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A Guide to Writing a Scientific Paper: A Focus on High School Through Graduate Level Student Research

Renee a. hesselbach.

1 NIEHS Children's Environmental Health Sciences Core Center, University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

David H. Petering

2 Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Craig A. Berg

3 Curriculum and Instruction, University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Henry Tomasiewicz

Daniel weber.

This article presents a detailed guide for high school through graduate level instructors that leads students to write effective and well-organized scientific papers. Interesting research emerges from the ability to ask questions, define problems, design experiments, analyze and interpret data, and make critical connections. This process is incomplete, unless new results are communicated to others because science fundamentally requires peer review and criticism to validate or discard proposed new knowledge. Thus, a concise and clearly written research paper is a critical step in the scientific process and is important for young researchers as they are mastering how to express scientific concepts and understanding. Moreover, learning to write a research paper provides a tool to improve science literacy as indicated in the National Research Council's National Science Education Standards (1996), and A Framework for K–12 Science Education (2011), the underlying foundation for the Next Generation Science Standards currently being developed. Background information explains the importance of peer review and communicating results, along with details of each critical component, the Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results , and Discussion . Specific steps essential to helping students write clear and coherent research papers that follow a logical format, use effective communication, and develop scientific inquiry are described.


A key part of the scientific process is communication of original results to others so that one's discoveries are passed along to the scientific community and the public for awareness and scrutiny. 1 – 3 Communication to other scientists ensures that new findings become part of a growing body of publicly available knowledge that informs how we understand the world around us. 2 It is also what fuels further research as other scientists incorporate novel findings into their thinking and experiments.

Depending upon the researcher's position, intent, and needs, communication can take different forms. The gold standard is writing scientific papers that describe original research in such a way that other scientists will be able to repeat it or to use it as a basis for their studies. 1 For some, it is expected that such articles will be published in scientific journals after they have been peer reviewed and accepted for publication. Scientists must submit their articles for examination by other scientists familiar with the area of research, who decide whether the work was conducted properly and whether the results add to the knowledge base and are conveyed well enough to merit publication. 2 If a manuscript passes the scrutiny of peer-review, it has the potential to be published. 1 For others, such as for high school or undergraduate students, publishing a research paper may not be the ultimate goal. However, regardless of whether an article is to be submitted for publication, peer review is an important step in this process. For student researchers, writing a well-organized research paper is a key step in learning how to express understanding, make critical connections, summarize data, and effectively communicate results, which are important goals for improving science literacy of the National Research Council's National Science Education Standards, 4 and A Framework for K–12 Science Education, 5 and the Next Generation Science Standards 6 currently being developed and described in The NSTA Reader's Guide to A Framework for K–12 Science Education. 7 Table 1 depicts the key skills students should develop as part of the Science as Inquiry Content Standard. Table 2 illustrates the central goals of A Framework for K–12 Science Education Scientific and Engineering Practices Dimension.

Key Skills of the Science as Inquiry National Science Education Content Standard

National Research Council (1996).

Important Practices of A Framework for K–12 Science Education Scientific and Engineering Practices Dimension

National Research Council (2011).

Scientific papers based on experimentation typically include five predominant sections: Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion . This structure is a widely accepted approach to writing a research paper, and has specific sections that parallel the scientific method. Following this structure allows the scientist to tell a clear, coherent story in a logical format, essential to effective communication. 1 , 2 In addition, using a standardized format allows the reader to find specific information quickly and easily. While readers may not have time to read the entire research paper, the predictable format allows them to focus on specific sections such as the Abstract , Introduction , and Discussion sections. Therefore, it is critical that information be placed in the appropriate and logical section of the report. 3

Guidelines for Writing a Primary Research Article

The Title sends an important message to the reader about the purpose of the paper. For example, Ethanol Effects on the Developing Zebrafish: Neurobehavior and Skeletal Morphogenesis 8 tells the reader key information about the content of the research paper. Also, an appropriate and descriptive title captures the attention of the reader. When composing the Title , students should include either the aim or conclusion of the research, the subject, and possibly the independent or dependent variables. Often, the title is created after the body of the article has been written, so that it accurately reflects the purpose and content of the article. 1 , 3

The Abstract provides a short, concise summary of the research described in the body of the article and should be able to stand alone. It provides readers with a quick overview that helps them decide whether the article may be interesting to read. Included in the Abstract are the purpose or primary objectives of the experiment and why they are important, a brief description of the methods and approach used, key findings and the significance of the results, and how this work is different from the work of others. It is important to note that the Abstract briefly explains the implications of the findings, but does not evaluate the conclusions. 1 , 3 Just as with the Title , this section needs to be written carefully and succinctly. Often this section is written last to ensure it accurately reflects the content of the paper. Generally, the optimal length of the Abstract is one paragraph between 200 and 300 words, and does not contain references or abbreviations.

All new research can be categorized by field (e.g., biology, chemistry, physics, geology) and by area within the field (e.g., biology: evolution, ecology, cell biology, anatomy, environmental health). Many areas already contain a large volume of published research. The role of the Introduction is to place the new research within the context of previous studies in the particular field and area, thereby introducing the audience to the research and motivating the audience to continue reading. 1

Usually, the writer begins by describing what is known in the area that directly relates to the subject of the article's research. Clearly, this must be done judiciously; usually there is not room to describe every bit of information that is known. Each statement needs one or more references from the scientific literature that supports its validity. Students must be reminded to cite all references to eliminate the risk of plagiarism. 2 Out of this context, the author then explains what is not known and, therefore, what the article's research seeks to find out. In doing so, the scientist provides the rationale for the research and further develops why this research is important. The final statement in the Introduction should be a clearly worded hypothesis or thesis statement, as well as a brief summary of the findings as they relate to the stated hypothesis. Keep in mind that the details of the experimental findings are presented in the Results section and are aimed at filling the void in our knowledge base that has been pointed out in the Introduction .

Materials and Methods

Research utilizes various accepted methods to obtain the results that are to be shared with others in the scientific community. The quality of the results, therefore, depends completely upon the quality of the methods that are employed and the care with which they are applied. The reader will refer to the Methods section: (a) to become confident that the experiments have been properly done, (b) as the guide for repeating the experiments, and (c) to learn how to do new methods.

It is particularly important to keep in mind item (b). Since science deals with the objective properties of the physical and biological world, it is a basic axiom that these properties are independent of the scientist who reported them. Everyone should be able to measure or observe the same properties within error, if they do the same experiment using the same materials and procedures. In science, one does the same experiment by exactly repeating the experiment that has been described in the Methods section. Therefore, someone can only repeat an experiment accurately if all the relevant details of the experimental methods are clearly described. 1 , 3

The following information is important to include under illustrative headings, and is generally presented in narrative form. A detailed list of all the materials used in the experiments and, if important, their source should be described. These include biological agents (e.g., zebrafish, brine shrimp), chemicals and their concentrations (e.g., 0.20 mg/mL nicotine), and physical equipment (e.g., four 10-gallon aquariums, one light timer, one 10-well falcon dish). The reader needs to know as much as necessary about each of the materials; however, it is important not to include extraneous information. For example, consider an experiment involving zebrafish. The type and characteristics of the zebrafish used must be clearly described so another scientist could accurately replicate the experiment, such as 4–6-month-old male and female zebrafish, the type of zebrafish used (e.g., Golden), and where they were obtained (e.g., the NIEHS Children's Environmental Health Sciences Core Center in the WATER Institute of the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee). In addition to describing the physical set-up of the experiment, it may be helpful to include photographs or diagrams in the report to further illustrate the experimental design.

A thorough description of each procedure done in the reported experiment, and justification as to why a particular method was chosen to most effectively answer the research question should also be included. For example, if the scientist was using zebrafish to study developmental effects of nicotine, the reader needs to know details about how and when the zebrafish were exposed to the nicotine (e.g., maternal exposure, embryo injection of nicotine, exposure of developing embryo to nicotine in the water for a particular length of time during development), duration of the exposure (e.g., a certain concentration for 10 minutes at the two-cell stage, then the embryos were washed), how many were exposed, and why that method was chosen. The reader would also need to know the concentrations to which the zebrafish were exposed, how the scientist observed the effects of the chemical exposure (e.g., microscopic changes in structure, changes in swimming behavior), relevant safety and toxicity concerns, how outcomes were measured, and how the scientist determined whether the data/results were significantly different in experimental and unexposed control animals (statistical methods).

Students must take great care and effort to write a good Methods section because it is an essential component of the effective communication of scientific findings.

The Results section describes in detail the actual experiments that were undertaken in a clear and well-organized narrative. The information found in the Methods section serves as background for understanding these descriptions and does not need to be repeated. For each different experiment, the author may wish to provide a subtitle and, in addition, one or more introductory sentences that explains the reason for doing the experiment. In a sense, this information is an extension of the Introduction in that it makes the argument to the reader why it is important to do the experiment. The Introduction is more general; this text is more specific.

Once the reader understands the focus of the experiment, the writer should restate the hypothesis to be tested or the information sought in the experiment. For example, “Atrazine is routinely used as a crop pesticide. It is important to understand whether it affects organisms that are normally found in soil. We decided to use worms as a test organism because they are important members of the soil community. Because atrazine damages nerve cells, we hypothesized that exposure to atrazine will inhibit the ability of worms to do locomotor activities. In the first experiment, we tested the effect of the chemical on burrowing action.”

Then, the experiments to be done are described and the results entered. In reporting on experimental design, it is important to identify the dependent and independent variables clearly, as well as the controls. The results must be shown in a way that can be reproduced by the reader, but do not include more details than needed for an effective analysis. Generally, meaningful and significant data are gathered together into tables and figures that summarize relevant information, and appropriate statistical analyses are completed based on the data gathered. Besides presenting each of these data sources, the author also provides a written narrative of the contents of the figures and tables, as well as an analysis of the statistical significance. In the narrative, the writer also connects the results to the aims of the experiment as described above. Did the results support the initial hypothesis? Do they provide the information that was sought? Were there problems in the experiment that compromised the results? Be careful not to include an interpretation of the results; that is reserved for the Discussion section.

The writer then moves on to the next experiment. Again, the first paragraph is developed as above, except this experiment is seen in the context of the first experiment. In other words, a story is being developed. So, one commonly refers to the results of the first experiment as part of the basis for undertaking the second experiment. “In the first experiment we observed that atrazine altered burrowing activity. In order to understand how that might occur, we decided to study its impact on the basic biology of locomotion. Our hypothesis was that atrazine affected neuromuscular junctions. So, we did the following experiment..”

The Results section includes a focused critical analysis of each experiment undertaken. A hallmark of the scientist is a deep skepticism about results and conclusions. “Convince me! And then convince me again with even better experiments.” That is the constant challenge. Without this basic attitude of doubt and willingness to criticize one's own work, scientists do not get to the level of concern about experimental methods and results that is needed to ensure that the best experiments are being done and the most reproducible results are being acquired. Thus, it is important for students to state any limitations or weaknesses in their research approach and explain assumptions made upfront in this section so the validity of the research can be assessed.

The Discussion section is the where the author takes an overall view of the work presented in the article. First, the main results from the various experiments are gathered in one place to highlight the significant results so the reader can see how they fit together and successfully test the original hypotheses of the experiment. Logical connections and trends in the data are presented, as are discussions of error and other possible explanations for the findings, including an analysis of whether the experimental design was adequate. Remember, results should not be restated in the Discussion section, except insofar as it is absolutely necessary to make a point.

Second, the task is to help the reader link the present work with the larger body of knowledge that was portrayed in the Introduction . How do the results advance the field, and what are the implications? What does the research results mean? What is the relevance? 1 , 3

Lastly, the author may suggest further work that needs to be done based on the new knowledge gained from the research.

Supporting Documentation and Writing Skills

Tables and figures are included to support the content of the research paper. These provide the reader with a graphic display of information presented. Tables and figures must have illustrative and descriptive titles, legends, interval markers, and axis labels, as appropriate; should be numbered in the order that they appear in the report; and include explanations of any unusual abbreviations.

