Got an idea? Great, now it's time to pick a science fair topic - a particular branch of science applicable to your idea that you are going to focus on.
When choosing a science fair topic, it’s a good idea to keep it simple. It would be easy to let the complexity of a science project spiral out of control. It’s usually best to select some aspect of an observable phenomenon and do a project on just the most interesting part of whatever subject you choose.
Let’s say you’re interested in stars. A star can be the subject of many science fair topics – the study of stars touches on the subjects of Astronomy, Chemistry, Physics, and Mathematics to name just a few. You might decide to focus on how stars make so much light. It is far easier to excel on a small focused topic then it is to go too broad.
A great way to narrow your scope is to pick a particular branch of science you would like to pursue when doing your project. Here is a list of the major disciplines to give you an idea of what is available:
Physics: essentially, this is the study of the physical universe and the forces within it. There are many sub-branches from physics, including: Astronomy, Dynamics, Mechanics and Optics.
Chemistry: the study of matter and its transformations. An example is when wood is burned in a stove or a fireplace – the wood undergoes a chemical process that converts the energy in the wood to the heat and light we recognize as fire. Sub-disciplines of chemistry include: Biochemistry and Materials Science.
Earth Sciences: the scientific domain encompassing earth and all its processes. Geology, Meteorology, Oceanography and Seismology all stem from this discipline.
Biology: the study of life; the behavior of living things and how living things come into existence. Anatomy, Botany, Ecology, Entomology, Genetics, Neuroscience and Zoology all stem from the study of Biology.
Anatomy: deals with the structure and organization of living things.
Botany: the study of plant life.
Entomology: insect studies – don’t pass this one just because it sounds gross! Insects are very important to many kinds of plants and even to humans and other animals.
Evolution: the process of passing novel traits from one generation to the next in living things.
Genetics: the study of genes, heredity, and the variety we see in organisms.
Marine Biology: deals with plants and animals in the oceans, lakes, and other bodies of water.
Mathematics: the study of number and systematic ways to understand and model the world around us.
These are some the most popular disciplines experimenters focus on when choosing science fair topics. If you would like more options when picking a science fair topic you may want to check out this page on Wikipedia.
Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t be. Even the smartest scientists in the world don’t know all this stuff. Really! Remember when you spent some time to figure out what it is that you liked - a hobby or interest? If not, we encourage you to go back and discover what it is that interests you most and then return when you feel ready.
Figured out what you want to know more about? Got something that makes you curious and interested? Good! Now glance through the list of scientific disciplines listed above and their descriptions and try to match your interest with one of the scientific disciplines.
Sound hard? Let’s try an example: Max, who lives in Hawaii, is pretty interested in volcanoes – can you think of one of the disciplines that would fit that interest? Physics might work, but that seems too general. How about Earth Sciences? Now we are getting close: perhaps Geology would be the best bet here, since Geology deals with the processes of Earth and volcanoes are very active processes indeed! Max has found his science fair topic.
Now try it with your own interest – if you get stuck, don’t despair: your teacher, parent, or friend can probably help you find what particular branch of science applies to your chosen topic.
Why is choosing a particular science important? Because we are trying tohome in on a specific science fair topic for your project! By choosing a particular branch of science we are narrowing the scope of your project so you can focus on the important stuff that is of most interest to you. By being specific we are also making sure that your project will be manageable in scope: if your project is too broad (encompasses too much material), it will be very hard or impossible to finish on time.
Ok, figured out what branch of science you want to focus on? Great – now we can choose the science fair topic for your project. At this point, you need to make a decision: what specific aspect of your interest or hobby do you want to do your project on? If we take Max and his volcano as an example, it can be seen that there are a number of possible science fair topics he can choose: eruptions, earthquakes, volcanic formation, volcanic life cycles, lava movement, the list goes on and on!
You need to figure out what aspect of your interest or hobby you want to make your science fair topic in order to move on to the next step.