Documenting the Experiment
Documenting your project is accomplished in two ways:
- Project Data Book / Logbook
Complete, original record of your work, kept in a permanently bound book.
- Project Notebook
Final version of your work, including forms, data tables, and research paper.
These two documents serve different purposes and you must have both.
Project Data Book / Logbook
Your logbook is a "diary" of your experiment. Do not try to make your logbook "pretty". This is your raw data and your original ideas and thoughts. A real scientist never erases or uses correction fluid. Some day you may want to go back and see how the mistake you made led you to a new exciting conclusion. Later, when your write your paper, you can fix your English, make it clear to others, and get it ready for presentation.
Your logbook should start on the first day you begin brainstorming about your project. Each time that you work on your project should be listed in your logbook as a separate entry. Each entry should begin with basic information important to your project, such as:
- Barometric Pressure
- Adults present (to ensure that you can prove you were properly supervised)
After making the basic entry, describe your activities. Keep accurate records of your results in well labeled tables and charts. Be as specific as possible and take as many readings/measurements as you can throughout the experiment. Include graphs of your data. Make the graphs by hand just to get an impression of the best way to present your data. You can enter the data in the computer and make computer generated graphs later. Your logbook should be very detailed so that anyone who attempts to duplicate your research will end up with the same conclusive results that you did.
Your Project notebook should have two sections:
Project Forms and paperwork.
- All Intel International Science and Engineering Fair forms and supporting documentation should be in this section.
- All projects will have at least a Form 1, Form 1A, Research Plan Attachment, and Form 1B.
- Human subjects projects should include an original Informed Consent (Form 4) for each subject.
- Some projects will require additional forms, letters, or other documentation.
The information below is taken from the ISEF Student Handbook. A research paper should be prepared and available along with the project data book and any necessary forms or relevant written materials. A research paper helps organize data as well as thoughts. A good paper includes the following sections:
Title Page and Table of Contents
The title page and table of contents allows a reader to follow the organization of the paper quickly.
The introduction sets the scene for your report. The introduction includes your hypothesis, problem or engineering goals, an explanation of what prompted your research, and what you hoped to achieve.
Materials & Methods
Describe in detail the methodology you used to collect data, make observations, design apparatus, etc. Your report should be detailed enough so that someone would be able to repeat the experiment from the information in your paper. Include detailed photographs or drawings of self-designed equipment. Only include this year's work.
Results / Data
Use formal data tables, graphs, and other clear and precise methods of presented your data. The results and conclusions should flow smoothly and logically from your data. Be thorough.
This is the essence of your paper. Compare your results with theoretical values, published data, commonly held beliefs, and/or expected results. Include a discussion of possible errors. How did the data vary between repeated observations of similar events? How were your results affected by uncontrolled events? What would you do differently if you repeated this project? What other experiments should be conducted?
Briefly summarize your results. Be specific, do not generalize. Never introduce anything in the conclusion that has not already been discussed.
You should always credit those who assisted you, including individuals, businesses, and educational or research institutions.
References / Bibliography
Your reference list should include every book, journal, website, interview, or source you used for your project.