The final section of the scientific article is the Reference section. When citing sources, it is important to follow an accepted standardized format, such as CSE (Council of Science Editors), APA (American Psychological Association), MLA (Modern Language Association), or CMS (Chicago Manual of Style). References should be listed in alphabetical order and original authors cited. All sources cited in the text must be included in the Reference section. 1

When writing a scientific paper, the importance of writing concisely and accurately to clearly communicate the message should be emphasized to students. 1 – 3 Students should avoid slang and repetition, as well as abbreviations that may not be well known. 1 If an abbreviation must be used, identify the word with the abbreviation in parentheses the first time the term is used. Using appropriate and correct grammar and spelling throughout are essential elements of a well-written report. 1 , 3 Finally, when the article has been organized and formatted properly, students are encouraged to peer review to obtain constructive criticism and then to revise the manuscript appropriately. Good scientific writing, like any kind of writing, is a process that requires careful editing and revision. 1

A key dimension of NRC's A Framework for K–12 Science Education , Scientific and Engineering Practices, and the developing Next Generation Science Standards emphasizes the importance of students being able to ask questions, define problems, design experiments, analyze and interpret data, draw conclusions, and communicate results. 5 , 6 In the Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) program at the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, we found the guidelines presented in this article useful for high school science students because this group of students (and probably most undergraduates) often lack in understanding of, and skills to develop and write, the various components of an effective scientific paper. Students routinely need to focus more on the data collected and analyze what the results indicated in relation to the research question/hypothesis, as well as develop a detailed discussion of what they learned. Consequently, teaching students how to effectively organize and write a research report is a critical component when engaging students in scientific inquiry.


This article was supported by a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) grant (Award Number R25RR026299) from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the National Institutes of Health. The SEPA program at the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee is part of the Children's Environmental Health Sciences Core Center, Community Outreach and Education Core, funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (Award Number P30ES004184). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Disclosure Statement

No competing financial interests exist.

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  • Published: 02 December 2020

Enhancing senior high school student engagement and academic performance using an inclusive and scalable inquiry-based program

  • Locke Davenport Huyer   ORCID: 1 , 2   na1 ,
  • Neal I. Callaghan   ORCID: 1 , 3   na1 ,
  • Sara Dicks 4 ,
  • Edward Scherer 4 ,
  • Andrey I. Shukalyuk 1 ,
  • Margaret Jou 4 &
  • Dawn M. Kilkenny   ORCID: 1 , 5  

npj Science of Learning volume  5 , Article number:  17 ( 2020 ) Cite this article

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The multi-disciplinary nature of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers often renders difficulty for high school students navigating from classroom knowledge to post-secondary pursuits. Discrepancies between the knowledge-based high school learning approach and the experiential approach of future studies leaves some students disillusioned by STEM. We present Discovery , a term-long inquiry-focused learning model delivered by STEM graduate students in collaboration with high school teachers, in the context of biomedical engineering. Entire classes of high school STEM students representing diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds engaged in iterative, problem-based learning designed to emphasize critical thinking concomitantly within the secondary school and university environments. Assessment of grades and survey data suggested positive impact of this learning model on students’ STEM interests and engagement, notably in under-performing cohorts, as well as repeating cohorts that engage in the program on more than one occasion. Discovery presents a scalable platform that stimulates persistence in STEM learning, providing valuable learning opportunities and capturing cohorts of students that might otherwise be under-engaged in STEM.


High school students with diverse STEM interests often struggle to understand the STEM experience outside the classroom 1 . The multi-disciplinary nature of many career fields can foster a challenge for students in their decision to enroll in appropriate high school courses while maintaining persistence in study, particularly when these courses are not mandatory 2 . Furthermore, this challenge is amplified by the known discrepancy between the knowledge-based learning approach common in high schools and the experiential, mastery-based approaches afforded by the subsequent undergraduate model 3 . In the latter, focused classes, interdisciplinary concepts, and laboratory experiences allow for the application of accumulated knowledge, practice in problem solving, and development of both general and technical skills 4 . Such immersive cooperative learning environments are difficult to establish in the secondary school setting and high school teachers often struggle to implement within their classroom 5 . As such, high school students may become disillusioned before graduation and never experience an enriched learning environment, despite their inherent interests in STEM 6 .

It cannot be argued that early introduction to varied math and science disciplines throughout high school is vital if students are to pursue STEM fields, especially within engineering 7 . However, the majority of literature focused on student interest and retention in STEM highlights outcomes in US high school learning environments, where the sciences are often subject-specific from the onset of enrollment 8 . In contrast, students in the Ontario (Canada) high school system are required to complete Level 1 and 2 core courses in science and math during Grades 9 and 10; these courses are offered as ‘applied’ or ‘academic’ versions and present broad topics of content 9 . It is not until Levels 3 and 4 (generally Grades 11 and 12, respectively) that STEM classes become subject-specific (i.e., Biology, Chemistry, and/or Physics) and are offered as “university”, “college”, or “mixed” versions, designed to best prepare students for their desired post-secondary pursuits 9 . Given that Levels 3 and 4 science courses are not mandatory for graduation, enrollment identifies an innate student interest in continued learning. Furthermore, engagement in these post-secondary preparatory courses is also dependent upon achieving successful grades in preceding courses, but as curriculum becomes more subject-specific, students often yield lower degrees of success in achieving course credit 2 . Therefore, it is imperative that learning supports are best focused on ensuring that those students with an innate interest are able to achieve success in learning.

When given opportunity and focused support, high school students are capable of successfully completing rigorous programs at STEM-focused schools 10 . Specialized STEM schools have existed in the US for over 100 years; generally, students are admitted after their sophomore year of high school experience (equivalent to Grade 10) based on standardized test scores, essays, portfolios, references, and/or interviews 11 . Common elements to this learning framework include a diverse array of advanced STEM courses, paired with opportunities to engage in and disseminate cutting-edge research 12 . Therein, said research experience is inherently based in the processes of critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration. This learning framework supports translation of core curricular concepts to practice and is fundamental in allowing students to develop better understanding and appreciation of STEM career fields.

Despite the described positive attributes, many students do not have the ability or resources to engage within STEM-focused schools, particularly given that they are not prevalent across Canada, and other countries across the world. Consequently, many public institutions support the idea that post-secondary led engineering education programs are effective ways to expose high school students to engineering education and relevant career options, and also increase engineering awareness 13 . Although singular class field trips are used extensively to accomplish such programs, these may not allow immersive experiences for application of knowledge and practice of skills that are proven to impact long-term learning and influence career choices 14 , 15 . Longer-term immersive research experiences, such as after-school programs or summer camps, have shown successful at recruiting students into STEM degree programs and careers, where longevity of experience helps foster self-determination and interest-led, inquiry-based projects 4 , 16 , 17 , 18 , 19 .

Such activities convey the elements that are suggested to make a post-secondary led high school education programs successful: hands-on experience, self-motivated learning, real-life application, immediate feedback, and problem-based projects 20 , 21 . In combination with immersion in university teaching facilities, learning is authentic and relevant, similar to the STEM school-focused framework, and consequently representative of an experience found in actual STEM practice 22 . These outcomes may further be a consequence of student engagement and attitude: Brown et al. studied the relationships between STEM curriculum and student attitudes, and found the latter played a more important role in intention to persist in STEM when compared to self-efficacy 23 . This is interesting given that student self-efficacy has been identified to influence ‘motivation, persistence, and determination’ in overcoming challenges in a career pathway 24 . Taken together, this suggests that creation and delivery of modern, exciting curriculum that supports positive student attitudes is fundamental to engage and retain students in STEM programs.

Supported by the outcomes of identified effective learning strategies, University of Toronto (U of T) graduate trainees created a novel high school education program Discovery , to develop a comfortable yet stimulating environment of inquiry-focused iterative learning for senior high school students (Grades 11 & 12; Levels 3 & 4) at non-specialized schools. Built in strong collaboration with science teachers from George Harvey Collegiate Institute (Toronto District School Board), Discovery stimulates application of STEM concepts within a unique term-long applied curriculum delivered iteratively within both U of T undergraduate teaching facilities and collaborating high school classrooms 25 . Based on the volume of medically-themed news and entertainment that is communicated to the population at large, the rapidly-growing and diverse field of biomedical engineering (BME) were considered an ideal program context 26 . In its definition, BME necessitates cross-disciplinary STEM knowledge focused on the betterment of human health, wherein Discovery facilitates broadening student perspective through engaging inquiry-based projects. Importantly, Discovery allows all students within a class cohort to work together with their classroom teacher, stimulating continued development of a relevant learning community that is deemed essential for meaningful context and important for transforming student perspectives and understandings 27 , 28 . Multiple studies support the concept that relevant learning communities improve student attitudes towards learning, significantly increasing student motivation in STEM courses, and consequently improving the overall learning experience 29 . Learning communities, such as that provided by Discovery , also promote the formation of self-supporting groups, greater active involvement in class, and higher persistence rates for participating students 30 .

The objective of Discovery , through structure and dissemination, is to engage senior high school science students in challenging, inquiry-based practical BME activities as a mechanism to stimulate comprehension of STEM curriculum application to real-world concepts. Consequent focus is placed on critical thinking skill development through an atmosphere of perseverance in ambiguity, something not common in a secondary school knowledge-focused delivery but highly relevant in post-secondary STEM education strategies. Herein, we describe the observed impact of the differential project-based learning environment of Discovery on student performance and engagement. We identify the value of an inquiry-focused learning model that is tangible for students who struggle in a knowledge-focused delivery structure, where engagement in conceptual critical thinking in the relevant subject area stimulates student interest, attitudes, and resulting academic performance. Assessment of study outcomes suggests that when provided with a differential learning opportunity, student performance and interest in STEM increased. Consequently, Discovery provides an effective teaching and learning framework within a non-specialized school that motivates students, provides opportunity for critical thinking and problem-solving practice, and better prepares them for persistence in future STEM programs.

Program delivery

The outcomes of the current study result from execution of Discovery over five independent academic terms as a collaboration between Institute of Biomedical Engineering (graduate students, faculty, and support staff) and George Harvey Collegiate Institute (science teachers and administration) stakeholders. Each term, the program allowed senior secondary STEM students (Grades 11 and 12) opportunity to engage in a novel project-based learning environment. The program structure uses the problem-based engineering capstone framework as a tool of inquiry-focused learning objectives, motivated by a central BME global research topic, with research questions that are inter-related but specific to the curriculum of each STEM course subject (Fig. 1 ). Over each 12-week term, students worked in teams (3–4 students) within their class cohorts to execute projects with the guidance of U of T trainees ( Discovery instructors) and their own high school teacher(s). Student experimental work was conducted in U of T teaching facilities relevant to the research study of interest (i.e., Biology and Chemistry-based projects executed within Undergraduate Teaching Laboratories; Physics projects executed within Undergraduate Design Studios). Students were introduced to relevant techniques and safety procedures in advance of iterative experimentation. Importantly, this experience served as a course term project for students, who were assessed at several points throughout the program for performance in an inquiry-focused environment as well as within the regular classroom (Fig. 1 ). To instill the atmosphere of STEM, student teams delivered their outcomes in research poster format at a final symposium, sharing their results and recommendations with other post-secondary students, faculty, and community in an open environment.

figure 1

The general program concept (blue background; top left ) highlights a global research topic examined through student dissemination of subject-specific research questions, yielding multifaceted student outcomes (orange background; top right ). Each program term (term workflow, yellow background; bottom panel ), students work on program deliverables in class (blue), iterate experimental outcomes within university facilities (orange), and are assessed accordingly at numerous deliverables in an inquiry-focused learning model.

Over the course of five terms there were 268 instances of tracked student participation, representing 170 individual students. Specifically, 94 students participated during only one term of programming, 57 students participated in two terms, 16 students participated in three terms, and 3 students participated in four terms. Multiple instances of participation represent students that enrol in more than one STEM class during their senior years of high school, or who participated in Grade 11 and subsequently Grade 12. Students were surveyed before and after each term to assess program effects on STEM interest and engagement. All grade-based assessments were performed by high school teachers for their respective STEM class cohorts using consistent grading rubrics and assignment structure. Here, we discuss the outcomes of student involvement in this experiential curriculum model.

