Your logbook. Choosing a topic

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1 This booklet contains information that will be used to complete a science fair project for the César Chávez science fair. It is designed to help participants to successfully complete a project. This booklet contains several guides that will provide information for the various steps. Doing a science fair project will put into practice the science and math that you learned. Also, a science fair project will help you learn much more about a subject of interest to you. Through the César Chávez intermediate science fair you will have an opportunity to share your new discoveries. Participation and preparation for the science fair will help develop several valuable skills. In addition to your learning more about science, you also learn more about the use of the library. You will develop communication skills that will help you as you proceed through middle and high school. Finally, first-place winners at the César Chávez intermediate science fair will compete at the Kern County Science Fair. Your logbook Every science fair project requires the participant to keep a detailed logbook about the project. Your logbook should contain accurate and detailed notes of everything you do for your project. Good notes will show you are consistent and thorough. It will also help you when you write the abstract and put together your display. Your logbook should be written in ink only. Do not use pencil. Put your name, teachers name and school name on the front of your logbook. Keep track of your thoughts, ideas, and trials. Include your raw data including all the measurements you collect during your experimental trials. Staple in copies of graphs or charts. Keep copies of your photos with labels in your logbook. Date every entry you make in the log. Do not try to make your logbook look neat. It should be readable, but you may cross out information you don t want as you work. Never remove pages from your log. Choosing a topic The first and sometimes hardest part of science for project is choosing a topic. One of the most important things to consider when selecting a topic is whether the selected topic is something that actually holds your interest or is just chosen as a matter of convenience. The following activity will help guide you towards choosing your topic. Step one: brainstorm all of your interests. Think of activities or things that interest you or maybe something you ve always wondered about. Use simple one-word ideas like plants, worms, cars, sports, fishing-make a list of about 10 to 15 items.

2 Step two: circles there of the ideas you are interested in. Step three: Now look very carefully at your three choices. Which one do you already know something about and really care about? Underline the word. Can t decide? Keep brainstorming. It will come to you. Step four: your underlined word is the start of your project. From now on we will call it your topic. Now you can begin. This idea or topic is to broad or general for an investigation. It will need to be narrowed down. A poor topic would be How plants grow. Instead a better topic would be The effect of acid rain on bean growth. The second topic is narrow enough to investigate. The easiest way to narrow your topic is to learn more about it. The library or Internet is the place to get this information. Use the library and Internet to learn enough about your subject so that you can define a specific problem. It is also useful to ask teachers, friends, and parents for help in narrowing down the topic. You want a clear statement of your topic. When this is complete you can begin the real work of investigating. Research In order to develop an accurate hypothesis you will need to do a background research. Background research will allow you to learn as much as possible about your topic so that you can create a testable hypothesis. Background research is important to help you understand the theory behind your experiment. You will need to do library and internet research so that you can make a prediction of what will occur in your experiment and then whether that prediction is supported or unsupported. It is important to create a background research plan before you start your research. Step one: go to the library or on the Internet and do an initial search on your topic. You will find that there is more information than you can use in the time that you have. Try to use information that comes from educational (.edu) or government (.gov) site or sources. Remember to record your information in your logbook. Step two: talk to people who work in fields related to your project such as scientist or engineers. Step three: organize everything you have learned about your topic with an outline. Put your notes, papers, and information into your logbook with labels. Step four: narrow down the information you ve collected until what you have focused on you specific question.

3 Hypothesis For a science project you will use all your knowledge and study information about the topic to predict the answer to the question you re asking. This is called a hypothesis. Your hypothesis should follow certain rules. Rule one: make your hypothesis an if/then statement to show exactly what you are testing and what you expect to find. Rule two: make your hypothesis a testable statement. At the end of your experiments you want to be able to say, My hypothesis was supported. Rule three: never change your hypothesis after experimenting. Remember, it is just an educated guess. The reason for hypothesis is to remind you of the goal of your investigation. It forces you to think and plan before you begin. Rule four: your hypothesis should include the reasoning behind your prediction. Support your point of view with expert information from your research. Here is an example hypothesis: if I place lettuce seedlings under various colored lights, then I believe the seedlings under the red light will grow the tallest. I believe this is true because I read that the wavelength of red light is better absorbed by the green chlorophyll in the plant leaf. Does this hypothesis meet the standards above? What materials and conditions are needed to test this hypothesis? What steps are needed to test this hypothesis? Does this hypothesis use a control? Was the prediction supported? Your turn to write hypothesis. Use the following guidelines to help you create your own hypothesis for your project. 1. Look back at your question. 2. Get out your list of materials and conditions. 3. Think carefully about how you will proceed. 4. What do you expect to happen? 5. Why do you think that will happen? Practice several hypothesis on scratch paper. If you are unsure about your hypothesis check with a parent or teacher. When you have your final version write it in your logbook and date it.

4 Experiment Now that you have your hypothesis you are ready to perform your experiment. Your experiment is a check to test the validity of your hypothesis. A good scientist will run their experiment at least three times. This ensures that your data is double checked and not an accident. Each time you perform your experiment you do what is called a trial or a run and each time you do a trial it should be done exactly as before. When you re ready to do your experiment remember to follow your project plan exactly. Keep detailed logbook notes in ink of every experiment measurement and observation you do. Be sure to include things that don t work as well as the ones that do. You ll need this information later, so take good notes. Keep your procedure controlled and exact. Think about what you re doing and how you might explain it to someone else how to do it exactly the same way you did to get the same results. Remember to include the following in your experiment: Control group: this is a version of your experiment that is done without the change you are testing in your hypothesis. Experimental groups: this is the version of your experiment that is going to be tested and will include the change note in your hypothesis. Large sample size: use at least five items per experimental group. The greater the number used, the better. Repetition: repeat your trials many times to collect enough data to average and to demonstrate the validity of your experiment. When you create your experimental plan remember to create a list of everything needed to perform your experiment. Also create a step-by-step list of everything you must do to perform your experiment. The experimental procedure must tell how you will change your one and only independent variable and how you will measure the change. A good experiment plan enable someone else to duplicate your experiment exactly. Data analysis and graphs Once you have collected your data from your experiment you will need to present it. You will not want to display all your raw data on your display board. It is too confusing and unorganized. Use chartrs and graphs to help you analyze the data and patterns. Ask yourself these questions: did I get the results I had expected? What did I find out about my experiment? Really think about what you have discovered and user data to help you explain why you think certain things happen. Once you have yoru charts, label them carefully so they can be understood without explanation from you. Print a copy of graphs and charts and tape them in your logbook.

5 Conclusion Your conclusion will summarize your project, data and whether your hypothesis was supported. Talk about your data and how it related to your question and your hypothesis. If you have any problems during your experiment talk about them here and how you might correct them. Abstract For your project you must write an abstract. An abstract is a short summary of your complete project. It is limited to 250 words or less. Your abstract should include: Title: Keep it brief and descriptive Problem: This is your topic question. Hypothesis: Do not reword your hypothesis. You should write it just as you wrote it in your logbook. Experiment Design: Briefly explain how your experiment was performed. Results: Make a short summary of your results. Conclusion: Tell what the results mean and whether or not your hypothesis was supported. Display Board Once you have your abstract you will be able to create your display board. Your display board will include the six major components of your science fair project: the topic, research, hypothesis, experiment, data and graphs, and your conclusion. These are usually placed on the board to communicate your project to others.

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