How to Get Started

Science Fair Projects come in all shapes and sizes, covering topics from ecology to computer science. In order to help you in getting started with your own project the following sections have been organized to give you a step by step guide on how to plan your work and how to present it.

Full Guide to Completing Your Science Fair Project >


An investigation undertaken to test a specific hypothesis using experiments. Experimental variables, if identified, are controlled to some extent.


A collection and analysis of data to reveal evidence of a fact, situation of scientific interest. It could include a study of cause and effect relationships or theoretical investigations of scientific data.

Innovation / Invention

The development and evaluation of innovative devices, models, techniques or approaches in technology, engineering, or computers (hardware or software). 
The project that you choose will fall into one of a number of scientific categories and may be an experiment, study or invention/innovation. The following section describes these elements in more detail.

When your project is complete, it will be entered into a Science Fair where it will be grouped along with other students in the same scientific area of the same age. The groupings are: Junior Grades 7 and 8; Intermediate Grades 9 and 10; Senior Grades 11 and 12

Other important considerations covered below are the Safety of your project and whether you generate any new Intellectual Property that might be patented.


Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Sciences

A Biotechnology project is the application of biological systems to solve a problem, create a product or provide a service. Biotechnology projects will fall into one of three subject fields: crop development, animal science and microbials. Pharmaceutical sciences projects study the interaction of chemical substances with living systems. Substances with medicinal properties – the potential to cure or reduce symptoms of an illness or medical condition – are considered pharmaceuticals. Projects could include studies on drug composition and properties, interactions, toxicology, therapy, medicinal applications and antipathogenic capabilities.

Computing and Informational Sciences

Computing and information technology projects concentrate primarily on the development of computing hardware, software or applications, including programming languages and algorithms, software design and databases as well as the storage, transmission and manipulation of information.

Projects using computers to store and analyze data are normally entered in the division suggested by the focus of the experiment or study. However, if the project’s focus is primarily on the application of computing to the problem and the data are of secondary significance, the project should be entered in this division.

Earth & Environmental Sciences

Earth and environmental sciences projects focus on topics relating to planetary processes, the relationship of organisms to those processes, or the relationships between or among organisms.

Projects in this division can include issues in any of the following scientific disciplines: geology, mineralogy, physiography, oceanography, limnology, climatology, seismology, geography, and ecology. Earth and environmental sciences includes the study of pollution, its sources and its control. It can also involve studies of biotic and/or abiotic factors in an environment, where such studies enhance our understanding of biological relationships and abiotic cycles.

Studies dealing with resource management or sustainable development usually fall into this category. Examples of such studies might include capture/recapture studies estimating population densities, determining bioproductivity in a specific ecosystem or niche, plate tectonics studies or examinations of mineral cycles (e.g., salt mills in the oceans).

Engineering Sciences

An engineering project applies physical knowledge to solve a problem or achieve a purpose. A complete engineering project will include an outline of the need, the development of the innovation and some work on introducing the innovation to the community; however, many engineering projects focus on just the development phase.

Engineering projects normally focus on a new process, or a new product. A study of Bernoulli’s principle would be Physical Science, while the application of such a principle to improved aerodynamics and wing design would be engineering.

Health Sciences

A health sciences project examines some biomedical and/or clinical aspect of human life or lifestyle and its translation into improved health for humans, or more effective health services and products. Projects related to the health of specific populations, societal and cultural dimensions of health, and environmental influences on health are also included in this division.

Health sciences projects include those related to human aging, genetics, cancer research, musculoskeletal health, arthritis, circulatory and respiratory health, nutrition, neurosciences, mental health, psychology, metabolism, human development, infection and immunology.

Projects involving animal research that have a direct application to humans are included in this division.

Life Sciences

A life science project examines some aspect of the life or lifestyle of a non-human organism.