Student performance and engagement

Student grades were assigned, collected, and anonymized by teachers for each Discovery deliverable (background essay, client meeting, proposal, progress report, poster, and final presentation). Teachers anonymized collective Discovery grades, the component deliverable grades thereof, final course grades, attendance in class and during programming, as well as incomplete classroom assignments, for comparative study purposes. Students performed significantly higher in their cumulative Discovery grade than in their cumulative classroom grade (final course grade less the Discovery contribution; p  < 0.0001). Nevertheless, there was a highly significant correlation ( p  < 0.0001) observed between the grade representing combined Discovery deliverables and the final course grade (Fig. 2a ). Further examination of the full dataset revealed two student cohorts of interest: the “Exceeds Expectations” (EE) subset (defined as those students who achieved ≥1 SD [18.0%] grade differential in Discovery over their final course grade; N  = 99 instances), and the “Multiple Term” (MT) subset (defined as those students who participated in Discovery more than once; 76 individual students that collectively accounted for 174 single terms of assessment out of the 268 total student-terms delivered) (Fig. 2b, c ). These subsets were not unrelated; 46 individual students who had multiple experiences (60.5% of total MTs) exhibited at least one occasion in achieving a ≥18.0% grade differential. As students participated in group work, there was concern that lower-performing students might negatively influence the Discovery grade of higher-performing students (or vice versa). However, students were observed to self-organize into groups where all individuals received similar final overall course grades (Fig. 2d ), thereby alleviating these concerns.

figure 2

a Linear regression of student grades reveals a significant correlation ( p  = 0.0009) between Discovery performance and final course grade less the Discovery contribution to grade, as assessed by teachers. The dashed red line and intervals represent the theoretical 1:1 correlation between Discovery and course grades and standard deviation of the Discovery -course grade differential, respectively. b , c Identification of subgroups of interest, Exceeds Expectations (EE; N  = 99, orange ) who were ≥+1 SD in Discovery -course grade differential and Multi-Term (MT; N  = 174, teal ), of which N  = 65 students were present in both subgroups. d Students tended to self-assemble in working groups according to their final course performance; data presented as mean ± SEM. e For MT students participating at least 3 terms in Discovery , there was no significant correlation between course grade and time, while ( f ) there was a significant correlation between Discovery grade and cumulative terms in the program. Histograms of total absences per student in ( g ) Discovery and ( h ) class (binned by 4 days to be equivalent in time to a single Discovery absence).

The benefits experienced by MT students seemed progressive; MT students that participated in 3 or 4 terms ( N  = 16 and 3, respectively ) showed no significant increase by linear regression in their course grade over time ( p  = 0.15, Fig. 2e ), but did show a significant increase in their Discovery grades ( p  = 0.0011, Fig. 2f ). Finally, students demonstrated excellent Discovery attendance; at least 91% of participants attended all Discovery sessions in a given term (Fig. 2g ). In contrast, class attendance rates reveal a much wider distribution where 60.8% (163 out of 268 students) missed more than 4 classes (equivalent in learning time to one Discovery session) and 14.6% (39 out of 268 students) missed 16 or more classes (equivalent in learning time to an entire program of Discovery ) in a term (Fig. 2h ).

Discovery EE students (Fig. 3 ), roughly by definition, obtained lower course grades ( p  < 0.0001, Fig. 3a ) and higher final Discovery grades ( p  = 0.0004, Fig. 3b ) than non-EE students. This cohort of students exhibited program grades higher than classmates (Fig. 3c–h ); these differences were significant in every category with the exception of essays, where they outperformed to a significantly lesser degree ( p  = 0.097; Fig. 3c ). There was no statistically significant difference in EE vs. non-EE student classroom attendance ( p  = 0.85; Fig. 3i, j ). There were only four single day absences in Discovery within the EE subset; however, this difference was not statistically significant ( p  = 0.074).

figure 3

The “Exceeds Expectations” (EE) subset of students (defined as those who received a combined Discovery grade ≥1 SD (18.0%) higher than their final course grade) performed ( a ) lower on their final course grade and ( b ) higher in the Discovery program as a whole when compared to their classmates. d – h EE students received significantly higher grades on each Discovery deliverable than their classmates, except for their ( c ) introductory essays and ( h ) final presentations. The EE subset also tended ( i ) to have a higher relative rate of attendance during Discovery sessions but no difference in ( j ) classroom attendance. N  = 99 EE students and 169 non-EE students (268 total). Grade data expressed as mean ± SEM.

Discovery MT students (Fig. 4 ), although not receiving significantly higher grades in class than students participating in the program only one time ( p  = 0.29, Fig. 4a ), were observed to obtain higher final Discovery grades than single-term students ( p  = 0.0067, Fig. 4b ). Although trends were less pronounced for individual MT student deliverables (Fig. 4c–h ), this student group performed significantly better on the progress report ( p  = 0.0021; Fig. 4f ). Trends of higher performance were observed for initial proposals and final presentations ( p  = 0.081 and 0.056, respectively; Fig. 4e, h ); all other deliverables were not significantly different between MT and non-MT students (Fig. 4c, d, g ). Attendance in Discovery ( p  = 0.22) was also not significantly different between MT and non-MT students, although MT students did miss significantly less class time ( p  = 0.010) (Fig. 4i, j ). Longitudinal assessment of individual deliverables for MT students that participated in three or more Discovery terms (Fig. 5 ) further highlights trend in improvement (Fig. 2f ). Greater performance over terms of participation was observed for essay ( p  = 0.0295, Fig. 5a ), client meeting ( p  = 0.0003, Fig. 5b ), proposal ( p  = 0.0004, Fig. 5c ), progress report ( p  = 0.16, Fig. 5d ), poster ( p  = 0.0005, Fig. 5e ), and presentation ( p  = 0.0295, Fig. 5f ) deliverable grades; these trends were all significant with the exception of the progress report ( p  = 0.16, Fig. 5d ) owing to strong performance in this deliverable in all terms.

figure 4

The “multi-term” (MT) subset of students (defined as having attended more than one term of Discovery ) demonstrated favorable performance in Discovery , ( a ) showing no difference in course grade compared to single-term students, but ( b outperforming them in final Discovery grade. Independent of the number of times participating in Discovery , MT students did not score significantly differently on their ( c ) essay, ( d ) client meeting, or ( g ) poster. They tended to outperform their single-term classmates on the ( e ) proposal and ( h ) final presentation and scored significantly higher on their ( f ) progress report. MT students showed no statistical difference in ( i ) Discovery attendance but did show ( j ) higher rates of classroom attendance than single-term students. N  = 174 MT instances of student participation (76 individual students) and 94 single-term students. Grade data expressed as mean ± SEM.

figure 5

Longitudinal assessment of a subset of MT student participants that participated in three ( N  = 16) or four ( N  = 3) terms presents a significant trend of improvement in their ( a ) essay, ( b ) client meeting, ( c ) proposal, ( e ) poster, and ( f ) presentation grade. d Progress report grades present a trend in improvement but demonstrate strong performance in all terms, limiting potential for student improvement. Grade data are presented as individual student performance; each student is represented by one color; data is fitted with a linear trendline (black).

Finally, the expansion of Discovery to a second school of lower LOI (i.e., nominally higher aggregate SES) allowed for the assessment of program impact in a new population over 2 terms of programming. A significant ( p  = 0.040) divergence in Discovery vs. course grade distribution from the theoretical 1:1 relationship was found in the new cohort (S 1 Appendix , Fig. S 1 ), in keeping with the pattern established in this study.

Teacher perceptions

Qualitative observation in the classroom by high school teachers emphasized the value students independently placed on program participation and deliverables. Throughout the term, students often prioritized Discovery group assignments over other tasks for their STEM courses, regardless of academic weight and/or due date. Comparing within this student population, teachers spoke of difficulties with late and incomplete assignments in the regular curriculum but found very few such instances with respect to Discovery -associated deliverables. Further, teachers speculated on the good behavior and focus of students in Discovery programming in contrast to attentiveness and behavior issues in their school classrooms. Multiple anecdotal examples were shared of renewed perception of student potential; students that exhibited poor academic performance in the classroom often engaged with high performance in this inquiry-focused atmosphere. Students appeared to take a sense of ownership, excitement, and pride in the setting of group projects oriented around scientific inquiry, discovery, and dissemination.

Student perceptions

Students were asked to consider and rank the academic difficulty (scale of 1–5, with 1 = not challenging and 5 = highly challenging) of the work they conducted within the Discovery learning model. Considering individual Discovery terms, at least 91% of students felt the curriculum to be sufficiently challenging with a 3/5 or higher ranking (Term 1: 87.5%, Term 2: 93.4%, Term 3: 85%, Term 4: 93.3%, Term 5: 100%), and a minimum of 58% of students indicating a 4/5 or higher ranking (Term 1: 58.3%, Term 2: 70.5%, Term 3: 67.5%, Term 4: 69.1%, Term 5: 86.4%) (Fig. 6a ).

figure 6

a Histogram of relative frequency of perceived Discovery programming academic difficulty ranked from not challenging (1) to highly challenging (5) for each session demonstrated the consistently perceived high degree of difficulty for Discovery programming (total responses: 223). b Program participation increased student comfort (94.6%) with navigating lab work in a university or college setting (total responses: 220). c Considering participation in Discovery programming, students indicated their increased (72.4%) or decreased (10.1%) likelihood to pursue future experiences in STEM as a measure of program impact (total responses: 217). d Large majority of participating students (84.9%) indicated their interest for future participation in Discovery (total responses: 212). Students were given the opportunity to opt out of individual survey questions, partially completed surveys were included in totals.

The majority of students (94.6%) indicated they felt more comfortable with the idea of performing future work in a university STEM laboratory environment given exposure to university teaching facilities throughout the program (Fig. 6b ). Students were also queried whether they were (i) more likely, (ii) less likely, or (iii) not impacted by their experience in the pursuit of STEM in the future. The majority of participants (>82%) perceived impact on STEM interests, with 72.4% indicating they were more likely to pursue these interests in the future (Fig. 6c ). When surveyed at the end of term, 84.9% of students indicated they would participate in the program again (Fig. 6d ).

We have described an inquiry-based framework for implementing experiential STEM education in a BME setting. Using this model, we engaged 268 instances of student participation (170 individual students who participated 1–4 times) over five terms in project-based learning wherein students worked in peer-based teams under the mentorship of U of T trainees to design and execute the scientific method in answering a relevant research question. Collaboration between high school teachers and Discovery instructors allowed for high school student exposure to cutting-edge BME research topics, participation in facilitated inquiry, and acquisition of knowledge through scientific discovery. All assessments were conducted by high school teachers and constituted a fraction (10–15%) of the overall course grade, instilling academic value for participating students. As such, students exhibited excitement to learn as well as commitment to their studies in the program.

Through our observations and analysis, we suggest there is value in differential learning environments for students that struggle in a knowledge acquisition-focused classroom setting. In general, we observed a high level of academic performance in Discovery programming (Fig. 2a ), which was highlighted exceptionally in EE students who exhibited greater academic performance in Discovery deliverables compared to normal coursework (>18% grade improvement in relevant deliverables). We initially considered whether this was the result of strong students influencing weaker students; however, group organization within each course suggests this is not the case (Fig. 2d ). With the exception of one class in one term (24 participants assigned by their teacher), students were allowed to self-organize into working groups and they chose to work with other students of relatively similar academic performance (as indicated by course grade), a trend observed in other studies 31 , 32 . Remarkably, EE students not only excelled during Discovery when compared to their own performance in class, but this cohort also achieved significantly higher average grades in each of the deliverables throughout the program when compared to the remaining Discovery cohort (Fig. 3 ). This data demonstrates the value of an inquiry-based learning environment compared to knowledge-focused delivery in the classroom in allowing students to excel. We expect that part of this engagement was resultant of student excitement with a novel learning opportunity. It is however a well-supported concept that students who struggle in traditional settings tend to demonstrate improved interest and motivation in STEM when given opportunity to interact in a hands-on fashion, which supports our outcomes 4 , 33 . Furthermore, these outcomes clearly represent variable student learning styles, where some students benefit from a greater exchange of information, knowledge and skills in a cooperative learning environment 34 . The performance of the EE group may not be by itself surprising, as the identification of the subset by definition required high performers in Discovery who did not have exceptionally high course grades; in addition, the final Discovery grade is dependent on the component assignment grades. However, the discrepancies between EE and non-EE groups attendance suggests that students were engaged by Discovery in a way that they were not by regular classroom curriculum.

