The first step to creating a successful science project display is to read the rules concerning the size and types of materials allowed. Unless you are required to present your project on a single board, I recommend a tri-fold cardboard or heavy poster board display. This is a central piece of cardboard/posterboard with two fold-out wings. The folding aspect not only helps the display support itself, but it is also great protection for the interior of the board during transport. Avoid wooden displays or flimsy poster board. Make sure the display will fit inside any vehicle that is required for transportation.
Organization and Neatness
Organize your poster using the same sections as are listed in the report. Print each section using a computer, preferably with a laser printer, so that bad weather won't cause the ink to run. Put a title for each section at its top, in letters large enough to be seen from several feet away (very large font size). The focal point of your display should be your purpose and hypothesis. It's great to include photos and bring your project with you if it is allowed and space permits. Try to arrange your presentation in a logical manner on the board. Feel free to use color to make your presentation stand out. In addition to recommending laser printing, my personal preference is to use a sans serif font because such fonts tend to be easier to read from a distance. As with the report, check spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
For a science fair, you probably want a catchy, clever title. Otherwise, try to make it an accurate description of the project. For example, I could entitle a project, 'Determining Minimum NaCl Concentration that can be Tasted in Water'. Avoid unnecessary words, while covering the essential purpose of the project. Whatever title you come up with, get it critiqued by friends, family, or teachers. If you are using a tri-fold board, the title usually is placed at the top of the middle board.
If at all possible, include color photographs of your project, samples from the project, tables, and graphs. Photos and objects are visually appealing and interesting.
- Introduction and Purpose
Sometimes this section is called 'Background'. Whatever its name, this section introduces the topic of the project, notes any information already available, explains why you are interested in the project, and states the purpose of the project.
- The Hypothesis or Question
Explicitly state your hypothesis or question.
- Materials and Methods
List the materials you used in your project and describe the procedure that you used to perform the project. If you have a photo or diagram of your project, this is a good place to include it.
- Data and Results
Data and Results are not the same thing. Data refers to the actual numbers or other information you obtained in your project. If you can, present the data in a table or graph. The Results section is where the data is manipulated or the hypothesis is tested. Sometimes this analysis will yield tables, graphs, or charts, too. More commonly, the Results section will explain the significance of the data or will involve a statistical test.
The Conclusion focuses on the Hypothesis or Question as it compares to the Data and Results. What was the answer to the question? Was the hypothesis supported (keep in mind a hypothesis cannot be proved, only disproved)? What did you find out from the experiment? Answer these questions first. Then, depending on your answers, you may wish to explain ways in which the project might be improved or introduce new questions that have come up as a result of the project. This section is judged not only by what you were able to conclude but also by your recognition of areas where you could not draw valid conclusions based on your data.
You may need to cite references or provide a bibliography for your project. In some cases, this is pasted onto the poster. Other science fairs prefer that you simply print it out and have it available, placed below or beside the poster.
Most of the time, you will need to accompany your presentation, explain your project, and answer questions. Sometimes the presentations have time limits. Practice what you are going to say, out loud, to a person or at least a mirror. If you can give your presentation to a person, practice having a question and answer session. On the day of the presentation, dress neatly, be polite, and smile! Congratulations on a successful science project!