Class time: 1-2 class periods.

Purpose: To help students discover a research question that interests them and walk them through developing a testable hypothesis using Science News as a resource for generating ideas.

Notes to the teacher: You can go into as much or as little detail as you have time for.

You may want to open your discussion by having your students explore these videos and blogs created by Science News for Students on developing and testing a research question: DIY Science: Snot Science, Cookie Science: A bit about butter and Cookie Science 2: Baking a testable hypothesis.

Then, using the student guide, and issues of Science News or the digital Science News archive, help students work through the early stages of their research ideas:

  • Read articles from different issues of Science News to identify problems and generate potential research ideas
  • Develop questions from potential research ideas
  • Select the best question from among their ideas
  • Formulate a clear scientific hypothesis or engineering goal

For those students who need more inspiration or more examples, you can illustrate how research reported in the latest Science News might lead to ideas for new student-driven research. Here are examples:

Beyond the student guide, to further help students develop and perform an experiment, think about having them do the following:

  • Conduct background research to assess the originality and feasibility of that potential project, and to learn more about suitable methods
  • Propose experimental and/or theoretical methods of evaluating their scientific hypothesis or meeting their engineering goal
  • Think about the types and quantity of data they would need to collect, and how they would analyze it
  • Keep a detailed laboratory notebook from the beginning of the project to the end
  • Discuss what they would hope to achieve or accomplish by doing the project
  • Research relevant science fair regulations, paperwork or other requirements or restrictions relevant to their proposed project

Students should begin this process with multiple ideas, and educators can take them through the early stages for these ideas in parallel to narrow down to the best single experimental design. Or students can iterate: If they discover that their first idea was not sufficiently feasible or original, they can repeat the process with a better idea using what they have learned.