Life science projects include botany and zoology, as well as psychology and kinesiology of non-human organisms. Examining plant growth or animal behaviour are examples of life science. Some phenomena, such as digestion, involve both life science and physical science. The selection of division will spend on whether the young scientist’s intent was to study the chemistry of the process, or the role of the process in the life of the animal (eating, production of enzymes, handling of wastes, etc.)

Physical & Mathematical Sciences

A physical and mathematical sciences project studies abiotic phenomenon to understand the relation between identified factors, perhaps including a cause and effect relationship, or the use of mathematical models or mathematics to solve theoretical problems.

Physical science projects include fields such as physics, and chemistry and astronomy. Comparison testing of products is included in this division.

Mathematical science projects seek to demonstrate applications of mathematics (i.e. the search for a mathematical model) or to solve a theoretical problem. For example, in attempting to predict the shape of cacti, the use of mathematics would be central to the project. The problem provides a context for the exploration of pattern and the search for a mathematical model. Some areas of investigation in this category include algorithms, operational research (applications of mathematical and computing science to solve planning or operational problems), and statistics.
The following pointers are designed to take you through the process of carrying out your project in a well thought out and systematic manner.

Research your Topic

Read books from the library; observe related events; gather existing information; look for unexplained or unexpected results. Talk to professionals; write to companies; and obtain or construct needed equipment.

Organize and Theorize

Organize your research. Narrow down your hypothesis by focusing on a particular idea.

Make a Timetable

Choose a topic that can be done in the amount of time you have. Identify important dates. Allow plenty of time to experiment and collect data. Leave time to write a paper and put together an exhibit.

Plan your Experiment, Study or Innovation

Write a research plan to explain how you will do your experiment.

Consult your Teacher/Supervisor

Discuss your work with an adult supervisor on an ongoing basis.

Conduct Your Experiments, Study or Innovation

Keep detailed notes of every experiment, measurement, and observation. Change only one variable at a time when experimenting. Include control experiments in which none of the variables are changed. Include sufficient numbers of test subjects in both control and experimental groups.

Examine Your Results

When you complete your experiments, examine and organize your findings. Did your experiment give you the expected results? Was your experiment performed with the exact same steps each time? Are there other causes that you had not considered or observed? Were there errors in your observations? If possible, analyze your data statistically.

Draw Conclusions

Which variables are important? Did you collect enough data? Do you need to conduct more experimentation? 
A critical part of any scientific project is to record your results and conclusions properly. This section outlines the important steps for you and your project.

Abstract :

An abstract is written once your research and experimentation are complete. It should include a statement of the problem/purpose of the experiment, the procedures used, your data and your conclusions. For the Canada-Wide Science Fair, your abstract must not exceed five double-spaced typewritten pages. Check locally for requirements of your regional fair. Abstracts are distributed to the judges to familiarize them with the project. The abstract is evaluated as part of the project. Project Data Book: A project data book should contain accurate and detailed notes to demonstrate consistency and thoroughness to the judges and to assist you with your research paper.

Research Paper :

A research paper includes the following:
  • Title Page: Centre the project title and put your name, address, school and grade at the bottom right.
  • Table of Contents: Include a page number for the beginning of each section.
  • Introduction: Includes your hypothesis, an explanation of what prompted your research and what you hoped to achieve.
  • The Experiment: Describe in detail the methodology used to collect your data or make your observations. Include enough information for someone to repeat the experiment. Include detailed photographs or drawings.
  • Discussion: Thoroughly discuss exactly what you did in your project. Your results should be compared with theoretical values, published data, commonly held beliefs and/or expected results. A discussion of possible errors should be included as well as how the data varied between repeated observations, how your results were affected by uncontrolled events, what you would do differently if you repeated the project, and what other experiments should be conducted.
  • Conclusion: A summary of your results.
  • Acknowledgements: Credit individuals, businesses and educational or research institutions which assisted you. Identify financial support or in-kind donations.
  • References: List any documentation that is not your own (ie books, journals articles).

