Once you have your data, you will need to present it to your teacher and science fair judges. In a science publication, you would choose between a table and a graph, but for the science fair project it is acceptable, and even encouraged, to showcase the data in both forms. If you have to pick (teacher’s rules), then a graph (picture) is better than a table (numbers), EXCEPT that most scientists really, really like numbers – so we are happy to see the table too.
Type of graphs: Your first choice is to determine which type of graph would best communicate your findings. Your basic choices are bar graph, line graph, pie chart, or scatter plot.
BAR GRAPH – This is the most common type for science fair projects. You may select a bar graph when your independent variable is qualitative (categories) or quantitative (numbers). It is generally better to group the data by TREATMENT instead of TRIAL # because it allows a better comparison of variation within the treatment. This might not be intuitive if you collected by trial, but it is the better way to showcase your results.
Look closely and make sure your bar graph has all the highlighted parts:
LINE GRAPH – This is the second most common, but frequently used incorrectly, so be careful here. You should only select a line graph if your independent variable is quantitative (numbers) and you hypothesized that the changes in the independent variable would result in changes in the dependent one. For example, line graphs are great for showing changes in the dependent variable over time or distance along a transect.
Again double check the axes:
PIE CHART – Pie charts are good for projects that have qualitative independent variables and have generated data that can be expressed as percentages of the total. For example, if your data were counts (i.e. the number of times something happened), then this might be your best choice to compare different treatments.
SCATTER PLOT – If the purpose is to see if the variables are related (common in environmental projects), but there was not a clear choice for independent and dependent variables (for example wind speed and water temperature), then a scatter plot would be your best choice. This option typically requires much more data than the others to observe a trend.
Scientists do not label graphs with a title, but if your teacher asks for one — make sure that is there too.