In addition to quantified engagement in Discovery observed in academic performance, we believe remarkable attendance rates are indicative of the value students place in the differential learning structure. Given the differences in number of Discovery days and implications of missing one day of regular class compared to this immersive program, we acknowledge it is challenging to directly compare attendance data and therefore approximate this comparison with consideration of learning time equivalence. When combined with other subjective data including student focus, requests to work on Discovery during class time, and lack of discipline/behavior issues, the attendance data importantly suggests that students were especially engaged by the Discovery model. Further, we believe the increased commute time to the university campus (students are responsible for independent transit to campus, a much longer endeavour than the normal school commute), early program start time, and students’ lack of familiarity with the location are non-trivial considerations when determining the propensity of students to participate enthusiastically in Discovery . We feel this suggests the students place value on this team-focused learning and find it to be more applicable and meaningful to their interests.

Given post-secondary admission requirements for STEM programs, it would be prudent to think that students participating in multiple STEM classes across terms are the ones with the most inherent interest in post-secondary STEM programs. The MT subset, representing students who participated in Discovery for more than one term, averaged significantly higher final Discovery grades. The increase in the final Discovery grade was observed to result from a general confluence of improved performance over multiple deliverables and a continuous effort to improve in a STEM curriculum. This was reflected in longitudinal tracking of Discovery performance, where we observed a significant trend of improved performance. Interestingly, the high number of MT students who were included in the EE group suggests that students who had a keen interest in science enrolled in more than one course and in general responded well to the inquiry-based teaching method of Discovery , where scientific method was put into action. It stands to reason that students interested in science will continue to take STEM courses and will respond favorably to opportunities to put classroom theory to practical application.

The true value of an inquiry-based program such as Discovery may not be based in inspiring students to perform at a higher standard in STEM within the high school setting, as skills in critical thinking do not necessarily translate to knowledge-based assessment. Notably, students found the programming equally challenging throughout each of the sequential sessions, perhaps somewhat surprising considering the increasing number of repeat attendees in successive sessions (Fig. 6a ). Regardless of sub-discipline, there was an emphasis of perceived value demonstrated through student surveys where we observed indicated interest in STEM and comfort with laboratory work environments, and desire to engage in future iterations given the opportunity. Although non-quantitative, we perceive this as an indicator of significant student engagement, even though some participants did not yield academic success in the program and found it highly challenging given its ambiguity.

Although we observed that students become more certain of their direction in STEM, further longitudinal study is warranted to make claim of this outcome. Additionally, at this point in our assessment we cannot effectively assess the practical outcomes of participation, understanding that the immediate effects observed are subject to a number of factors associated with performance in the high school learning environment. Future studies that track graduates from this program will be prudent, in conjunction with an ever-growing dataset of assessment as well as surveys designed to better elucidate underlying perceptions and attitudes, to continue to understand the expected benefits of this inquiry-focused and partnered approach. Altogether, a multifaceted assessment of our early outcomes suggests significant value of an immersive and iterative interaction with STEM as part of the high school experience. A well-defined divergence from knowledge-based learning, focused on engagement in critical thinking development framed in the cutting-edge of STEM, may be an important step to broadening student perspectives.

In this study, we describe the short-term effects of an inquiry-based STEM educational experience on a cohort of secondary students attending a non-specialized school, and suggest that the framework can be widely applied across virtually all subjects where inquiry-driven and mentored projects can be undertaken. Although we have demonstrated replication in a second cohort of nominally higher SES (S 1 Appendix , Supplementary Fig. 1 ), a larger collection period with more students will be necessary to conclusively determine impact independent of both SES and specific cohort effects. Teachers may also find this framework difficult to implement depending on resources and/or institutional investment and support, particularly if post-secondary collaboration is inaccessible. Offerings to a specific subject (e.g., physics) where experiments yielding empirical data are logistically or financially simpler to perform may be valid routes of adoption as opposed to the current study where all subject cohorts were included.

As we consider Discovery in a bigger picture context, expansion and implementation of this model is translatable. Execution of the scientific method is an important aspect of citizen science, as the concepts of critical thing become ever-more important in a landscape of changing technological landscapes. Giving students critical thinking and problem-solving skills in their primary and secondary education provides value in the context of any career path. Further, we feel that this model is scalable across disciplines, STEM or otherwise, as a means of building the tools of inquiry. We have observed here the value of differential inclusive student engagement and critical thinking through an inquiry-focused model for a subset of students, but further to this an engagement, interest, and excitement across the body of student participants. As we educate the leaders of tomorrow, we suggest that use of an inquiry-focused model such as Discovery could facilitate growth of a data-driven critical thinking framework.

In conclusion, we have presented a model of inquiry-based STEM education for secondary students that emphasizes inclusion, quantitative analysis, and critical thinking. Student grades suggest significant performance benefits, and engagement data suggests positive student attitude despite the perceived challenges of the program. We also note a particular performance benefit to students who repeatedly engage in the program. This framework may carry benefits in a wide variety of settings and disciplines for enhancing student engagement and performance, particularly in non-specialized school environments.

Study design and implementation

Participants in Discovery include all students enrolled in university-stream Grade 11 or 12 biology, chemistry, or physics at the participating school over five consecutive terms (cohort summary shown in Table 1 ). Although student participation in educational content was mandatory, student grades and survey responses (administered by high school teachers) were collected from only those students with parent or guardian consent. Teachers replaced each student name with a unique coded identifier to preserve anonymity but enable individual student tracking over multiple terms. All data collected were analyzed without any exclusions save for missing survey responses; no power analysis was performed prior to data collection.

Ethics statement

This study was approved by the University of Toronto Health Sciences Research Ethics Board (Protocol # 34825) and the Toronto District School Board External Research Review Committee (Protocol # 2017-2018-20). Written informed consent was collected from parents or guardians of participating students prior to the acquisition of student data (both post-hoc academic data and survey administration). Data were anonymized by high school teachers for maintenance of academic confidentiality of individual students prior to release to U of T researchers.

Educational program overview

Students enrolled in university-preparatory STEM classes at the participating school completed a term-long project under the guidance of graduate student instructors and undergraduate student mentors as a mandatory component of their respective course. Project curriculum developed collaboratively between graduate students and participating high school teachers was delivered within U of T Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering (FASE) teaching facilities. Participation allows high school students to garner a better understanding as to how undergraduate learning and career workflows in STEM vary from traditional high school classroom learning, meanwhile reinforcing the benefits of problem solving, perseverance, teamwork, and creative thinking competencies. Given that Discovery was a mandatory component of course curriculum, students participated as class cohorts and addressed questions specific to their course subject knowledge base but related to the defined global health research topic (Fig. 1 ). Assessment of program deliverables was collectively assigned to represent 10–15% of the final course grade for each subject at the discretion of the respective STEM teacher.

The Discovery program framework was developed, prior to initiation of student assessment, in collaboration with one high school selected from the local public school board over a 1.5 year period of time. This partner school consistently scores highly (top decile) in the school board’s Learning Opportunities Index (LOI). The LOI ranks each school based on measures of external challenges affecting its student population therefore schools with the greatest level of external challenge receive a higher ranking 35 . A high LOI ranking is inversely correlated with socioeconomic status (SES); therefore, participating students are identified as having a significant number of external challenges that may affect their academic success. The mandatory nature of program participation was established to reach highly capable students who may be reluctant to engage on their own initiative, as a means of enhancing the inclusivity and impact of the program. The selected school partner is located within a reasonable geographical radius of our campus (i.e., ~40 min transit time from school to campus). This is relevant as participating students are required to independently commute to campus for Discovery hands-on experiences.

Each program term of Discovery corresponds with a five-month high school term. Lead university trainee instructors (3–6 each term) engaged with high school teachers 1–2 months in advance of high school student engagement to discern a relevant overarching global healthcare theme. Each theme was selected with consideration of (a) topics that university faculty identify as cutting-edge biomedical research, (b) expertise that Discovery instructors provide, and (c) capacity to showcase the diversity of BME. Each theme was sub-divided into STEM subject-specific research questions aligning with provincial Ministry of Education curriculum concepts for university-preparatory Biology, Chemistry, and Physics 9 that students worked to address, both on-campus and in-class, during a term-long project. The Discovery framework therefore provides students a problem-based learning experience reflective of an engineering capstone design project, including a motivating scientific problem (i.e., global topic), subject-specific research question, and systematic determination of a professional recommendation addressing the needs of the presented problem.

Discovery instructors were volunteers recruited primarily from graduate and undergraduate BME programs in the FASE. Instructors were organized into subject-specific instructional teams based on laboratory skills, teaching experience, and research expertise. The lead instructors of each subject (the identified 1–2 trainees that built curriculum with high school teachers) were responsible to organize the remaining team members as mentors for specific student groups over the course of the program term (~1:8 mentor to student ratio).

All Discovery instructors were familiarized with program expectations and trained in relevant workspace safety, in addition to engagement at a teaching workshop delivered by the Faculty Advisor (a Teaching Stream faculty member) at the onset of term. This workshop was designed to provide practical information on teaching and was co-developed with high school teachers based on their extensive training and experience in fundamental teaching methods. In addition, group mentors received hands-on training and guidance from lead instructors regarding the specific activities outlined for their respective subject programming (an exemplary term of student programming is available in S 2 Appendix) .

Discovery instructors were responsible for introducing relevant STEM skills and mentoring high school students for the duration of their projects, with support and mentorship from the Faculty Mentor. Each instructor worked exclusively throughout the term with the student groups to which they had been assigned, ensuring consistent mentorship across all disciplinary components of the project. In addition to further supporting university trainees in on-campus mentorship, high school teachers were responsible for academic assessment of all student program deliverables (Fig. 1 ; the standardized grade distribution available in S 3 Appendix ). Importantly, trainees never engaged in deliverable assessment; for continuity of overall course assessment, this remained the responsibility of the relevant teacher for each student cohort.

Throughout each term, students engaged within the university facilities four times. The first three sessions included hands-on lab sessions while the fourth visit included a culminating symposium for students to present their scientific findings (Fig. 1 ). On average, there were 4–5 groups of students per subject (3–4 students per group; ~20 students/class). Discovery instructors worked exclusively with 1–2 groups each term in the capacity of mentor to monitor and guide student progress in all project deliverables.

After introducing the selected global research topic in class, teachers led students in completion of background research essays. Students subsequently engaged in a subject-relevant skill-building protocol during their first visit to university teaching laboratory facilities, allowing opportunity to understand analysis techniques and equipment relevant for their assessment projects. At completion of this session, student groups were presented with a subject-specific research question as well as the relevant laboratory inventory available for use during their projects. Armed with this information, student groups continued to work in their classroom setting to develop group-specific experimental plans. Teachers and Discovery instructors provided written and oral feedback, respectively , allowing students an opportunity to revise their plans in class prior to on-campus experimental execution.

Once at the relevant laboratory environment, student groups executed their protocols in an effort to collect experimental data. Data analysis was performed in the classroom and students learned by trial & error to optimize their protocols before returning to the university lab for a second opportunity of data collection. All methods and data were re-analyzed in class in order for students to create a scientific poster for the purpose of study/experience dissemination. During a final visit to campus, all groups presented their findings at a research symposium, allowing students to verbally defend their process, analyses, interpretations, and design recommendations to a diverse audience including peers, STEM teachers, undergraduate and graduate university students, postdoctoral fellows and U of T faculty.

Data collection

Teachers evaluated their students on the following associated deliverables: (i) global theme background research essay; (ii) experimental plan; (iii) progress report; (iv) final poster content and presentation; and (v) attendance. For research purposes, these grades were examined individually and also as a collective Discovery program grade for each student. For students consenting to participation in the research study, all Discovery grades were anonymized by the classroom teacher before being shared with study authors. Each student was assigned a code by the teacher for direct comparison of deliverable outcomes and survey responses. All instances of “Final course grade” represent the prorated course grade without the Discovery component, to prevent confounding of quantitative analyses.

