Scientific Investigations - Secondary Students
This category for secondary students encourages students to develop their skills in the following scientific processes:
- Problem Solving
- Questioning and predicting
- Planning investigations
- Conducting investigations
- Processing and analysing data and information
Students are encouraged to submit projects that provide evidence of a well-planned scientific investigation. This includes projects where students generated their own data, and projects where students undertook a novel analysis of existing data.
Projects may be in one of the disciplines of:
- Earth and Environmental Science
Students' projects must include a written report of their investigation as well as a logbook. While there is no required format for the report, it is recommended that it include coverage of the following processes:
Good Scientific Reports are broken up into five categories, as below.
- Introduction - The story behind your idea and the reason for doing your particular investigation.
- Aim(s) - One or a few sentences that clearly state what you are trying to find out.
Questioning and Predicting
- Background Research - Before starting your project it is important to find out what other research has been done on your topic. Collect relevant information from libraries and the internet. Talk with others and find out their thoughts on your topic.
- Hypothesis – Based on what you already know and the information gathered from your background research, formulate your hypothesis. Your hypothesis is your predicted ‘guess’ and it must be able to be suitably tested.
- Risk Assessment - Identify and list the risks associated with your investigation. State how you intend to minimise each risk. Consult your school’s ethics committee if your research involves animals, humans or hazardous chemicals.
- Experimental Variables - Plan how to conduct a fair test - where one variable (independent variable) is changed while all other variables are kept the same.
- Method – A step-by-step procedure showing how your experiment was performed. Include the materials and equipment used and perform a sufficient number of replicate trials to ensure the validity of data.
Processing and Analysing Data
- Results – Organise your data into tables and/or graphs so your findings are clearly displayed. To demonstrate something has physically changed, include before and after photos, if relevant.
- Data Analysis – Identify trends, patterns and relationships in your data. Perform simple or complex statistical analyses of results.
- Discussion – Comment on your results, highlighting new findings or sources of error.
- Conclusion – Include a short statement indicating whether your results do or do not support your hypothesis.
- Further Research – Based on your findings, what is your next step? Are there further applications to your research?
The logbook is an important and integral part of carrying out a scientific investigation. Just like working scientists must keep accurate lab books, the logbook is a diary of what has been done during the investigation and should document all stages of the project with regular dated entries. Judges use the logbook to understand what students were thinking, what they were trying to achieve and how they went about it.
A log book can be hand-written in an exercise book or lab book or digital (eg using a google doc) but must be converted to PDF for submission. The file should be edited to remove any identifying features including the name of students, schools, teachers, and mentors.
Students should make a dated entry every time they work on their project, and include brief progress notes and all raw data. Other things that could be included in the log book include:
- Plans, ideas, and to-do lists
- Notes on conversations with teachers or mentors (names removed)
- Diagrams of research methods
- Drawings, illustrations, and photographs of work in progress
- Raw data (or links to where this data is saved) and details of the analysis
- Details of any phone calls, letters, or emails sent to experts
- Risk assessments and any relevant ethics correspondence
Remember the best projects have the best logbooks – it is not an after-thought.
For more information on how projects are judged, see the judging rubrics.