The Fair Way
Welcome to the Fair Way, your partner in Brevard County science research!
Science research is a keystone of modern society. Asking questions and discovering answers through applied research is what gives us the power to make creative, positive changes in our communities and ultimately our entire universe!
Evans Library has assembled information, resources, and instruction to help you write the parts of your research plan. Look at each tab for information about the specific parts of your plan.
United States Department of Agriculture. (2011). Yields of tomatoes within the high tunnel almost doubled from previous years where tomatoes were grown under normal field conditions.
Research Plan Basics
Your research plan is the proposal for your project, and defines all of the components of your project. You will revise your research plan over the course of your study to reflect any changes that you make, including adding your data analysis and discussion/conclusion once your research is complete. You will follow the guidlines to write your plan (form 1a of the ISEF packet), and each plan will be different.
Read brief descriptions of the title, statement of significance (part of the rationale), hypothesis, and procedures below:
This is a very brief summary of your project, often (but not always) stated as a research question. Include the dependent (aka responding) and independent (aka manipulated) variables in your experiment. Make it short and descriptive, and make sure to include the main concepts of your project. Here are some examples:
Statement of Significance
What is the value of your project? Could your research help bring about new understanding of a subject, explain its impacts on the environment or society, help develop new methods of doing something, foster learning, encourage experimentation? Think about the following examples when phrasing your statement of significance:
By determining the effects of ________ on ________, we come closer to helping ________. In the future this could lead to better ________.
This project is significant because it could help foster a better understanding of horticulture and farming. Determining the effects of fertilizer on tomato plants helps bring us closer to providing more successful farming techniques. In the future this could lead to higher yields of food products.
Hypothesis or Engineering Goal
What are your predictions, based on your rationale? You will most likely work on this with your science fair advisor.
These are the steps that you will take to test your hypothesis. What are the conditions of your experiment? Which factors will you change in order to get results? How will you collect data? How will you measure results? How is your control group set up?
Wikipedia. (2014). The plant physiologist Athanasios Theologis, with tomatoes genetically modified to contain the ACC synthase gene.
The Literature Review
The literature review gives you background information about your topic. You will search Google Scholar, library databases, and the Internet to not only understand the research problem, but also to know what research has already been done in your field. Having good background information helps you to make better hypotheses and experiment plans.
This page includes information about searching, the reprint file, the bibliography, and incorporating source material with in-text citations.
Google Scholar is an excellent starting point for your searches, and reading the articles that you find can provide keywords and other terms that you can add to your searches. Citations are very easy to create using Google Scholar's "cite" tool.
Libraries are excellent sources of high-quality, scholarly information. Below is information about some of our area libraries and their resources:
- Eastern Florida State College - Open to the public, the Eastern Florida State College (EFSC) Library allows Brevard County residents, aged 15-years and up (photo ID required), to obtain a library card.
- Brevard County Libraries - The local public library system directs its users to the Florida Electronic Library for access to several excelent full-text databases. Be sure to limit your search results to Academic journals to find the highest-quality scholarly results.
- Florida Institute of Technology's Evans Library - The Library's home page provides access to many scientific Internet sites, databases, a catalog of the Library's periodicals, books, and other materials, and research help. To arrange for group instruction, science research teachers may contact Rose Petralia. To use the library's databases, bring your ID to our Service Desk to get a guest pass.
Internet searching - The Internet contains tons of valuable information, but it also contains a lot of inaccurate and not-very-scholarly information. It is important that you evaluate the sources that you find on the Web, to make sure that it is authoritative and useful academically. Ask yourself who created the information - why should you trust these people's information? Why was the information published - to inform, to sell something, to change your thinking? When was the information published - is it still accurate, or do you need more current information? Below are a few guides to evaluating Internet resources:
- Checklist for Evaluating Internet Sites - from Evans Library
- Evaluating Scientific Information and Studies - from the Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania
- How to Evaluate Electronic Resources - from UC Berkeley
Google allows searching within specific domains - just add "site:.gov" or "site:.edu" (without the quotes) to your searches to limit results to government or higher education sites, eliminating lots of personal sites, blogs, and even parody sites.
Be sure to make copies of ALL the articles you read - entries from a book, websites, etc. - and keep them for your reprint file. More is usually better, but not if they are not related to your research question.