Survey instruments were used to gain insight into student attitudes and perceptions of STEM and post-secondary study, as well as Discovery program experience and impact (S 4 Appendix ). High school teachers administered surveys in the classroom only to students supported by parental permission. Pre-program surveys were completed at minimum 1 week prior to program initiation each term and exit surveys were completed at maximum 2 weeks post- Discovery term completion. Surveys results were validated using a principal component analysis (S 1 Appendix , Supplementary Fig. 2 ).

Identification and comparison of population subsets

From initial analysis, we identified two student subpopulations of particular interest: students who performed ≥1 SD [18.0%] or greater in the collective Discovery components of the course compared to their final course grade (“EE”), and students who participated in Discovery more than once (“MT”). These groups were compared individually against the rest of the respective Discovery population (“non-EE” and “non-MT”, respectively ). Additionally, MT students who participated in three or four (the maximum observed) terms of Discovery were assessed for longitudinal changes to performance in their course and Discovery grades. Comparisons were made for all Discovery deliverables (introductory essay, client meeting, proposal, progress report, poster, and presentation), final Discovery grade, final course grade, Discovery attendance, and overall attendance.

Statistical analysis

Student course grades were analyzed in all instances without the Discovery contribution (calculated from all deliverable component grades and ranging from 10 to 15% of final course grade depending on class and year) to prevent correlation. Aggregate course grades and Discovery grades were first compared by paired t-test, matching each student’s course grade to their Discovery grade for the term. Student performance in Discovery ( N  = 268 instances of student participation, comprising 170 individual students that participated 1–4 times) was initially assessed in a linear regression of Discovery grade vs. final course grade. Trends in course and Discovery performance over time for students participating 3 or 4 terms ( N  = 16 and 3 individuals, respectively ) were also assessed by linear regression. For subpopulation analysis (EE and MT, N  = 99 instances from 81 individuals and 174 instances from 76 individuals, respectively ), each dataset was tested for normality using the D’Agostino and Pearson omnibus normality test. All subgroup comparisons vs. the remaining population were performed by Mann–Whitney U -test. Data are plotted as individual points with mean ± SEM overlaid (grades), or in histogram bins of 1 and 4 days, respectively , for Discovery and class attendance. Significance was set at α ≤ 0.05.

Reporting summary

Further information on research design is available in the Nature Research Reporting Summary linked to this article.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available upon reasonable request from the corresponding author DMK. These data are not publicly available due to privacy concerns of personal data according to the ethical research agreements supporting this study.

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This study has been possible due to the support of many University of Toronto trainee volunteers, including Genevieve Conant, Sherif Ramadan, Daniel Smieja, Rami Saab, Andrew Effat, Serena Mandla, Cindy Bui, Janice Wong, Dawn Bannerman, Allison Clement, Shouka Parvin Nejad, Nicolas Ivanov, Jose Cardenas, Huntley Chang, Romario Regeenes, Dr. Henrik Persson, Ali Mojdeh, Nhien Tran-Nguyen, Ileana Co, and Jonathan Rubianto. We further acknowledge the staff and administration of George Harvey Collegiate Institute and the Institute of Biomedical Engineering (IBME), as well as Benjamin Rocheleau and Madeleine Rocheleau for contributions to data collation. Discovery has grown with continued support of Dean Christopher Yip (Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, U of T), and the financial support of the IBME and the National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) PromoScience program (PROSC 515876-2017; IBME “Igniting Youth Curiosity in STEM” initiative co-directed by DMK and Dr. Penney Gilbert). LDH and NIC were supported by Vanier Canada graduate scholarships from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and NSERC, respectively . DMK holds a Dean’s Emerging Innovation in Teaching Professorship in the Faculty of Engineering & Applied Science, U of T.

Author information

These authors contributed equally: Locke Davenport Huyer, Neal I. Callaghan.

Authors and Affiliations

Institute of Biomedical Engineering, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada

Locke Davenport Huyer, Neal I. Callaghan, Andrey I. Shukalyuk & Dawn M. Kilkenny

Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada

Locke Davenport Huyer

Translational Biology and Engineering Program, Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada

Neal I. Callaghan

George Harvey Collegiate Institute, Toronto District School Board, Toronto, ON, Canada

Sara Dicks, Edward Scherer & Margaret Jou

Institute for Studies in Transdisciplinary Engineering Education & Practice, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada

Dawn M. Kilkenny

You can also search for this author in PubMed   Google Scholar


LDH, NIC and DMK conceived the program structure, designed the study, and interpreted the data. LDH and NIC ideated programming, coordinated execution, and performed all data analysis. SD, ES, and MJ designed and assessed student deliverables, collected data, and anonymized data for assessment. SD assisted in data interpretation. AIS assisted in programming ideation and design. All authors provided feedback and approved the manuscript that was written by LDH, NIC and DMK.

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Correspondence to Dawn M. Kilkenny .

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Davenport Huyer, L., Callaghan, N.I., Dicks, S. et al. Enhancing senior high school student engagement and academic performance using an inclusive and scalable inquiry-based program. npj Sci. Learn. 5 , 17 (2020).

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science research papers for high school students

Science in School

Science in School

Exploring scientific research articles in the classroom teach article.

Author(s): Miriam Ossevoort, Marcel Koeneman, Martin Goedhart

Learn how to use research articles in your science lessons.

Scientists use research articles to communicate their research findings and scientific claims. These articles are not just factual reports of experimental work; the authors also try to convince the reader that their argument is correct. It is now easier than ever to read the original research behind science stories in the media, as more and more articles are being made freely available through open-access publishing.

Reading research articles is an opportunity for secondary-school students to learn about:

  • The language of scientific communication (structure, vocabulary and conventions such as writing in the third person)
  • The way scientists use their evidence to form an argument and justify their claims
  • How science works (designing research to test hypotheses; fair testing; presenting results; drawing conclusions; raising new questions; building on existing knowledge).

Reading research articles is not an easy task for students, but they can find it inspiring. Here we describe a classroom activity that we have been using to teach students aged 15-16 years and older about the textual structure ( part 1 ) and the argumentative structure ( part 2 ) of a research article. This classroom activity takes about three hours. It could be less if, after part 1, the students read the article as homework.

Most research articles are written in English, the language of science. If you teach in a school where English is not the language of instruction, you might find it helpful to involve the English teacher in the activity.

Getting started

To begin with, you need to choose a good research article to use. The following criteria are key:

  • Limited length (three pages maximum)
  • Appealing, age-appropriate content
  • Structure including the following sections: abstract, introduction, materials and methods, results, discussion and / or conclusion
  • Easy-to-understand experimental procedure
  • Simple relationship between the data and conclusion
  • Obvious practical or social significance.

When selecting the topic, you might like to focus on something covered in the school curriculum. Once you have chosen a topic, you may want to start by searching for research articles published in open-access journals. For example, the Directory of Open Access Journals w1 (DOAJ), a directory of scientific and scholarly journals published in many languages, is one potential starting point. We would also recommend Biomed Central w2 , a publisher of 220 open-access, online, peer-reviewed journals in biology and medicine. The Public Library of Science w3 (PLOS) publishes seven open-access, peer-reviewed journals in biology and medicine. When using these collections, you could search for articles on a specific topic or browse the recent research, featured discussions and / or most viewed sections.

Another source of inspiration could be topics covered in media such as newspapers, popular science magazines like New Scientist or Science News ,or their corresponding websites. These websites generally allow you to enter search terms and filter by topic, date and other criteria; some of the articles include suggestions for further reading, such as the original research articles. You will then need to judge whether the research article itself meets the selection criteria listed above.

Research articles on (animal) behaviour or testing medicines often have easy-to-understand experimental procedures. One good example is Computer animations stimulate contagious yawning in chimpanzees ( Campbell et al., 2009 ), which was covered in several newspapers. We chose this article for its length, its appealing content (looking at pictures of yawning chimpanzees makes you yawn yourself), the straightforward experimental procedure and clear scientific claim. From the from the Science in School website, you can download more details of how we used the article w4 .

1) The textual structure of the article

Let’s begin by looking at the text and the structure of a research article. It starts with a title , which summarises the study and / or its outcome. This is followed by a list of the authors and their affiliations (i.e. who they work for). Usually, the first author is the main researcher and the last author is the head of the department. Then, the dates of submission and publication are given; this shows how long the peer review and revision process has taken. Next, we find the abstract , which summarises the content of the article. The main body of the article starts after the abstract.

In the main body of the article, the first section is the introduction . Here the authors explain the context of the study, i.e. what other researchers have discovered, why this study is important (the gap in knowledge) and what they are going to do. The second section presents the material and methods in enough detail for other scientists to repeat the experiments. In the third section, the results of the study are summarised in text and presented as graphs, diagrams and tables. The fourth section is a discussion of the results. Most importantly, it states the main conclusion (claim), how the evidence supports this conclusion and the implications for further research or for society. After this, you may also find the acknowledgements where the authors thank those who contributed to the research and identify who funded the study. The references section lists all the source materials cited in the article.

To study the textual structure of a research article in class, give each student a copy of the article, and ask him or her to answer some basic questions. By skimming the article to find the answers, your students will quickly become familiar with the structure of the research article and its content. Questions might include:

  • Who is the first author of this article? The first author is normally the person who had the idea behind the research or did most of the work.
  • Who are the other authors?
  • Where was the research done?
  • Which sections does the article contain and what is in each section?
  • When was this paper published?
  • Who funded the research?

2) The argumentative structure of a research article

Remember, scientists write research articles to try and convince their peers to accept their scientific claims. This line of reasoning is called the argumentative structure and consists of: the motive (why the study was done), the objective (what was investigated), the main conclusion (the outcome of the study), supports (statements, including data from their own research), references (to previous research and refuted counter-arguments) and one or more implications (which might be a new theory, a new research question, or the impact on society or the research community). Each of these elements is usually found in a specific section of the research article (figure 1).

The next step in the teaching activity is to look at the argumentative structure in more detail. Students could read the whole article in detail, working individually or in small groups to answer guided questions. Next, the answers could be discussed to enhance the students’ understanding.

First, let your students read the introduction, then ask them to answer the following questions:

  • Why was this study done ( motive )?
  • What was investigated ( objective )?

Next is the materials and methods section. In our experience, students often find this section hard to understand due to its highly technical vocabulary. Therefore, we suggest that you simply explain how the study was performed.

Then, the students can read the results and discussion sections and answer the questions below either as homework or in class. Ask them to:

  • Identify the main conclusion (outcome of the study), supports for this main conclusion (data from this study or previous research) and the implication (e.g. need for further study or impact on society).

If your students find it difficult to identify these elements, let them discuss their answers in groups before sharing them with the class. A good visual way of doing this is to create a poster with a structure similar to figure 1 . The students can then review their posters in a classroom discussion.

At the end of this classroom activity, you may want to write out the complete argumentative structure of the research article on the board. Finally, encourage your students to discuss whether they agree with the authors’ scientific claim (main conclusion) and to review the article as a whole by playing the role of a reviewer. You could use a role play about peer review w5 , developed by Sense about Science.

There are plenty of media stories about contagious yawning, so this topic would also be ideal for working with news articles. For more details of using news articles in science lessons, see Veneu-Lumb and Costa (2010) .

As a follow-up activity, you could ask your students to conduct their own version of the experiment described in the research paper. For example if you used the article we chose, your students could play a yawning video from Youtube (search for ‘contagious yawning’) to another class of students (who did not know what was being tested) and watch how often they yawn. As a control, they could watch a non-yawning video of similar length.

  • The article is freely available via the  journal website .
  • Veneu-Lumb F, Costa M (2010)  Using news in the science classroom .  Science in School.   15 : 30-33.

