Tips for Science Fair Success

Jumpstart your research at Henrico County Public Library!

6 Steps to Science Fair Success

Science Fairs should be fun, not scary. Henrico County Public Library is a great place to begin or continue research for your project. Follow these helpful steps to get the most out of your visit to the library:

  1. Know your subject. Start by finding the scientific or technical term for the topic you're researching. This will help when you search the Henrico County Public Library catalog and databases. To find a technical term, first start with a general term and search in an encyclopedia to narrow it down. For example, start with "aviation" or "propeller"; narrow down to "lift and drag", "airfoils"; and then get technical with terms like "aeroelasticity", "trailing vortex system", and "integral momentum theorem".

  2. Start with a seed. Find a great book or article and then use the references or list of works cited as a springboard for finding other great resources.

  3. Call someone who cares. Have an adult help you locate and contact a scholar or professional. Science professionals can help connect you to resources online and in books. If you ask nicely and give him/her plenty of time, you may just get a response worth asking for.

  4. Browse and you will find. Don’t look for just one book on the shelf. Scan around a book to find related materials. Keep in mind, non-fiction books are grouped together at the library using the Dewey Decimal Classification system. If you find a book nearby that looks like it might work, take a moment and check the index (at the back) to see if your research topic is included.

  5. Go online. Chances are your teacher will ask you for "print" or "book" resources in addition to, or instead of, online resources like websites and databases. It's important to remember that PDF or full-text versions of an article or online resource can be used just like having the physical copy in hand.

    Start with general databases like Find It Virginia and General Reference Center Gold if you need "peer-reviewed" articles and resources. Be sure to check the box for "peer-reviewed" when you conduct your search of the database.

    You may have to look through a lot of online stuff that doesn't work, but if your search term is specific (see step 1), you should have luck. And don’t forget Google Scholar. It's a great tool for finding books and articles, and you already know how the search engine works!

  6. Don't give up. Sometimes you won't find any books at the library that work for your project. Don't fear; you might be the first to try an experiment and that's exciting! If you don't know what to do next, ask a librarian for help. We can guide you to resources at other branches or online. And give Google a try...enter your research term and "science fair project" in the search field. It's possible other students like you posted their projects online including their references. You can use the same books they did.

Super Duper Sites

Henrico County Public Library - Search our catalog, access online resources and databases, contact your local library branch, and more!


Science Buddies - Science fair project ideas, answers and tools.

Science Fair Adventure - Dozens of real student projects and answers to research questions. - Science terms defined.

Science News - Cool images and articles on a variety of scientific topics.

Super Science Fair Support Center - Tips, experiment videos, and tons of great ideas.

Discovery Education's Science Fair Central - Step-by-step project guides, resources and helpful links.

Henrico County Public Library is not responsible for the content of these websites, nor does it endorse the content therein or its creators and developers.