Science Fair Projects Rubric


Problem or Question may be substituted for hypothesis for lower grade students


Asks a question that is testable.
Written so it is clear, understandable, and specific.



While judging the quality of the hypothesis is necessary a more important aspect to judge is how deeply the student was engaged in the investigation. Did he or she ask more than one question? Did he or she consider all or a good variety of variables? Is there evidence that the investigation broadened in scope as a result of what was learned from the initial explorations or investigations?

Experimental investigations - some students find experiments that are more descriptive and don't fit into the experimental category. See below.

A hypothesis is a tentative assumption that relates one idea to another with a relationship between two variables that is testable. The best hypotheses include the quality or quantity of the relationship.

If an object is dropped higher, it may fall faster.

The rate that grass grows is not related to the amount of light it receives.

If plant growth is related to the amount of light shining on it, then more light will increase the plant's growth.

The test of the hypothesis is the procedure

Descriptive investigations

Egg in bottle demonstration: if the air is heated it will expand and push air out of the jar, when it cools the air inside the jar will contract reducing the pressure inside the jar, the outside air pressure being greater will push the egg into the jar.

Includes cause and effect.

Hypothesis can be stated in the following form using the word "may".
Light may affect plant growth.


A hypothesis can be an if then statement (but not all if then statements are hypotheses),

IF this THEN this will happen.
If a plant is deprived of light it, will die.

These examples do not describe the quality or quantity of a relationship.

More of a prediction. (The egg will be sucked into the container).

Experimental design or procedure

What was done is document clearly and sufficiently.

Logically makes sense.
Procedure is designed to answer the questions or test the hypothesis
Procedure is written so that it is relevant, clear, and appropriate.

Identifies the independent / manipulated variable and the dependent / responding variable but not necessarily with these labels.

Identifies and controls all major variables and/or comments on variables that are not controlled as having minor or no effect on the outcome

Uses preliminary experiment to refine procedure or other ideas.

Uses multiple trials to insure accuracy

Explains the procedure well enough for others to be able to replicate the experiment.

Plans what to control and compare.

If experiment is complicated may miss a variable or have inaccuracy in the procedure.

Uses appropriate resources.

Do, observe, and report

No plan beyond initial observation.

No explanation on what variables are related, how they are related, or the quality or quantity of that relationship.

No detail on controlling variables

Collection of data, Observation, Measuring

Priority is given for the collection of accurate observable evidence that can be used to describe what was observed to happen accurately and thoroughly.

Observes and measures accurately.

Observations and measurements are very related to the purpose of the experiment.

Uses photographs, drawings, and models to illustrate data.

Defines indicators (plant is less healthy if it is tall, spindly, light green, yellow, or brown in color)

Data collected helps answer the question or the truth of the hypothesis.

Repeats or describes the procedure for observation.

Goes beyond the usual.

Notices detail.

Identifies relevant indicators

Notices only the obvious.

Little detail

Transformation of data, keeping records, analysis of data

The observable evidence is analyzed and organized to create scientific understanding.

Includes an idea, organization, or something that lends to the transformation of the raw data by some kind of analysis supported by the data to lead to the conclusion.

Records the transformation of data through charts, graphs, table, or narrative that communicates so one can follow the ideas clearly.

Graphs … are accurate.

Accurate and appropriate information for experiment.

Accurate but not enough detail to make decision.

Accurate but not systematic.

Not accurate.


Describes the scientific understanding found or not found from the investigation, how valid or reliable the information is based on what was observed, how the findings might be used or not used in the future, and suggestions for future considerations.

Are related to the original questions, hypothesis.

Are supported by data.

Inferences are logical and explain cause and effect.

Summarizes results, generalizes results into formula or a general statement.

Make additional predictions.

Suggests further investigation ideas.

Relates ideas to other sources or events.

Expands on results.

Make recommendations for improvements.

Interprets results from more than one source, replicates sources, identifies trends.

Summarizes results based on evidence.

Minimal or no description of cause and effect

Doesn't include any inferences.

Ignores information and keeps original ideas.

Uses evidence selectively.

Jumps to conclusions.

Visually appealing

Balanced top to bottom left to right, and diagonally

Materials organized in a logical order. E.g. from beginning to end of experiment

Arrangement helps to understand the scientific method.

Enough white space

Size appropriate

Attractive, Neat, Appropriate size of print, pictures, charts… easily read

Spelling accurate

Good use of color



If creativity is considered to be something new created by the student, then it is impossible to know for sure if the idea was created by the student or selected with some kind of resource assistance. One way to get around this dilemea is to ask the student where he or she got the idea. However, this can encourage them not to be truthful if they believe the answer you desire is they made it up. To get around this I would judge the student's selection of creative materials and ideas for the investigation.

Created a novel or unique experiment or investigation (careful here - an experiment may be novel or unique to the judge but wasn't created by the student). Therefore, it may be best to interpret creativity by the following criteria:

Uses materials in a unique way.

Suggests new experiments

Describes novel or unusual observations


Oral presentation

Explained the highlights of the investigation: procedure, evidence, how the evidence lead to a conclusion and additional ideas in the conclusion.

Speaks clearly, accurately, enthusiastically

Can answer spontaneous questions

Speaks knowledgeably of the project and the scientific method used.


Dr. Robert Sweetland's Notes ©