Web References

  • w1 – The  Directory of Open Access Journals  (DOAJ) is a directory of scientific and scholarly journals published in many languages.
  • w2 –  Biomed Central  is the publisher of 220 open-access, online, peer-reviewed journals in biology and medicine.
  • w3 – The  Public Library of Science  (PLOS) publishes seven open-access, peer-reviewed journals in biology and medicine.
  • w4 – From the  Science in School  website, you can download an in-depth analysis of the structure of Campbell et al. (2009) as a  Word  or  PDF  file.
  • w5 – In a classroom role play, students re-enact the peer-review process, assessing the quality of a mock study on the effect of chocolate on blood pressure. The role-play materials and some supporting information can be downloaded from the  Sense about Science website .
  • Many  Science in School  articles link to research papers published in the prestigious scientific journal,  Nature . These papers can be downloaded free of charge from the  Science in School  website. Explore our  archive  for articles that link to  Nature  papers.
  • In 2011, the Royal Society, the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence, made its entire  historical journal archive  freely available online.
  • Dance A (2012)  Authorship: who’s on first? .  Nature  489 : 591-593. doi: 10.1038/nj7417-591a
  • The article is freely available via the  Nature  website .
  • Venkatraman V (2010)  Conventions of scientific authorship .  Science Career Magazine : 16 April 2010. doi: 10.1126/science.caredit.a1000039
  • The article is freely available via the  Science Career Magazine website .

Miriam Ossevoort is an assistant professor in science education and communication at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, and conducts educational research on reading science.

Marcel Koeneman is a teacher in biology and chemistry at an international secondary school in the Netherlands. He is also working towards a PhD on using research articles in the classroom.

Martin Goedhart is a full professor in mathematics and science education at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands.

Using the suggested activity for discussing or exploring a few well-chosen research papers with students, teachers can not only deepen their students’ knowledge of the scientific research in question, but also help them to relate more closely to the professional activities of a scientist.

In addition to the questions posed in the article, the teacher could also ask the students to discuss peer review. For example, what is peer review? Why is it done? By how many reviewers? Why is it important (or desirable) that the review process is blind? What is double-blind peer review? The students could also consider the acknowledgements section and discuss how science is financed.

Some interesting follow-up strategies would be to ask students to design their own research project and to write a small research paper. If this were done in two different classes, the students could then review the research papers of the other class, who have investigated the same or a similar topic.

Which science lessons and which age groups to target with the activity would depend on the research paper chosen by the teacher. However, the strategy would be most useful for upper-secondary-level students (ages 15-18). The fact that most research papers are in English should not be seen as an obstacle, but as an opportunity to implement interdisciplinary projects with language teachers.

Betina da Silva Lopes, Portugal

Supporting materials

Analysis of the structure of Campbell (Word document)

Analysis of the structure of Campbell (PDF file)

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science research papers for high school students

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The Complete Guide To Publishing Your Research In High School

Publishing academic research is becoming a common way for the top high school students to distinguish themselves in the admission process. Yet, for many students what publication is and how to approach it is unclear and confusing. This guide’s goal is to provide a starter for any students interested in research and publication. It comes from the result of working with 500+ students as part of the Lumiere Research Scholar Program.

What does it mean to “Publish Your Research?” What does publication even mean? In short, publishing your research means that you have gone through a rigorous, peer-reviewed process that has analyzed, critiqued, and ultimately accepted your research as legitimate. Scientific publications are gatekeepers to the broader world. If a research piece is not published by a journal, it means that it has not yet passed a rigorous, external analysis of the research.

Publications use a process called the “peer review” which means that fellow researchers in the same field will analyze the paper and its contribution and give feedback to the authors. This process is often double-blind, meaning that the reviewer does not know who the author is and the author does not know who the researcher is.

Is it possible for a high school student to publish their research? The short answer is yes. The longer answer, detailed below, is that there are many different types of journals that have different selectivity rates and bars for rigor. Just like universities, some publications are extremely competitive and provide a very strong external signal for the author. Some journals are less competitive and so provide a less powerful signal. For high school students, there is an emerging group of journals focused on high school or college-level research. These journals understand the limitations of high school students and their ability to do research, and so they are often more feasible (though still difficult) for students to get into. We’ll explore some types of those journals below.

Why publish your research in high school But, why even go to the trouble of publishing? Does it really matter? The short answer again is that it does matter. Publication in a top journal, like the Concord Review , can provide a valuable signal to a college admission officer about your work.

One thing to consider is who is an admission officer (for US universities). These people are usually generalists, meaning they have a broad background, but do not have researcher-level depth in many fields. That means it’s difficult for them to distinguish good research from bad research. What is rigorous and what is just put on an application?

This means that admissions officers search for signals when evaluating research or passion projects. Was the project selected into a selective journal? Did it go through a peer-review process by respected researchers? Was it guided by a researcher who the admission officer would believe? Did the research mentor guide speak positively about the student? All of these are positive signals. The publication is thus not the only way to signal ability, but it is one of the most important for young researchers.

What type of research can get published?

Most types of research can be published. But, the more original research that you can do, the broader the options you have. In other words, if you write a literature review, then your writing and synthesis must be very strong for it to be eligible for most publications. If you do some form of data collection or new data analysis, then the bar for rigor in student publications is usually a little bit lower as the difficulty to do this type of data collection or analysis is higher.

Types of Publication Targets

At Lumiere, we think of publications like students think of universities. There are research journals (most selective), target journals, and safety journals. In short, journals range in their selectivity and rigor. The more selective the journal, the better a signal it gives.

Highly Selective High School & College Publications

The first type of journals that students should think about are highly selective high school & college-level publications. These journals include the Concord Review or the Columbia Junior Science Journal . For example, one Lumiere student’s research was recently admitted to the Cornell Undergraduate Economic Review, a rigorous college-level journal for university-level economic papers. This student was the first high school student to ever be published in the journal, a clear signal.

These journals include both a review process and a limited number of spots in the journal. The Concord Review, for example, accepts about 45 student research papers each year of an estimated 900 submissions. The Columbia Junior Science Journal, similarly, publishes between 10-20 papers each year. Most of these journals will require original research or data collection of some sort.

science research papers for high school students

Rigorous, Peer Reviewed High School Publications

The next level of journals are rigorous, peer-reviewed publications. These journals, such as the Journal of Emerging Investigators or the Journal of Student Research , have a peer-review process. These journals have requirements on the type of papers that are accepted (e.g., some will accept new data analyses, some will accept literature reviews). These journals do not have a certain number of slots predefined, but they do have a bar for what type of research they will accept. For these journals, students will submit their paper and the journal will assign (or ask you to identify) a potential set of reviewers for the paper. These reviewers will be researchers in the field, who hold a PhD. The reviewers will then give back comments. The Journal of Emerging Investigators stands out here among these journals as being one of the most rigorous and providing the most in-depth, critical feedback to students.

Pay to Play Research Journals (AVOID THESE) Finally, there are some journals that are essentially “Pay-to-play” meaning that they will accept any paper as long as a fee is paid. These journals are not only not academically ethical, they can actually be a bad signal in the admission process. For example, I spoke with a former Harvard Admission Officer, Sally Champagne , about her experience with publications. During the late 2000s, there was a high spike in students from Russia submitting “publications” that all linked back to a few fraudulent journals.

You can spot a fraudulent journal if there is a high fee for submitting the paper (some journals will charge a nominal fee to recoup their costs. That is OK, especially if they have a financial aid waiver). If any paper you submit is accepted without any revisions or feedback, then this is also a sign that the publication is not rigorous.

PhD Level Publications in A Field Finally, there are publications that PhD researchers or professors target with their research. These journals are highly selective and can take years of back and forth in order for a paper to be admitted. In general, we do not recommend high school students who are working on independent projects to target these journals for their difficulty and time required. The most common way to target these journals is if you act as a research assistant for a researcher on an existing project and you are credited as a supporting author.

Other Publication Options Beyond journals, there are other ways to showcase your research. I highlight some of those below.

Practitioner publications Another way to showcase your work is to target respected practitioner publications. These are places where non-researchers go to learn about developments. For example, one student in Lumiere published a piece in Tech In Asia summarizing his research on Open Innovation and the Ventilator Market (Tech In Asia is the Tech Crunch equivalent in South East Asia). Other practitioner publications include Online Magazines like Forbes or the Financial Times, local newspapers, or online blogs like the Huffington Post can all serve as possible targets. Generally publications in these places requires direct contact with an editorial manager, who can take a call as to whether your work is appropriate or not. To get to these editorial managers, you’ll need to do some online search and send them a pitch email that explains why your work is relevant to their audience. Offering an “exclusive” can be one additional way to make it attractive to the editors.

science research papers for high school students

Research Conferences Another place to showcase your research is in research conferences. In some fields, like computer science, conferences are actually more common places to publish work than journals. One advantage of research conferences is that they often will accept abstracts of research instead of full-length research articles, making the amount of effort required to get accepted lower. As well, many conferences want more researchers to populate the conference, again making the admission process easier. Example conferences for high school students to look at include the Harvard Science Research Conference or the Sigma Xi Annual Meeting . There are also field specific conferences that you should search for based on your research paper.


Finally, a common way to showcase your research is in the form of a student competition. Science fairs, such as ISEF Regeneron , is one common way for students to showcase their work. But, there are dozens of others, including the Genius Olympiad (Environmental Issues), John Locke Essay Competition , or the STEM Fellowship Competition . Competitions can be one of the highest impact ways to show your work because it’s clear signaling. If you can win a competition with hundreds of entrants, then being able to write about it in your application shows your unique ability. In addition, competitions can often be submitted to parallel with other research publications (check your publications requirements before doing that though!).

The Final Word – Publication Can Be High Impact If you have already written a research paper, then I highly encourage you to think about submitting it to high school or college level publications. The majority of work that you have done is spent on the research paper itself. So, if you can spend an additional 10-20 hours to showcase your research, then it’s highly valuable for you.

FAQ About Publications 1. Do I need to publish my research for it to be impactful? No, but it provides a useful signal. Doing research alone is a rare and impressive way for students to showcase their academic depth. If you can publish that research, it adds a layer of external legitimacy to that research.

2. Can I publish a research that is a literature review?

Yes, though, you’ll have to think of which target journals accept that. For example, the Journal of Student Research and the STEM Fellowship Journal both accept literature reviews, but the Journal of Emerging Investigators does not. In general, the more original research that you do (i.e., data analysis, data collection, etc.) the broader the range of publications you can target. With that said, some fields (e.g. astrophysics) can be particularly difficult to do new data collection as a high school student, so for those fields a rigorous literature review is usually the best choice.

3. Are all publications the same?

No. Publications are like universities. Some are highly respected, selective, and rigorous and others are not. The key is for you to identify a journal that is as selective/respected as possible that you can get into. Watch out for pay-to-play journals, as they can become negative signals for you and your application.

Additionally, you can also work on independent research in AI, through Veritas AI's Fellowship Program!

Veritas AI focuses on providing high school students who are passionate about the field of AI a suitable environment to explore their interests.

The programs include collaborative learning, project development, and 1-on-1 mentorship.  These programs are designed and run by Harvard graduate students and alumni and you can expect a great, fulfilling educational experience. Students are expected to have a basic understanding of Python or are recommended to complete the AI scholars program before pursuing the fellowship. 

The   AI Fellowship  program will have students pursue their own independent AI research project. Students work on their own individual research projects over a period of 12-15 weeks and can opt to combine AI with any other field of interest. In the past, students have worked on research papers in the field of AI & medicine, AI & finance, AI & environmental science, AI & education, and more! You can find examples of previous projects   here . 

Location : Virtual

$1,790 for the 10-week AI Scholars program

$4,900 for the 12-15 week AI Fellowship 

$4,700 for both

Need-based financial aid is available. You can apply   here . 

Application deadline : On a rolling basis. Applications for fall cohort have closed September 3, 2023. 

Program dates : Various according to the cohort

Program selectivity : Moderately selective

Eligibility : Ambitious high school students located anywhere in the world. AI Fellowship applicants should either have completed the AI Scholars program or exhibit past experience with AI concepts or Python.

Application Requirements: Online application form, answers to a few questions pertaining to the students background & coding experience, math courses, and areas of interest. 

Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a PhD student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.