The Science Fair Mentorship Program

Attention Future Science Fair Participants! Are you hoping to present a project at a 2017 Regional Science Fair? Do you have some ideas but need help finding equipment, special materials, or an expert to answer your questions? Then the Science Fair Mentorship Program may be for you! The 2016/2017 program is open to all students in BC.
The Science Fair Mentorship Program is a program of the Science Fair Foundation of BC that aims to provide students in grades 7-12 with the resources they need to investigate scientific questions of interest to them. It matches most successful student applicants with two mentors. First, a former Canada-Wide Science Fair participant with post-secondary science experience will provide support as you develop your project and prepare it for judging. Depending on your level of project development, you may also be matched with a university or industry expert in your field of interest. This individual will answer your science and technology- related questions and may also assist by providing technical advice or access to journal articles and laboratory equipment.  
All interested students should complete and submit the online application form. The signature page should then be scanned and emailed to Note that the applications will be reviewed on a continuous basis – i.e. you can submit an application at any time. We hope that this will help accommodate schools with different start times for their project work. We will do our best to contact you as quickly as possible.
While you do not have to formulate a specific hypothesis in order to complete the application, you should have a general idea of the question that your project will address. We will not match students with labs if they do not yet have a well-defined question and procedure, and we encourage students to make use of the resources already available to them whenever possible. Please keep in mind that your mentors will not tell you what to study or what experiments to do – you must plan these yourself! However, if you know that you will need a specific type of assistance (e.g. access to a sterile biosafety cabinet), be sure to include this on the application form.
Registered students and their parents and mentors will be invited to a networking dinner designed to encourage connections among academic/industry researchers and students working on science fair projects. Watch out for details to come. 
Questions? Suggestions? Please contact us at 

Ethics & Safety

Students working  on science fair projects need to adhere to strict ethics and safety requirements particularly when dealing with human or animal subjects, hazardous and regulated materials. If the project involves these subjects or materials review the sample Ethics and Safety Requirement Checklist and the Ethics Guidelines Flow Chart.  
Protection of Intellectual Property
Students are encouraged to recognize that their innovation and invention has value and can be owned and registered. The patent process is a mechanism that is used to declare ownership. This ownership can then be a benefit to all and can facilitate technology transfer
SCIENCE CELEBRATION: A Classroom-based Science Fair
This material is a 2007 revision of the Science Celebration: A Resource Book For A Non-Competitive Approach To Science Fair Project Work written by Len Reimer in 1994. The information is available to all who wish to inspire students but the original wording is copyrighted by Len Reimer [ISBN: 0-9696623-0-0].
Quest for Science Fair Champions Program
The Quest for Science Fair Champions Program is an initiative of the Science Fair Foundation of BC (SFF BC) that contributes to the excellence of teaching and learning. This is in response to the need to recruit teacher champions and provide training tools to enable educators to incorporate science fair activities into the classroom.

Smarter Science is the training tool developed by Youth Science Canada (YSC). It is a Canadian framework for teaching and learning science process skills and for developing the skills of inquiry, creativity, and innovation in a meaningful manner for students from Grade K-12. SFF BC is collaborating with YSC on the presentation of the Smarter Science program in BC. For more information, contact

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Additional Resources
Teacher Resources from Genome BC Education
Teacher Workshops, Hands-On workshops, Classroom Activites, Travelling Exhibits and more! Find out more from Genome British Columbia Learning Centre.

CIHR Synapse Pocket Guides: A guide for Researchers Acting as Mentors
Download this handy pocket-guide from CIHR that provides tips, advice and guidance for anyone choosing to be a mentor for a Science Fair Student.

BC's New Curriculum

BC Science Inquiry Framework

This framework seeks to blend inquiry resources for the benfit of BC Students and Teachers: the "competencies" for Science Education as described in the Draft BC Curriculum as well as the "framework" for Inquiry as defined by Smarter Science.

Google Make Better Generator
A seach tool to help you come up with a prject you'll love working on.