Getting Project Ideas & Writing Testable Questions and Hypothesis
Forming Testable Questions: What is aTESTABLE QUESTION (one that can be answered through experimentation or an engineering approach that will solve a problem). Here is a brief tutorial. a)Testable questions usually have this format: How does ________________ affect ____________? b) So let's try it out. Which brand of shoe makes you run faster Nike or New Balance? You need to identify the Independent Variable - IV (what is being changed on purpose?) and the Dependent Variable - DV (what is being measured?). In this case the IV is the brand of shoe and the DV is how fast you run. c) Plug the IV and DV into the blanks: How does the independent variable affect the dependent variable? "How does the brand of shoe affect how fast you run"? d) Let's try another - Does carbon dioxide in the atmosphere cause the atmosphere to warm? IV is Carbon dioxide, DV is atmospheric temperature... Testable Question is How does the amount of carbon dioxide affect atmospheric temperatures?
Forming the Hypothesis: A hypothesis is a testable answer - A suggested answer to a testable question. It states how the independent variable affects the dependent variable. So the hypothesis for How does the brand of shoe affect how fast you run? would be: "If Nike and New Balance shoes are worn by runners then Nike shoes will make people run faster".
The next step- would be to set up a testing procedure to see if your hypothesis is supported by the data you obtain or not.
Expanding upon another person's idea - Look below for some solid suggestions:
This is what scientists do all of the time...they collaborate to move science forward so we can have better medicines, diagnostics etc...
Below this example of expanding on another person's idea you'll find some links to projects done by others - All have been WINNERS!
- Let's say you see a project idea from one of the internet sites where a student previously investigated getting oil from a cactus plant and determining if it could be turned into a green alternative and useable fuel. Then what?
- You change it up a bit by thinking of a different test subject or a different way to do what others have done. In this example we thought of a different, maybe more abundant plant, such as an invasive weed, (choose one that is NOT poisonous) from which you could extract oil and investigate its use as a green alternative and useable fuel. We chose to use the same method as the student.
- You turn it into a testable question such as Is dandelion leaf oil functional as a green alternative and useable fuel?
- Next do an internet search using the question to see if you can find the exact answer to the question. We often tell students to just “Google it”. If you CAN’T find the exact answer…GREAT you have a unique opportunity for research. If you can find the answer then continue thinking of how this idea can be changed and then go through the process again. By the way we googled it and did NOTget any hits at all - so it IS unique and has not been done.
Links to other successful project ideas...These are NOT to be repeated!!! They are to give you some ideas... Take a look as some of the ACSEF 2014 student abstracts for some ideas.
- This site has abstracts from winning projects from all over the state of California. - Pick a more recent year and then click on "Projects organized by category". Browse through the categories open it and then look through the project titles that are "hot linked" they will have an abstract you can read to learn what this student did and learned. Hopefully it may spark some idea for a new investigation. Whatever idea you come up with - be sure to turn it into a testable question and Google it to be sure it is unique. open the link and scroll to "Projects organized by category" California State Science Fair
- Many years of science project summaries including entire write ups by students. Pick an award level, grade level and category to browse. Once the project abstract comes up, click "view project". These write ups by the students also give you a good example to follow for your own write up. Whatever idea you come up with - be sure to turn it into a testable question and Google it to be sure it is unique. Canada virtual Science Fair
- This site takes you to the topic selection wizard at the Science Buddies site.
Browse around - be sure to select the difficulty level of advanced. When the ideas come up - click to open each - look at the menu bar on top to view the components of the project. Pay most attention to "make it your own". Look the suggestions over and think of additional ways to change the project then google the idea you come up with. WARNING - students all over the world are looking at these projects...so use them as a jumping off point to build your own unique idea. Science Buddies Browse topics or use the Topic Selection Wizard
- This site is geared more toward middle school: Numerous project ideas by category that can be modified to become unique and new. Click on a topic. When the projects come up look at the menu bar above and sort by difficulty - and then BROWSE looking for ideas that are middle school or higher & remember to try to give each a new twist - turn into a testable question and google it. Science Fair Projects
- You can browse through some of the 2014 ACSEF student abstracts at this link
- Geard toward High school but suitable for middle school students that want to think of more challenging project ideas to expand upon. These are the best of the best project abstracts from science fair winners from all over the globe! Whatever idea changes you come up with - be sure to turn it into a testable question and Google it to be sure it is unique. Intel ISEF project Abstracts (2003-present)