General guidelines for projectsMost projects can be broken down into four broad steps, which can then be broken into smaller steps. The four main steps are:
- Plan the experiment;
- Perform the experiment and collect the data;
- Analyse the data;
- Report and present the conclusions.
1. Plan the experimentTo properly plan an experiment, the following questions should be asked:
1.1 What exactly is/are the question(s) of interest?It is important to know and understand what experiment you are doing, why you are doing it, and what you hope to learn from the experiment. Be clear in your objectives, and break it down into many smaller parts if you can.
1.2 How can you obtain data to help answer the question of interest?Consider your answers to the above question, and then decide on a way to obtain your answers. What data would be useful? How can this data be obtained? What other issues may affect what you actually measure?
1.3 What equipment will you need?You may need to use some equipment to gather your data; make sure the equipment is available!
1.4 Design the experiment to answer the question that was askedMake sure you design an experiment that actually helps you answer your original questions! Make sure you actually know the reason for variation in your data.
For example, suppose you do an experiment to fire catapults with various type of missiles. Suppose Mary fires Smarties, and James fires jelly beans. Which goes further in general: the Smarties or the jelly beans? We can't tell using this experiment! Why not?
The reason is that Mary fired all the Smarties, and James fired all the jelly beans. If the Smarties actually go further on average, it may be because Mary has a better catapult technique, and may not be anything at all to do with the Smarties or jelly beans.
So what can we do? We get Mary to fire some Smarties and some jelly beans, and James to fire some Smarties and jelly beans. Now, if Smarties travel further on average, it is not because of who is firing.
2.Perform the experimentPerform the experiment carefully, remembering the issues considered above.
2.1 Collect dataCollect your data carefully. You may wish to enter the data into a computer at some stage if you wish to produce computer-generated graphs or summaries.
The TI-83 Plus graphic calculator is ideal for those who can't always get the access to the computer lab as it can perform the same tasks. TI would be happy to provide accesses to their free loan program for those not already using TI Technology (with a get started quick guide).
2.2 Compile the dataCompile the data; you may decide to enter the data into a computer.
3. Analyse the dataWhen analysing the data, you make sense of the numbers you have collected.
3.1 Summarise and check the dataCheck that the data you have recorded are sensible, that the units of measurement are recorded (millimetres, centimetres, etc.). It is not unusual to find that there have been errors in recording data; try to find these errors, and either fix them if you can, or just delete these observations.
3.2 Use statistics to analyse your dataUse some simple statistics to find out what your data is saying. You may use pictures and graphs ("a picture tells a thousand words") such as histograms, barcharts, boxplots, scatterplots, etc. and/or quantities such as means, standard deviations, medians, two-way tables, etc.
A computer may be helpful for analysing your data. TI also have another great Statistics resource for those with computer access: TI InterActive! software (see http://education.ti.com/interactive for details of how it could be used to achieve the above).
Just some of TI InterActive!'s capabilities include:
- Data editor with spreadsheet: TI InterActive! includes a custom data editor for effective data analysis and math exploration. This environment includes a spreadsheet, a list editor, and a matrix editor. The spreadsheet is compatible with popular spreadsheet applications. Data from the Internet, a calculator, or a data collection device (CBL/CBR) may be downloaded directly into the data editor. Statistics plots and investigations may also be launched from the data editor.
TI graphing calculator functionality:
TI InterActive! brings the power of TI graphing calculators to your computer.
TI InterActive! includes significant functionality from the TI-83 as described
- Function Graphing
- Parametric Graphing
- Polar Graphing
- Zoom, trace,and perform interactive calculations on graphs
- Function Table
- Matrix Editor & Matrix Operations
- List Editor & List Operations
- Statistics Regressions
- Probability Distributions
4. Report and present the conclusionsWhen you report your findings, you must be clear and concise about what you did and how the data answers the question of interest.
4.1 Interpret and make conclusionsOne of the goals of statistics is to gather data and turn it into information. Look at your data: what does it tell you? How does it answer your original questions? Are there more experiments that you could do for even more answers?
You make like to read the this check list for what to present on the poster.