As we learn about the different parts of a science board, we’re going to refer to the following experiment:
Project summary: A group of plants of the exact same height is divided into five groups. Each of four groups is given a different type of fertilizer. The fifth group is given only water. At the end of one month, plants are measured.
Purpose (Problem) - The purpose is what your project hopes to find out or prove. It’s the ‘big question’. What is your goal? What are you trying to test? That’s your purpose, sometimes stated as a problem. The purpose of our science project is to find out, “What type of fertilizer produces the most plant growth?”
Hypothesis - An hypothesis is simply an educated guess about what will happen in your experiment. To form your hypothesis, take all the information you know about your science project question, and use it to predict what you think will happen. It doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong; that’s what the experiment will tell you! In our experiment, the hypothesis will be, “I think that …. will make plants grow the highest.” Use what you know about fertilizer, advertisements, comments from a gardener you know, or personal experience to formulate your hypothesis.
Materials – This is a detailed list of exactly what you used (or plan to use) in your experiment:
- Four types of liquid houseplant fertilizer -Peters Professional® All Purpose Plant Food, Spectrum® Colorburst Plant Food, Osmocote® Indoor Outdoor Plant Food, and Miracle-Gro® All Purpose Plant Food
- 20 identical terra cotta pots filled with potting soil
- 20 bush bean plants of identical height
Procedure – A step by step description of how to do your experiment. Another person should be able to do your experiment again, just by following your procedure.
Graph – The words chart and graph are used interchangeably. We use the word “graph” for a numbers placed on a grid (or spreadsheet) like the
one at the right. And a chart…
Chart – A chart arranges the information (data) from your experiment visually, so you can see it. Look at the charts to the right. The first gives all the heights of the plants on the last day. The second gives the average height.
Abstract – Some science fairs require an abstract, which is a brief but complete summary of your project. It probably should not be more than 250 words. This doesn’t go on your board, but is in a folder as part of the total display.
Data – Data means information. It’s plural, so the absolute correct usage would be “The data show us that…” (Actually, one piece of data is datum, which you really don’t need to know unless you’re taking Latin or have an extremely pedantic teacher.) Your data will most often be in numbers, although if you were a zoologist, your data might be observations about the feeding habits of anteaters. The measurements of the plant height (the numbers in the graph) give the data for our experiment.
Analysis – When you explain your data and observations, you are giving an analysis. What have you learned? Why did you get the results you did? What did the experiment prove? And, most important, was your hypothesis correct? The analysis for the fertilizer experiment would begin “We discovered that the Miracle Gro produced the most plant growth. While water produced the least growth overall, it is worth noting that two of the plants died after having been added Peters fertilizer. Our hypothesis was disproved, as we thought the Peters fertilizer would produce the tallest plants.
Conclusion – Answer your problem/purpose statement. What does it all add up to? What did you learn from your project?
Application - What questions come up as a result of your experiment? What else would you like to know? If you did this project again, what would you change? How can this project help in real life? While we discovered which plants grew tallest, we didn’t test which plants had the most flowers, and would give the most fruit. This would be what we would like to see answered in our next experiment. We have learned, however, that it is important to use a fertilizer, and we have learned some of the best brands.