Anything that you copy for your reprint file will need to be included in your bibliography, so that you can acknowledge that you are using the work of others in accordance with copyright law. Record the bibliography information into your logbook on the day that you copied the information, and write the date on the back of the copies. This will help you when you are ready to type up the references that you actually used.
Read through your reprint file as you find the information and highlight the main ideas. After you have highlighted the information, place the copied pages in a plastic page protector and keep it in your REPRINT FILE notebook. You can fit two pages of copied material in one plastic sleeve (so that one shows through the front and the other on the back).
The literature review should include in-text citations for all of the journal articles, books, websites, and other sources that you included in your literature review (at least five), and each of the items that you cited in your literature review will need a corresponding citation in your bibliography. Each reference, or citation, will include all of the information required to find the resources that you have used in your paper. You will need to make sure that your format is correct according the the style manual that you are using. The OWL at Purdue has an excellent APA formatting resource online (you'll find MLA and Chicago styles there, too).
There are several ways to blend source materials into your literature review:
- Full quotations are exact words that you copy into your paper and put quotation marks around. In-text citations follow each. Be aware of the rules required by your citation style for longer quotations; some styles require indentation or other special formatting.
- Partial quotations are useful when only a portion or even one word from the source is needed to prove your point. These are also surrounded with quotation marks and include in-text citations.
- Paraphrasing is useful when the original source contains good information, but is poorly written or written in a style that makes it difficult to read or understand. Paraphrasing, or restating another person's writing in your own words, allows you to maintain the original ideas in the source material but incorporate them more smoothly into your own writing. Paraphrased content does not contain quotation marks, but it does require in-text citation.
- Summarizing source material lets you state the author's point, but with fewer words. Rather than restating all of the details in the support material, summaries keep only the most important ideas of the material. Summaries do not have quotation marks, but always include in-text citations.
Regardless of the ways you use the material, be sure to properly cite and give credit to the author’s work.
- A short interactive quiz about summarizing and paraphrasing - from McGraw-Hill Higher Education.
- Formatting APA style citations - from Evans Library
- Great information about paraphrasing - from the Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL).
- MLA style citation basics - from Evans Library
U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2013). Research microbiologist Rebecca Bell observes tomatoes suspended in a plastic bag of a liquid containing nutrients that make it an ideal environment for growing bacteria.
Risks & Safety
You will need to specify the risks, safety precautions, and safety equipment involved in your project. You will perform the risk assessment with your advisor.
Below are some sites that can help you determine the properties of substances and their safety requirements:
- Organic Syntheses. - a cooperative venture among chemists and other scientists, with full text available online free of charge.
- Aldrich Chemistry - provides a catalog of organic & inorganic chemicals that includes images, descriptions, and molecular formulas.
- Material Safety Data Sheets - Lists general, government, and manufacturer MSDS sites.
- Molport- Created to help the scientific community to speed up drug discovery, Molport lists 9 million chemical compounds with their chemical information, patents, and more.
- Wolfram Alpha - Find properties, information, and diagrams of chemical elements, compounds, reactions, and more in an easily searchable interface.
Stockert, D., Larson, J., and Noble, D. (2000). The data collected will be helpful to local garden growers in determining which tomato varieties should grow the best under southwestern North Dakota growing conditions.
Collecting and Analyzing Data
The Data Analysis section of your research plan includes the procedures that you will use to analyze the data that you collect.
Once your data collection is complete, you will analyze the results recorded in your Daily Log and decide whwhether your hypothesis is supported or rejected. Data visualizations (charts and graphs) will help clarify your analysis.
The Daily Log
Your logbook should be a careful, detailed, permanent record of the data that you collect. Choose a sturdy notebook - no pages should ever be torn out - and write in blue or black pen.
Divide your log into two sections:
- Daily Work - Everything that you do or want to do, beginning with your search for a topic through to your final analysis and conclusion.
- Data - All experimental data, including measurements, observations, and test results.
The log book should be legible, but always write in pen (no typing). Erasing or using white-out could be seen as the “fudging” of data. Always remember to write in third person. You are “the researcher” or “the scientist,” not I, me, we, my, etc. Do not write teacher names, either!
