Formulating a Project

Assignment 4: Research Plan

A research plan is a succinct detailing of the rationale, research question, methodology, and risks of a research project that should be completed prior to the start of any experimental research. You will prepare a research plan during the fall semester for a project that you could conceivably start (and hopefully finish) in the spring semester. Since situations can change without warning, you will not be penalized if you do not perform this exact project next semester. You are only describing a possibility right now.

You are not expected to write a complete research plan in one shot. You will submit 3 drafts of this assignment and receive feedback on each draft. You are expected to act on this feedback and refine and expand your research plan over time. The final draft will be due Tuesday, January 5, 2021 and will be graded. (A rubric is in the works.)

Students who are part of a team are expected to each write a separate and complete research plan. No copypasta! The separate plans can be about different aspects of the same project or they can be about different projects in the same general field. Teams can have a maximum of 3 members.

A research plan consists of the following parts:

  1. Rationale

    Provide a brief synopsis of the background research that supports your hypothesis or motivates your scientific question or engineering goal and explain why this research is important. Include at least 5 citations from high value sources. Anything with a DOI is probably good. Additional citations from lower value sources are also OK. Do not cite Wikipedia, WebMD, Google, "some people", "many people", "they", etc. No "click bait" references either. This part is typically 2 to 3 pages long.

  2. Hypothesis / Research Question / Engineering Goal ← CHOOSE ONE

    Sate your research question / hypothesis / engineering goal. State it in a way so that it logically follows from the background research described in your rationale. This typically requires 1 to 3 sentences.

  3. Methods
    1. Procedure

      Describe your experimental design including all procedures for gathering data. If your procedure was influenced by any previously performed experiments, you must cite your sources. All images, diagrams, renderings, drawings, flowcharts, photographs, etc. must be original. If you absolutely need to use an image produced by someone else, you must cite your source. This part is typically 1 to 2 pages long.

    2. Analysis

      Describe the analytical methods you will use to test your hypothesis / answer your research question / decide if you have reached your engineering goal. This part is typically 1 page long.

    3. Risk Assessment

      All students must provide an assessment of risk with techniques to minimize this risk. Categories of risk include, but are not limited to, human subjects; vertebrate animals; potentially hazardous biological agents; hazardous chemicals, activities or devices. If you believe there are no risks associated with your project, you must explain why you are making this claim. Very few projects have zero risk associated with them. This part is typically 1 to 3 paragraphs long.

  4. References
    • Follow A.P.A. formatting. Include DOIs or URLs (never both) as applicable. Be sure that URLs do not include tracking code. Provide at least 5 references. (Image references do not count towards this total.) This part should be single spaced with hanging indents (also known as outdents) and a blank space between entries. Entries should be sorted alphabetically by author. The paragraphs after this are sample entries for a journal article, YouTube video, book, and newspaper article.
    • Ahn, J. H., Hu, Y., Hernandez, M., & Kim, J. R. (2011). Crocetin inhibits beta-amyloid fibrillization and stabilizes beta-amyloid oligomers. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, 414(1), 79-83. doi:10.1016/j.bbrc.2011.09.025
    • Cowern, Dianna. (2020). Friction - Physics 101/Ap Physics 1 Review with Dianna Cowern. Retrieved October 14, 2020, from
    • Myers, D. G. (2011). Myers' psychology for AP. New York, NY: Worth.
    • Sims, W. (1920, January 16). The Moon Rocket.: Admiral Sims Explains Its Action In a Vacuum. New York Times, p. 8. Retrieved October 14, 2020, from

Adapted from the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) rules and guidelines.