How to carry out a winning scientific project?

Neelamani

Dr. S. Neelamani
Senior Research Scientist
Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research

I have been involved in judging scientific projects in schools and colleges for the past three decades. During such activities, I have come across many students, who suffer with lack of understanding for doing scientific projects successfully. Hence I thought, it is useful, if a simple article is written specifically to answer most of the queries in the minds of students and hence this article. I also wish to inform the benefits of doing scientific projects, mainly for the purpose of motivating the young minds.

The main long term strategy of most of the countries around the world is to make a knowledge based society and make their people as innovative as is possible. This is because, it is possible to boost the economy and welfare of the society based on innovations. Innovation helps for sustaining the nation’s development and people’s life. Innovation will help reducing the cost of products, make better environment, reduce risks created by nature and manmade, improve health etc. People needs clean air, water and food, affordable shelter, transport and communication facilities.

Hence the first question that need to arise in the mind of a person who wish to do an innovative project is “How and what will be the outcome of the project I am doing?”. Will it reduce the cost of a product or process; will it help for improving the environment; will it help for improving the health of people; will it reduce the risk faced by the people.  If you have a clear answer, then your project is worth investigating.

The next is selecting of an appropriate topic for your project work. More than 50% of your work is over, if a right project topic is selected. The following are the tips:

1.       The topic should address an issue and it should give a new solution for the problem at the end of the project work.

2.       The society is looking for a suitable solution for the problem (Example: Medicine for a new disease).

3.       The tasks are doable and the facilities (suitable Manpower, Money, and Material) are available.

4.       Enough time is available to work on the project (One should not select a topic which needs two years of time to solve, when he/she has only 6 months).

The next question is how to find out a suitable project topic? The tips are as follows:

1.       Always gather information on various problems the society is facing through different media like newspaper, TV, conferences, journal articles, patents etc.

2.       You should have enough basic knowledge to understand and work on the tasks with confidence. For example, if you are keen on physics, select a topic around that subject.

3.       You need to review the available scientific literatures on the selected problem. Like you, many people around the work to solve the problem you have selected and they might have published their findings in conferences and journals. Go for search for example in Google scholar. What is the point, if you do a project work, which is already done by somebody else in another part of the world.

4.       Look around for resourceful person who is a specialist in the area of the topic you have selected. You can interact and gain much knowledge and insight into the problem.

The next question is how to organize and do the tasks to solve the selected problem. The tips are:

1.       Most of the projects, you all work as a team. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of each person and assign the work accordingly. If a person is a real wizard in Chemistry, ask him/her to work in aspects related to chemistry.

2.       Make sure you/your school/college/institute has necessary infrastructure and lab facility. Most of the scientific projects need instruments to measure parameters like temperature, pressure, pH, electric voltage, flow rate, electric power, moisture etc. The success of your project depends on the quality and quantity of data collected for the work. There is no easy way of generating data for the selected problem.

3.       Some problems can be managed with data available with other organizations like metrology department, department of telecommunication, public work etc. If a project needs such data, approach them in proper route for collecting such data.

4.       It is necessary to use the data for making plots and figures, that will help to understand the solutions for the problem Use Microsoft excel or similar software for plotting results.

5.       If your work needs preparing a questionnaire, spend enough time to think the type of questions you need to ask and answers will help to solve the problem.

6.       It is possible that someone from the team may leave out at any point of time for many possible reasons (for example, the family is moving to other place). Hence you should keep it in mind from the beginning of the work and should able to shoulder additional responsibility, if warrants.

7.       Plan and organize your work systematically. Write down the points that arise in your mind during different stages of work.

8.       Doing good quality work is not that easy. It is easy that one feels tired during project works. But if you keep the novelty you are going to provide to the society, it will eliminate the fatigue and stress.

The next point is how to organize the results; prepare the report and presentation materials. The tips are:

1.       A very well written report will add success for your project.

2.       In the report, clearly tell what is the problem; what is the use, if that problem is solved?; How did you solve? Etc.

3.       Allocate some space to describe the literatures you have reviewed.

4.       Make sure the problem you have selected has no solution.

5.       Focus on what is the new work you have done in this project work.

6.       Specify clearly how the solution you have found out, will be useful for the society in terms of cost, environment, easy of life, health improvement etc.

The next is oral presentation of your study and results. The tips are:

1.       Make an impressive power point file which follows the same way of the report.

2.       Show your confidant on the outcome of the work.

3.       Do not spend a lot of time on the problem and its status. Spend more time on the new results you got and prove the novelty.

4.       Impress how your work will help for the improvement of the society.

You may also ask a question yourself: What is the benefit of doing this type of scientific projects. The answer is:

1.       The world respects innovators

2.       Doing innovative work gives happiness and you feel proud of your existence

3.       If you get a patent and if it goes for commercialization, you will get royalty.

4.       You will feel happy, when the world is using your knowledge.

5.       Innovative people occupy the highest positions in the renowned companies in the world.

6.       Your name, the world pronounce, even after you leave this world.

What are the areas of learning, when one completes a scientific project successfully with innovative outcomes?

1.       You will learn how to identify a problem, which needs immediate solution.

2.       You will learn how to practically use the knowledge gained in class room teaching into a project.

3.       You will work with many people. That will teach you how to successfully manage human resources.

4.       You need money for the project. You will learn how to manage your finance fruitfully.

5.       You will use many materials and you will know how to select the right instruments and the purchase process.

6.       You need to complete certain tasks within certain time and hence you will learn time management.

7.       You need to draw your results and extract fruitful information out of the plot. You will learn reasoning skills.

8.       You will present your results to public. Hence you will improve your public speaking and scientific presentation skills.

9.       You will learn how to write your results as a paper for international journals.

10.   You will learn to get patents.

11.   You need to market your innovations. Hence you will know how to market your idea.

These types of learning are possible and are useful for your career growth, if you do a fruitful scientific project.

I hope that this article will be of help for school and college students and teachers, researcher scholars and early stage research scientists and professionals.

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