Once you have collected your data, what does it mean? Analyze your results mathematically, using mean, median, mode, range, percentages, etc. to find explanations of your results. Below are some tools that will analyze the data that you upload online:
- Simple Interactive Statistical Analysis (SISA) -- An online tool that you can use to perform statistical analysis instantly. Read an overview of each procedure (there are a lot!) here.
- VassarStats - An online analysis tool with great instructions included.
Charts, graphs, and other visuals can help others to understand your results. Below are some good data visualization tools and resources:
- Excel Charts - Step-by-step charts using Excel, from Microsoft Office.
- Many Eyes - A site that allows anyone to upload data, visualize it, and talk about discoveries with other people.
- Power View/Excel 2013 - Quickly create a variety of visualizations, including all kinds of charts, maps, and combinations.
- US Census Data Visualization Gallery - View a variety of data visualizations from the Census Bureau (lots of ideas here!).
NASA. (2002). Belgian Flight Engineer Frank DeWinne is pictured near a plant growth experiment in the Zvezda Service Module on the International Space Station
Writing the Conclusion
The conclusion explains what you learned from your research, how your data supports or does not support your hypothesis, whether your hypothesis was accepted (data supports your hypothesis) or rejected (data does not support your hypothesis), and the real world applications of your research.
Here is an example:
The data did support the research hypothesis and the research hypothesis was accepted. The tomato plants that received 30 grams of fertilizer produced the tomatoes with the highest mass with a mean of 30 kg. It is concluded that tomato plants given 30 grams of fertilizer will produce significantly more massive tomatoes when compared to plants that receive 0, 10, and 20 grams of fertilizer.
Jones, C. (2005). Unique, genetically diverse wild tomatoes such as this Lycopersicon chilense from Chile are now preserved at a California genebank.
Writing the Abstract
The abstract is a one-page summary of your project which should include:
- 1-3 sentences that explain your significance and background
- Your hypothesis
- 1-3 sentences that explain your procedure. Write in past tense.
- Your results written out. MEANS ONLY. Statistical interpretations.
- Your entire conclusion (as long as it is not too long)
All of this should be no more than 250 words.
Here is an example:
This project is significant because it could help foster a better understanding of horticulture and farming. By determining the effects of fertilizer on tomato plants we come closer to helping provide more successful farming techniques. In the future this could lead to better production of food products.
In this project, 40 tomato plants were put into 4 groups. 10 plants were placed in each group. One group received 10 grams of fertilizer to each plant, another group received 20 grams each, and 30 grams were given to a final group. Also a control group of 10 tomato plants were given no fertilizer.
The data did support the research hypothesis and the research hypothesis was accepted. The tomato plants that received 30 grams of fertilizer produced the tomatoes with the highest mass with a mean of 30 kg. It is concluded that tomato plants will produce significantly more massive tomatoes when given 30 grams of fertilizer as compared to those that receive 0, 10, and 20 grams of fertilizer.
Library of Congress. (2011). Poster for the U.S. Department of Agriculture promoting victory gardens, showing carrots, lettuce, corn, tomatoes, and potatoes growing.
Presenting Your Research
The oral presentation to the judges is the most important factor in determining your place award or your monetary and/or prize award. The judges are experts in their fields, so you cannot fool them! You must know your project and background very well!
Here are some guidelines to follow:
- Relax, smile, and be confident! Knowledge and practice will give you this. Speak with an appropriate volume.
- Dress appropriately. Professional, business-like attire: girls in dresses or dressy pants or pant-suits; boys in dress slacks, shirt and tie, and if possible a suit jacket.
- Be respectful of the judges, peers at the fair, fair/mall visitors, and teachers from other schools.
- Watch your body language. Make sure it says that you are confident and in control. Look people in the eye when you speak to them.
- Pause, breathe deeply and collect your thoughts if you lose your place or cannot answer a question immediately. Ask to think for a minute! This is completely acceptable and much better than providing a false answer to an expert. If you absolutely cannot think of an answer, say, “That’s something I will have to research the answer to!” and “That’s an idea that would’ve helped me understand…Thank you.” Etc.
- Make eye contact with the person you are speaking to and use your board to keep your place and show data, patterns, and trends. Point to things on your graphs or pictures to help explain.
The Fair Way was developed in partnership with Brevard County science educators.
This content is offered under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license. Please feel free to use the information in this guide in your own courses, and provide attribution to Evans Library at Florida Tech.