An experiment is an organized way to answer a question. It involves performing a test of what you think the answer to your question will be.
All experiments start with questions. The questions can be about anything - things you see, hear, taste, smell, or touch.
The first step is finding a question you want to answer.
This is a fun exercise that you can use to come up with ideas for your experiment.
First you should collect a bunch of objects from around your house or school. They should be everyday objects.
Examples include: a lemon, a penny, a bar of soap, a rubber band, a book,
a magnet, an onion, a popsicle stick, a flower, a baseball, a pencil.
After collecting all the objects, take one at a time and make a list of questions you could ask about that object.
(It might take you a while to get the hang of it, but be patient and try to be creative with your questions.)
For example, if the first object is a lemon, some questions could be:
Will lemon juice prevent apples from turning brown?
How much lemon juice must be added to water before I can taste it?
If lemon juice is added to the water I use to water house plants, what will happen?
Look at all the questions you have collected, and pick one that interests you the most. It can be a very simple question. But it should be one that you know you can answer with tools that are available to you.
Now it is time to come up with your Hypothesis.
Once you pick the question you want to answer, you must come up with an Hypothesis. In short, an hypothesis is your best guess about the answer to your question.
An hypothesis sounds something like these statements:
I think that wooden objects will float in water, but that plastic ones will not float.
I think that pink bubble gum will keep its flavor longer than blue bubble gum.
I think that large paper airplanes will fly further than small paper airplanes.
The most important thing about an hypothesis is that it must be testable. That means that at the end of your experiment you must be able to say either, "My hypothesis is correct," or "My hypothesis is incorrect."
The reason for an hypothesis is to remind yourself of the goal of the experiment. It also forces you to think, and write down your thoughts, before you start the experiment.
The next step is designing the experiment.
Designing Your Experiment
After you define your hypothesis, it is time to design an experiment to test that hypothesis. Usually the general type of experiment is clear from your hypothesis. The details, however, require some thought.
Once these are done, you are ready to perform your experiment.
Performing Your Experiment
After you have designed your experiment, the first thing you will want to do is collect all of the materials you need. You should include even those things that you know you have, such as pencils and paper.
Now, you should follow the plan that you so carefully put together.
Make sure to measure everything accurately.
The information that you collect is called data.
Remember to write down anything that is unusual.
It is often the unusual findings that are the most interesting.
After you have performed your experiment, and collected your data, it is time to analyze the results!
Analyzing Your Results
After performing your experiment, you will be anxious to analyze the results.
You can analyze the data by looking at it in different ways. The most common way is to make a graph or chart. It is useful to try different types of graphs and charts because they might lead you to different conclusions.
You can analyze your data using bar charts, column charts, pie charts, and line charts. Each can be as simple or fancy as you like.
It is very important to label your graphs. If they aren't labeled, no one will know what they are looking at.
Graphs are great because they show the data in pictures. This way you can quickly see the results of your experiment. Each type of graph answers a slightly different question. You should look at your hypothesis, think about what you want to find out, and select the types of graphs that show the results the most clearly.
The next step is drawing your conclusion.
After you have analyzed your results, it is time to write your conclusion. Your conclusion is the "take home message" that you want to send to your audience. When people think about your experiment, they will probably focus on the conclusion. Therefore, you want to state your conclusion as clearly and accurately as possible.
The conclusion of your experiment should be pretty easy to fine. You should be able to "see" it in the graphs you made.
The most important thing to remember is that the conclusion should be stated relative to the hypothesis. For example, if your hypothesis is "It think that kids like string beans better than lima beans." Then your conclusion should sound something like, "In conclusion, children do like string beans better than lima beans."
Now you are ready to put together your Science Fair presentation.
Your Science Fair Presentation
Your science fair presentation should be very neat, organized, and clear. You don't have to use fancy computer graphics or thousands of colored pencils. But you do have to pay attention to details.
Your presentation should include:
The Materials and Methods you used
The Experimental Results
If you want to be very thorough, you can also include some background information that led you to this question, and a discussion of your results.