College of Natural Science & Mathematics

Research Project Guidelines for 2004-2005

Be sure to read the Alaska Statewide High School Science Symposium (ASHSSS) Student Resources and Guidelines booklet, which contains VERY important details.


Each of the assignments listed on the next page must be turned in with the appropriate grading worksheet attached to the front of the assignment. Some assignments will also require your mentor's signature, indicating that you have discussed that phase of your research with your mentor and that she/he approves of the work completed.

Unless other arrangements have been made in advance, most assignments turned in late will have 10% of the points possible deducted for each week (i.e. -10% for 1-7 calendar days late, -20% for 8-14 days late, etc.). However, the Smooth, Polished, and Final Drafts of your paper will NOT be accepted late. Note that all papers required for ASHSSS registration MUST be turned in by the deadline indicated in order for you to be considered for participation in the ASHSSS—there are NO exceptions to this deadline (these papers will NOT be accepted late). Since the purpose of turning in each draft of your paper (or part of your paper) is to improve your paper each time (in response to feedback from your teacher and mentor), each draft must be scored and returned to you before you complete the next draft. If you “skip” a draft, you may not turn that draft in later for credit. You should plan on 1-2 weeks between the time you submit a draft and the time you get it back (with feedback).

It is important that you plan ahead and complete each assignment by the scheduled due date in order to be ready for symposium. However, if you are working on your project and are experiencing problems that make it difficult (if not impossible!) to meet a deadline, discuss your situation with your teacher in advance and she may be willing to establish a later due date for you.

Note that some assignments are parts of your final paper; these should be word-processed so you can make revisions easily. Always keep a copy of assignments and forms that you turn in, so your teacher (or mentor) can write comments on the copy without ruining the original (or in case the copy you turn in is lost!).

Refer to the ASHSSS guidelines booklet, as well as individual grading documents, for important details about expectations for each assignment.


To document your work, you will need to keep a lab notebook, a binder, and a daily log.

Lab notebook: As is true for any research scientist, you are required to keep a lab notebook in which you document all of the work you do in the lab: the details of your methods, the data you collect, and all observations you make. Your lab notebook should be detailed and organized enough that someone else (your teacher, another scientist, or perhaps even an historian!) can read it and understand what you have done. Be sure to date each entry in your lab notebook. To make it easier to find information later, keep a table of contents on the first 1-2 pages of your lab notebook. Keep your lab notebook up to date; your teacher may ask to see it at any time.

In the scientific community, credibility, integrity, and honesty are essential. To demonstrate that data have not been tampered with, you must use a bound notebook with numbered pages (it does not need to have carbon-copy pages), and you must write in pen. Pages should never be torn out, and there should be no large empty spaces between entries. Data that appear to be in error should be crossed out with a thin line, so that it is still legible—in some cases, such data is found to be meaningful at a later date. If you collect data on other pages (for example, if results are printed from an instrument used in analysis), staple these pages into your lab notebook or keep them in your binder (with each page dated and numbered) and refer to those data in your lab notebook. All of the data and results included in your final paper MUST be supported by data in your lab notebook or binder.

Binder: You should have a three-ring binder devoted solely to your ASHSSS project. Your binder should contain all information related to your project (except what is in your lab notebook, of course!). This will include notes you take while doing background research, printed pages of data (as described above), copies of papers that you turn in, papers that have been returned to you with comments & grading worksheets, and possibly your daily log. You may also want to keep in your binder copies of e-mail messages or notes from conversations with scientists who are advising you.

Daily log: Each time you do work related to your project, make an entry in your daily log which includes the date and a brief comment about the nature of the work you did. You may also want to indicate the amount of time you spent working that day. Your daily log may be a separate section of your binder (or lab notebook), or it may be kept in a small spiral or bound notebook.


Your grade for the spring semester will be increased by 1% for each of the following:

You earn 1st-4th place for your session at the ASHSSS.

You represent Alaska at the national JSHS symposium.

You present your paper at the national JSHS symposium.

You earn additional awards for your project at the national JSHS symposium.

Extra credit (towards your spring semester grade) may also be earned for receiving awards at other regional, statewide, national, or international competitions (such as the Alaska Science & Engineering Fair or the International Science & Engineering Fair).

Extra points (toward your project grade) can be earned for bringing a parent (or parents) to the ASHSSS symposium presentations or awards banquet. For students who are completing the project as part of a class (NOT as a Science Seminar class), extra points can be earned for completing a project related to the class (for example, a Chemistry-related project for those students taking Chemistry).


Part of your spring semester grade for your ASHSSS project includes points related to your participation in the ASHSSS event. The symposium is an opportunity to share the results of your work with other students, hear about the projects done by other students, and engage in dialog about the projects with scientists (who are serving as judges) as well as with other students who have presented their research. Because this experience cannot be reproduced, you will not be able to make up this portion of your grade if you are not able to attend the symposium. If your absence from the symposium is due to an illness or family emergency (such as a death in the family) and is verified by a phone call or written note from a parent or guardian explaining the situation, you will be excused from these “assignments.” If your absence is for any other reason (including work, a vacation, or participation in another school activity), you will earn a zero score for these “assignments” with no opportunity to make up those points.

Some of the points that are part of your spring semester grade can only be earned by students who present their project at the symposium. If your project is not accepted for presentation at the symposium, you will earn these points (related to the ASHSSS presentation or awards banquet), and your score for these “assignments” will be a zero. You can, however, earn the points for observing a full schedule of presentations at the symposium, and for completing a practice presentation.

When possible, a student should give advance notice to their teacher if he/she will not be presenting his/her project at the symposium event (as early as possible), so that an alternate student may present his/her project in that student’s place.


When choosing a topic for your research project, start by thinking about aspects of science that are of interest to you. If you don’t find the topic interesting, it will be difficult for you to devote the time and energy required for success. Keep your focus narrow, and try to choose a topic that is realistic in scope, so that you will be able to accomplish your goals in the time allotted. Doing some background literature research or talking with scientists in a field that interests you may help you generate ideas. Eventually, you will need to find a mentor who is willing and able to advise you. (Your teacher can help you find a mentor.) Your mentor may help you refine your project idea, or may even help you develop some ideas for possible projects. IF you decide to do a project that involves humans or other vertebrate animals as subjects, it will be especially important that you get an early start, as such projects involve additional paperwork (and approval of a committee) that must be completed before you begin any experimentation.

After the due date for the project plan, your choice of project can only be changed with your teacher's permission. Of course, your project may need to be modified as you work on it, but this does not constitute a change of project as long as the topic does not change.