internet or in books at the library to identify how you should do your experiment.  For Secondary School projects, this is often done before you create your Hypothesis.  For Elementary School projects, we recommend that it be done after you record your hypothesis. 
     
    Materials: 
    This is a list of all the items that you need to do your experiment.  This is also often called your Equipment.  
    For example (remember this is a very simple example):
    • Television - to check for weather reports to determine when it is likely to rain.
    • Laboratory Notebook - to make notes when it rains.
    • Pen - to take note in my laboratory notebook.

    Procedure: 
    These are the steps you will follow to do your experiment.  This is also often called your Process.  They should be very detailed.

    For example:

    • Television - to check for weather reports to determine when it is likely to rain.
    • Raincoat - to keep me dry.
    • Laboratory Notebook - to make notes of when it rains.
    • Pen - to write note in my laboratory notebook.  
     
    Results: 
    This is the data that you collect as you run your experiments.  Initially you will collect it in a simple table.  You may make graphs and charts of it later in the process.  This is also often called Data.  
     
    For example:
    Date
    Rain (Yes/No) Cloudy (Yes/No) Comments
    1/23/13 No Yes Do not use - no rain.
    2/5/13 Yes Yes  
    2/6/13 Yes Yes  
    2/17/13 Yes No It was sunny, but it was raining.

    In this project, you would want to have as much data as possible.  Only 4 dates, as shown here is not enough data,  It is important to have multiple trials; try not do things only once.  You will also want to have multiple tests of each case.  If you are growing seeds, you will want to have 5 to 10 seeds for each situation you are testing.

    Conclusion: 
    When you are all done with your experiments, you want to look at your Data, and refer back to your Hypothesis.  Did you guess right, or not?  For example: "My hypothesis was wrong.  My data shows one day when there were no clouds although it was raining."  That is all you have to say.  You do not need to repeat all of your data; just I was right.  or I was wrong.  It is okay to be wrong.  We all learn more when we get a result we were not expecting.  A correct guess only confirms what you already knew.
     
    Acknowledgements: 
    You need to give credit to those who helped you.  For this simple experiment, I probably did not need much help.  But sometimes you need help with power tools, or just an extra pair of hands.  A simple "I would like to thank my Mom for handing the boiling water that I needed in this experiment." is sufficient.
     
    Future Work (usually done during the last couple of weeks prior to the science fair): 
    This could be what you would do differently if you did this experiment again, or it could be the start of your list for next year.