Science and Society Independent Research Project


Science and society projects can be supported by teachers with expertise in several disciplines, including science, social studies and history, or by a collaborative effort involving teachers in different disciplines. Teachers potentially interested in supporting a student research project addressing science and society can utilize existing ASSET Science and Society modules to introduce their class to the fundamental inter-relationship between science and society. Motivated students can then explore the possibility of carrying out an independent project of their own design. Information for students on designing and carrying out a research project examining some aspect of the interplay between science and society is available, as well as help identifying and obtaining primary literature.

Students have the option of submitting well-researched and clearly written projects for possible inclusion on the ASSET website, and, if desired, may enter their project in the Science and Society section of the ASSET virtual science fair.

To help us evaluate and improve the program, teachers may be asked to fill out a short questionnaire briefly evaluating their experience with supporting independent student inquiry in topics related to science and society.


Interested in science from a societal perspective? Prefer reading and thinking about scientific issues and their effects on society rather than working in a lab? Interested in working with a teacher at your school to develop an independent research project exploring some aspect of the impact of science and scientific advances on society, now or throughout history? The ASSET Independent Research in Science and Society program encourages students interested in issues at the interface of science and society to carry out an independent research project using a variety of resources in their research, including current news, scientific literature, historical resources, books, and Internet resources.

Science and Society based research projects require different methods from those used for lab based projects but the same careful planning, information gathering, and detailed analysis of data is needed. To get started:

  • Identify an issue that interests YOU.
  • Do some background reading and narrow your issue to a clearly focused topic.
  • Think about what you will need to research your topic, including what historical resources, current news, scientific literature, internet, and other resources you will need and whether they available.
  • Talk to your teacher about the project you want to do.
  • Check out our Resources for Independent Research for help in obtaining articles and other pertinent background materials.

Science and Society based research should analyze information from a variety of sources and contribute to the understanding of the topic being studied. For example, if you wanted to look at the impact of famine on human health, you could narrow your question to “Are the effects of prolonged starvation passed on to subsequent generations?”. Within that topic you might then focus your study on the effects of the Dutch Hunger Winter, a period during World War II when food shipments were blocked from entering portions of the Netherlands, and thousands of Dutch citizens suffered from severe malnutrition. Scientists have followed survivors over the years since the war ended and have discovered that, even though survivors have recovered, some of the health effects of famine were passed on to their children and grandchildren. Perhaps you would like to find out what effects can be passed on. Perhaps you’d like to look at other areas where famines have occurred and make some predictions about how those effects might translate into impacts on the economies or cultures of those areas. Perhaps you’d like to think about what health care professionals should look for with famine survivors and their descendants, and what long-term health care systems should focus on in areas that have experienced famine. Once you’ve decided what you’re most interested in, you need to start looking for articles and other information that will help you get to your goal.

To help you get started, the following information about the development of an independent project addressing a topic related to Science and Society is available:

A General Introduction to Independent Research Addressing Topics Related to Science and Society introduces students to what is involved in carrying out an independent research project and provides a summary of the steps that will help you carry out a successful research project.

Getting Started with Independent Research Addressing Topics Related to Science and Society provides a more detailed roadmap of how to develop and carry out an independent research project, including things to consider at each step in the process.

Once you have identified the question you want to investigate, it is helpful to write a short research proposal that clearly states the scientific question(s) you want to answer, including a brief statement of why this question interests you, a short description of what you plan to do, including the type(s) of data to be collected and the specific methods that will be used to collect and analyze data, and the methods of data analysis that will be used. Discuss your proposed research with your teacher and friends. Your final research proposal will help you to clearly define what you intend to do and how you will do it.

Carrying out the Research Project

Conduct a literature review so you can see what has been published on your chosen topic. Your librarian can help you obtain the research materials you need. You can also visit our Resources for Independent Research page for help in obtaining articles and other pertinent background materials. A good research report briefly describes previous research findings and relates your current work to what has been done before.

As you collect information and data, be careful to follow your original research design. Stay focused on your specific topic. Good research generates many questions and ideas, but it is important not to lose sight of your original question. You can use data that you gather yourself or use publicly available data. Be sure that your data comes from reliable sources, such as academic journals, government reports, books, online library databases. .

Ask your school librarian for help. He or she may have access to materials from other libraries through interlibrary loans.

Consult with your sponsoring teacher if you have a question about how to analyze your data or to discuss your ideas, but the final conclusions should reflect your findings and your interpretation of the data.

Reporting on your Research Project

Your final project report addressing science and society may include a Word document, graphs, tables, pictures, micrographs, PowerPoint presentations, videos, and/or other appropriate materials. Suggestions for how to organize and present your work in different formats are available. When your project is complete, you can submit your final project to ASSET to be considered for inclusion on the ASSET website. All research projects are also eligible for entry into the Science and Society section of the yearly ASSET virtual online Science Fair

You might also consider submitting your work to one of the journals that publish student research.

Evaluation of the ASSET Independent Research program

To help us evaluate and improve the program, students will be asked to briefly evaluate their research experience and to provide information on the impact of the program on their interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), and their attitudes toward science and careers in science.