Common mistakes

A little advice so you don't make them.

The judges have identified the most common weaknesses in projects at the initial entry stage. These weaknesses could result in the project not qualifying for inclusion in the exhibition in January.

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Lack of originality
The specific question raised in a project must be one that has not been posed and recorded by any previous scientist. However, this is not to say that twenty projects on the topic of, for example, radon gas or water pollution, could not be original, if they will all deal in different ways with different aspects of the topics.

Lack of original primary research
Some studies are little more than a description of what is already known about the topic. Researching the existing body of knowledge is only the first stage of any scientific study.

Unsuitability of topic
A topic must be able to be scientifically proven or disproved by research methods available to second level students. A project on whether or not Jupiter is inhabited by living creatures is really not a suitable topic.

Lack of scientific content
Often proposals are submitted that are not scientific projects, but literature reviews. These proposals are information collection exercises and not scientific studies.

Vagueness/unfocused objectives
A study which aims to find out all about the ozone layer is not a realistic scientific study as no-one could be expected to find this out in the given time. Scientific research requires you to be very specific about what you wish to find out and setting measurable objectives is the only way to present scientific investigation. For example a project that looks at the effects on wildlife in a particular area as a result of disturbance created by industrial activity would have to focus on a very specific issue, as this topic is so broad. Much thought should be given to which category best suits your project.

Unreliable experimental methods
Frequently, projects state a particular method for data collection, which simply cannot collect the data required. Suppose the aim of the project was to find out which washing powder was most effective, then certain chemical experiments should be undertaken. However, all too often students say that they will distribute questionnaires to gather this information, but what in fact they are collecting are attitudes and opinions about the most effective washing powder.

Lack of clarity in describing scientific methods
This information should be given on the Project Details Form and/or the One Page Proposal. The judges need to know exactly what experiments are being carried out, in terms of specific experimental processes, materials or the who and how of a social survey.

Investigation period
Sometimes students propose a project that is weak because the period over which the project is being carried out is too short. Judges need to be convinced that the student has enough time to complete the project for the Exhibition.

Ethical issues
Projects which put the students or others at risk psychologically or emotionally will not be accepted for the Exhibition.

Safety issues
Projects which put the students themselves or others at risk of physical injury or disease will not be accepted for the Exhibition.

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