Identifying the right idea for your extended project

Start with an open mind, and then narrow the focus

There’s a lot out there to explore – but don’t be daunted. If you already have a topic in mind, you can think about the best sort of project for exploring it. Our flow chart might help you choose.

Or, if you’re not sure where to start, it could help to decide early what sort of project you want to do – library-based research, a scientific investigation or creating an artefact. Next, you’ll need to pick a subject area.

The project will be challenging, so choose a topic that interests you; it will help keep you motivated. Ideas for topics can come from hobbies, TV programmes, current events, work experience, your studies, your leisure reading, or issues affecting you, your friends or your family. For example, if you play tennis you might be interested to explore the technology that goes into making tennis rackets.

Once you have an idea or a broad research area, try doing some preliminary research using books, the internet, scientific reports or popular science magazines. You could also look at what other students have done for their extended projects – yours could build on or follow up on previous work. This reading will help you to get a feel for what is relevant (or even point to a different topic to explore). Talk to others about your idea, too; their input can help you focus your ideas.

Make sure you make lots of notes at this stage! This should include making notes of what you read, such as particular websites or books. These notes will come in handy when you’re writing up your work (see our ‘Writing up’ section on the main issue page, especially ‘Bibliography basics’). When you’re ready, try to pose a specific question to be answered. This could be a hypothesis you want to test using an experiment or a design brief for making something for a particular purpose. Sticking with tennis, your hypothesis might be ‘stiffer materials transmit more vibrations to the handle of a tennis racket when a ball is struck’.

About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Go Further: A practical guide to extended science projects’ in June 2015.

Go Further: A practical guide to extended science projects
Education levels:
16–19, Independent research projects