How to Write a Research Paper as a High School Student

photo of carly taylor

By Carly Taylor

Senior at Stanford University

6 minute read

Open notebook in front of a laptop doing research paper next to cup of tea and dried flowers

Read our guide to learn why you should write a research paper and how to do so, from choosing the right topic to outlining and structuring your argument.

What is a research paper?

A research paper poses an answer to a specific question and defends that answer using academic sources, data, and critical reasoning. Writing a research paper is an excellent way to hone your focus during a research project , synthesize what you’re learning, and explain why your work matters to a broader audience of scholars in your field.

The types of sources and evidence you’ll see used in a research paper can vary widely based on its field of study. A history research paper might examine primary sources like journals and newspaper articles to draw conclusions about the culture of a specific time and place, whereas a biology research paper might analyze data from different published experiments and use textbook explanations of cellular pathways to identify a potential marker for breast cancer.

However, researchers across disciplines must identify and analyze credible sources, formulate a specific research question, generate a clear thesis statement, and organize their ideas in a cohesive manner to support their argument. Read on to learn how this process works and how to get started writing your own research paper.

Choosing your topic

Tap into your passions.

A research paper is your chance to explore what genuinely interests you and combine ideas in novel ways. So don’t choose a subject that simply sounds impressive or blindly follow what someone else wants you to do – choose something you’re really passionate about! You should be able to enjoy reading for hours and hours about your topic and feel enthusiastic about synthesizing and sharing what you learn.

We've created these helpful resources to inspire you to think about your own passion project . Polygence also offers a passion exploration experience where you can dive deep into three potential areas of study with expert mentors from those fields.

Ask a difficult question

In the traditional classroom, top students are expected to always know the answers to the questions the teacher asks. But a research paper is YOUR chance to pose a big question that no one has answered yet, and figure out how to make a contribution to answering that question. So don’t be afraid if you have no idea how to answer your question at the start of the research process — this will help you maintain a motivational sense of discovery as you dive deeper into your research. If you need inspiration, explore our database of research project ideas .

Be as specific as possible

It’s essential to be reasonable about what you can accomplish in one paper and narrow your focus down to an issue you can thoroughly address. For example, if you’re interested in the effects of invasive species on ecosystems, it’s best to focus on one invasive species and one ecosystem, such as iguanas in South Florida , or one survival mechanism, such as supercolonies in invasive ant species . If you can, get hands on with your project.

You should approach your paper with the mindset of becoming an expert in this topic. Narrowing your focus will help you achieve this goal without getting lost in the weeds and overwhelming yourself.

Would you like to write your own research paper?

Polygence mentors can help you every step of the way in writing and showcasing your research paper

Student standing on large books with graduation hat

Preparing to write

Conduct preliminary research.

Before you dive into writing your research paper, conduct a literature review to see what’s already known about your topic. This can help you find your niche within the existing body of research and formulate your question. For example, Polygence student Jasmita found that researchers had studied the effects of background music on student test performance, but they had not taken into account the effect of a student’s familiarity with the music being played, so she decided to pose this new question in her research paper.

Pro tip: It’s a good idea to skim articles in order to decide whether they’re relevant enough to your research interest before committing to reading them in full. This can help you spend as much time as possible with the sources you’ll actually cite in your paper.

Skimming articles will help you gain a broad-strokes view of the different pockets of existing knowledge in your field and identify the most potentially useful sources. Reading articles in full will allow you to accumulate specific evidence related to your research question and begin to formulate an answer to it.

Draft a thesis statement

Your thesis statement is your succinctly-stated answer to the question you’re posing, which you’ll make your case for in the body of the paper. For example, if you’re studying the effect of K-pop on eating disorders and body image in teenagers of different races, your thesis may be that Asian teenagers who are exposed to K-pop videos experience more negative effects on their body image than Caucasian teenagers.

Pro Tip: It’s okay to refine your thesis as you continue to learn more throughout your research and writing process! A preliminary thesis will help you come up with a structure for presenting your argument, but you should absolutely change your thesis if new information you uncover changes your perspective or adds nuance to it.

Create an outline

An outline is a tool for sketching out the structure of your paper by organizing your points broadly into subheadings and more finely into individual paragraphs. Try putting your thesis at the top of your outline, then brainstorm all the points you need to convey in order to support your thesis.

Pro Tip : Your outline is just a jumping-off point – it will evolve as you gain greater clarity on your argument through your writing and continued research. Sometimes, it takes several iterations of outlining, then writing, then re-outlining, then rewriting in order to find the best structure for your paper.

Writing your paper


Your introduction should move the reader from your broad area of interest into your specific area of focus for the paper. It generally takes the form of one to two paragraphs that build to your thesis statement and give the reader an idea of the broad argumentative structure of your paper. After reading your introduction, your reader should know what claim you’re going to present and what kinds of evidence you’ll analyze to support it.

Topic sentences

Writing crystal clear topic sentences is a crucial aspect of a successful research paper. A topic sentence is like the thesis statement of a particular paragraph – it should clearly state the point that the paragraph will make. Writing focused topic sentences will help you remain focused while writing your paragraphs and will ensure that the reader can clearly grasp the function of each paragraph in the paper’s overall structure.


Sophisticated research papers move beyond tacking on simple transitional phrases such as “Secondly” or “Moreover” to the start of each new paragraph. Instead, each paragraph flows naturally into the next one, with the connection between each idea made very clear. Try using specifically-crafted transitional phrases rather than stock phrases to move from one point to the next that will make your paper as cohesive as possible.

In her research paper on Pakistani youth in the U.S. , Polygence student Iba used the following specifically-crafted transition to move between two paragraphs: “Although the struggles of digital ethnography limited some data collection, there are also many advantages of digital data collection.” This sentence provides the logical link between the discussion of the limitations of digital ethnography from the prior paragraph and the upcoming discussion of this techniques’ advantages in this paragraph.

Your conclusion can have several functions:

To drive home your thesis and summarize your argument

To emphasize the broader significance of your findings and answer the “so what” question

To point out some questions raised by your thesis and/or opportunities for further research

Your conclusion can take on all three of these tasks or just one, depending on what you feel your paper is still lacking up to this point.

Citing sources

Last but not least, giving credit to your sources is extremely important. There are many different citation formats such as MLA, APA, and Chicago style. Make sure you know which one is standard in your field of interest by researching online or consulting an expert.

You have several options for keeping track of your bibliography:

Use a notebook to record the relevant information from each of your sources: title, author, date of publication, journal name, page numbers, etc.

Create a folder on your computer where you can store your electronic sources

Use an online bibliography creator such as Zotero, Easybib, or Noodletools to track sources and generate citations

You can read research papers by Polygence students under our Projects tab. You can also explore other opportunities for high school research .

If you’re interested in finding an expert mentor to guide you through the process of writing your own independent research paper, consider applying to be a Polygence scholar today!

Your research paper help even you to earn college credit , get published in an academic journal , contribute to your application for college , improve your college admissions chances !

Feeling Inspired?

Interested in doing an exciting research project? Click below to get matched with one of our expert mentors!

science research papers for high school students

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science research papers for high school students

20 Science Research Competitions for High Schoolers

What’s covered:, why should you enter a science research competition, how do science research competitions affect my admissions chances.

Participation in science research competitions offers many benefits to students; for example, it can make them more competitive candidates for college admissions and provide them with valuable experience in a sought-after field. There’s a wide variety of science research competitions for high schoolers, including the high-profile contests listed below.

Entering a science research competition demonstrates that you take initiative and that you care about academics beyond the grades in your courses, both of which are qualities that colleges appreciate in prospective students.

Participation in competitions is a strong extracurricular activity, and successes—like making the finals or winning—can provide you with a chance to earn a scholarship, make your college application more attention-grabbing, or even open doors, such as laying the groundwork for a career in science research and helping you land an internship.

Win or lose, taking part in a science research competition allows you to explore an interest and learn about a fascinating field.

1. American Academy of Neurology – Neuroscience Research Prize

Grades: 9-12

Type: National

The AAN Neuroscience Research Prize competition challenges students to investigate problems regarding the brain or nervous system. The competition is only open to individual students—group projects are ineligible. Teachers are encouraged to provide guidance and support; however, they should allow students to demonstrate their own creativity. Winners and their projects are highlighted at the AAN Annual Meeting.

2. Envirothon

Type: State and National

Envirothon is North America’s largest environmental education competition, with more than 25,000 students participating in the multi-level competition each year. Student teams are first challenged at state-level competitions with the winners moving on to face top teams from across the globe at the annual international competition.

The international competition is a six-day event held in a different location each summer—for example, in an open range of the western U.S. one year, and at a Maritime coastal community of eastern Canada the next. The competition offers participants the chance to win thousands of dollars in scholarships.

3. Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF)

Type: Local, Regional, and International

The Regeneron ISEF is the world’s largest international pre-college science competition—more than 1,800 high school students, representing more than 75 countries, regions, and territories, take part. Students showcase independent research and compete for roughly $8 million in awards across 21 categories .

This is not a group-based competition—individual students enroll in local school science fairs before advancing to upper-level competitions in hopes of reaching the national stage.

4. National Science Bowl

Hosted by the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C., the National Science Bowl is a highly publicized competition that tests students’ knowledge in all areas of science and mathematics, including biology, chemistry, earth science, physics, energy, and math. Students compete in teams of four (plus an alternate) and have a teacher who serves as an advisor.

The National Science Bowl is one of the largest science competitions in the country—roughly 330,000 students have participated in it throughout its 32-year history.

5. National Science Olympiad

One of the nation’s premier STEM competitions, the National Science Olympiad is the pinnacle of achievement for the country’s top Science Olympiad teams. In 2022, the U.S. top 120 teams, plus a Global Ambassador Team from Japan (for a total of more than 2,000 students) squared off in a variety of events for the chance to be named the Science Olympiad National Champions.

Teams also compete annually for the opportunity to win prizes and scholarships, including a one-time $10,000 Science Olympiad Founders’ Scholarship. About 6,000 teams compete each year, beginning at the regional level in hopes of reaching the national competition.

6. Regeneron Science Talent Search (STS)

Established in 1942 and hosted by the Society for Science, the Regeneron Science Talent Search is considered the most prestigious high school science research competition in the nation. The competition tasks young scientists with presenting their original research before a panel of nationally recognized professional scientists.

Of the 1,800 entrants, 300 Regeneron STS scholars are selected—they and their schools are awarded $2,000 each. Forty finalists are then picked from the pool of scholars. They receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., where they compete for an additional $1.8 million in awards, with a top prize of $250,000.

7. Stockholm Junior Water Prize

Type: Regional, State, National, and International

In this competition, students from around the world seek to address the current and future water challenges facing the world. Competition for the Stockholm Junior Water Prize occurs on four levels: regional, state, national, and international.

  • Regional winners receive a certificate and a nomination to compete in the state competition.
  • State winners receive a medal and an all-expenses-paid trip to compete in the national competition.
  • National winners receive a trophy, a $10,000 scholarship, and an all-expenses-paid trip to the international competition in Stockholm, Sweden.
  • International winners receive a crystal trophy and a $15,000 scholarship, along with a $5,000 award for their school.

In order to participate, students can begin to research and develop a practical project proposal either as an individual or with a group. To reach the national level, students must be nominated by a national organizer representing their country.

8. TOPSS Competition for High School Psychology Students

To participate in this competition, students must submit a video of up to 3 minutes that demonstrates an interest in and understanding of a topic in psychology that they think could benefit their local community and improve lives. Students must also utilize at least one peer-reviewed research study on their topic, and must include a closing slide citing their source(s). Up to three winners are chosen to receive a $300 scholarship.

9. Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) National Competition

Type: Regional and National

The Junior Science and Humanities Symposium National Competition is one of the country’s longest-running STEM competitions—participants are required to submit and present scientific research papers and compete for military-sponsored undergraduate scholarships.

The JSHS national competition is the result of a collaborative effort between the Department of Defense and academic research institutes nationwide. It is designed to emulate a professional symposium. Research projects are organized into categories such as Environmental Science, Engineering and Technology, and Medicine and Health. After competing regionally, about 250 students are chosen to attend an annual symposium to showcase their work.

10. MIT THINK Scholars Program

In the fall of each year, interested students can enter project proposals into competition for selection from a group of undergraduate students at MIT. If selected, students will be able to carry out their project—receiving up to $1000 in funding to complete their research. They’ll also be invited to a four-day symposium at MIT the following year.

Finalists are guided with weekly mentorship and will have the opportunity to present their findings to MIT students and faculty at the end of the program.

11. Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision

Grades: K-12

In this competition, students compete in groups of 2-4 to select a technology and forecast how it will evolve over the next decade or beyond, while discussing the scientific achievements that will need to be made to get there.

Students will submit an abstract as well as a detailed description paper that is not to exceed 11 pages. In doing so, they will be entered into competition and considered for a number of financial awards, as well as a trip to Washington, D.C., for the ExploraVision Awards Weekend. The competition is nationally recognized and is sponsored by Toshiba and the National Science Teachers Association.

12. Conrad Challenge

Teams of 2-5 students are tasked with designing and detailing project proposals to tackle various problems categories such as Aerospace & Aviation, Health & Nutrition, Cyber-Technology & Security, and Energy & Environment. In doing so, they will identify problems in the world and come up with a feasible and innovative solution, working with judges and mentors along the way.

Finalists will be selected from the competing teams and invited to the Innovation Summit in Houston, where they will pitch their projects to judges and potentially receive numerous prizes and awards, ranging from scholarships to consulting services.

13. USA Biolympiad Competition

Type: National and International

Over the course of two years, students will undergo multiple rounds of testing that will eventually pinpoint twenty finalists to be selected for training in a residential program with the goal of representing the USA in the International Biology Olympiad. As such, this is one of the most prestigious and difficult competitions, not just in biology, but in all high school sciences. However, the experience is second to none, and is the ultimate test for students devoted to the future of biology.

14. Davidson Fellows Scholarship

While not exclusive to STEM, the Davidson Fellows program offers various major scholarships for students interested in careers in sciences. Listed as one of the “ 10 Biggest Scholarships in the World ,” this program requires students to submit a variety of components related to an independent research study with the broad goal of contributing positively to society through the advancement of science. Students will submit multiple essays as well as a video summary, and must include an additional visual model reporting their findings.

15. Destination Imagination

Type: Regional, State, National, International

Destination Imagination is another worldwide competition that includes a variety of subjects, but it specializes in science-based challenges. Students will form teams and choose from a list of different challenges to compete in in categories such as Technical, Scientific, and Engineering.

Students will solve these challenges and present their solutions in regional competitions. Regional winners will move on to statewide competitions before being invited to the Global Finals, where over 8,000 students from 28 states and 12 countries compete for awards. 150,000 students compete annually in the competition at some level.

16. Breakthrough Junior Challenge

For students looking for a more creatively inspired and unconventional competition, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge tasks students with creating a short two-minute video in which they explain and demonstrate a complex scientific concept.

Does that sound simple enough? Over 2,400 students from over 100 countries submitted videos in 2022, meaning there’s no shortage of competition here. Winning applicants will need to demonstrate immense creativity and understanding of complex scientific concepts, but rest assured—the prize is worth the difficulty.

The winner will receive a $250,000 scholarship for accredited colleges and universities, as well as a $100,000 grant to the winner’s school for the development of a science lab, and a $50,000 award to a teacher of the winner’s choosing.

17. Biotechnology Institute: BioGENEius Challenge

Students from across the country are invited to participate in the Biotechnology Institute’s BioGENEius Challenge, where they’ll be able to choose to complete a project in the Healthcare, Sustainability, or Environment categories. If accepted, students will need to complete an extensive research project and demonstrate results, and then compete in either local or a virtual “At-Large” competition, with other student competitors from around the world.

18. Genes in Space

Grades: 7-12

For students interested in the science of space and its overlap with our current understanding of the human genome, this competition combines these two worlds by tasking students with designing a DNA experiment that addresses challenges in space exploration and travel.

Students will submit a project proposal, and semifinalists will be selected to pitch their experiments in Seattle. After doing so, finalists will be selected to work with mentors and scientists from schools, such as Harvard and MIT, to design a real-life experiment. One finalist’s experiment will win the opportunity to be conducted at the International Space Station. The lucky winner will travel to the Kennedy Space Center to see the winning experiment’s launch!

19. Odyssey of the Mind

Students will form teams to compete in a variety of STEM-based challenges in this global problem-solving competition, culminating in a World Finals competition that takes place in East Lansing, Michigan.

Over 800 teams from 33 states and 15 countries compete each year in challenges ranging from designing vehicles to building small structures that can withstand hundreds of pounds. These challenges are designed to encourage creativity in the performative and presentational elements of competition.

20. U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad

Type: Regional, National, International

Students interested in Chemistry are able to participate in the USNCO, in which they’ll take rigorous exams to prove their skills in the Chemistry field. Top test-takers will be selected to attend a prestigious Study Camp, where they’ll compete for the chance to represent the U.S. at the International Chemistry Olympiad. Interested students can contact their Local Coordinator, who can be found through the program’s website.

The influence your participation in science research competitions can have on your college admissions varies—considerations such as how well you performed and the prestige of the event factor into how admissions officers view the competition. That being said, the four tiers of extracurricular activities provide a good general guide for understanding how colleges view your activities outside the classroom.

The most esteemed and well-known science research competitions are organized into Tiers 1 and 2. Extracurricular activities in these categories are extremely rare, demonstrate exceptional achievement, and hold considerable sway with admissions officers. Tiers 3 and 4 are reserved for more modest accomplishments—like winning a regional (rather than a national) competition—and carry less weight at colleges than their higher-tiered counterparts.

Generally, participation in a science research competition will be considered at least a Tier 2 activity. As stated before, this varies depending on the competition and your performance. For example, being a finalist or winner in something like the Regeneron Science Talent Search or the International Biology Olympiad—prestigious national and international competitions—is very likely to be considered a Tier 1 achievement.

However, lower-tiered extracurriculars are still valuable, as they show colleges a more well-rounded picture of you as a student, and highlight your desire to pursue your interests outside of school.

Curious how your participation in science research competitions affects your odds of college admissions? Collegevine can help. Our free chancing calculator uses factors like grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities—like science research competitions— to calculate your chances of getting into hundreds of colleges across the country! You can even use the information provided to identify where you can improve your college profile and ultimately bolster your odds of getting into your dream school.

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science research papers for high school students


121+ Scientific Research Topics for High School Students

Scientific Research Topics for High School Students

High school is a time of exploration, and for budding scientists, it’s the perfect opportunity to dive into the exciting world of scientific research. Whether you’re passionate about biology, chemistry, physics, or the social sciences, there’s a wealth of fascinating topics waiting to be explored. 

In this blog, we’ve compiled over engaging scientific research topics for high school students. These topics not only ignite your curiosity but also align with your academic journey. From unraveling the mysteries of genetics to exploring the cosmos, we’ve got you covered. So, let’s embark on this thrilling adventure of discovery and learning together!

What is a Scientific Research Topic?

Table of Contents

A scientific research topic is a specific subject or question that scientists or researchers investigate through a structured and systematic approach. These topics can cover a wide range of fields, from biology and chemistry to physics and social sciences. The goal of selecting a research topic is to address a problem, explore a hypothesis, or contribute new insights to an existing body of knowledge.

Why Engage in Scientific Research as a High School Student?

High school is the perfect time to start exploring scientific research because it:

  • Fosters curiosity and a love for learning.
  • Enhances problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
  • Offers a taste of what a future career in science might entail.
  • Provides an edge in college applications.

How to Choose the Right Scientific Research Topics for High School Students?

Selecting a research topic can be challenging, but it’s essential to choose something that genuinely interests you. When choosing a scientific research topic, it’s essential to consider the following factors:

  • Interest: Select a topic that genuinely interests you. Your enthusiasm will drive your research forward.
  • Relevance: Ensure that your topic is relevant to the field you’re studying or the scientific discipline you’re interested in.
  • Feasibility: Assess whether you have access to the necessary resources and equipment to conduct research on your chosen topic.
  • Ethical Considerations: Make sure your research is conducted ethically and follows all relevant guidelines and regulations.

Interesting Scientific Research Topics for High School Students

Now, let’s dive into the exciting world of scientific research topics for high school students in different categories:

Biology Research Topics

Let’s explore the scientific research topics for students in biology:

1. The impact of different types of diets on human health.

2. Investigating the effects of climate change on local ecosystems.

3. Studying the genetics of a specific inherited disease.

4. Exploring the biodiversity of a local habitat.

5. Investigating the role of microorganisms in soil health.

6. Analyzing the effects of pollution on aquatic life.

7. Studying the behavior of a specific animal species.

8. Investigating the impact of a new drug on cell growth.

9. Exploring the relationship between exercise and heart health.

10. Studying the effects of various fertilizers on plant growth.

11. Investigating the genetics of taste perception.

12. Exploring the impact of environmental factors on plant adaptation.

Chemistry Research Topics

Here are some scientific research topics for high school students in chemistry:

1. Investigating the properties of different types of polymers.

2. Studying the effects of pH on chemical reactions.

3. Analyzing the composition of a local water source.

4. Exploring the chemistry of food preservation methods.

5. Investigating the synthesis of a specific chemical compound.

6. Studying the effects of temperature on reaction rates.

7. Analyzing the chemical components of household products.

8. Investigating the properties of nanomaterials.

9. Exploring the chemistry of natural dyes.

10. Studying the chemical reactions involved in baking.

11. Investigating the chemistry of fireworks.

12. Analyzing the composition of air pollutants in your area.

Physics Research Topics

Let’s dive into the physics research topics for high school students:

1. Investigating the laws of motion using simple experiments.

2. Studying the behavior of light using prisms and lenses.

3. Analyzing the effects of different materials on magnetic fields.

4. Exploring the properties of waves and sound.

5. Investigating the relationship between temperature and electrical conductivity.

6. Studying the principles of electromagnetism.

7. Analyzing the motion of objects in a vacuum.

8. Investigating the behavior of pendulums.

9. Exploring the properties of different types of mirrors.

10. Studying the physics of roller coasters.

11. Investigating the properties of superconductors.

12. Analyzing the behavior of particles in nuclear reactions.

Environmental Science Research Topics

Discover some scientific research topics for high school students in environmental:

1. Studying the impact of deforestation on local climate.

2. Investigating the effects of pollution on aquatic ecosystems.

3. Analyzing the biodiversity of a local wetland area.

4. Exploring the use of renewable energy sources in your community.

5. Investigating the impact of plastic waste on marine life.

6. Studying the effects of urbanization on local wildlife.

7. Analyzing the water quality in a nearby river.

8. Investigating the effectiveness of different recycling methods.

9. Exploring the impact of climate change on bird migration patterns.

10. Studying the use of sustainable agriculture practices.

11. Investigating the effects of air pollution on respiratory health.

12. Analyzing the benefits of green roofs in urban areas.

Social Science Research Topics

Here are some social science research topics for high school students:

1. Investigating the impact of social media on mental health.

2. Studying the effects of peer pressure on academic performance.

3. Analyzing the relationship between family dynamics and child development.

4. Exploring the influence of music on mood and behavior.

5. Investigating the effects of bullying on adolescent well-being.

6. Studying the role of gender stereotypes in career choices.

7. Analyzing the impact of video games on cognitive skills.

8. Investigate the factors influencing voter turnout in your community.

9. Exploring the effects of income inequality on social mobility.

10. Studying the relationship between parental involvement and student success.

11. Investigating the influence of advertising on consumer behavior.

12. Analyzing the impact of cultural diversity on community cohesion.

Astronomy Research Topics

Let’s explore the scientific research topics for high school students in astronomy:

1. Studying the phases of the moon and their impact on tides.

2. Investigating the properties of asteroids and comets.

3. Analyzing the life cycle of stars.

4. Exploring the potential for life on other planets.

5. Investigating the effects of light pollution on stargazing.

6. Studying the orbits of planets in our solar system.

7 Analyzing the properties of black holes.

8. Investigating the formation of galaxies.

9. Exploring the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI).

10. Studying the impact of solar flares on Earth’s magnetic field.

11. Investigating the history of space exploration.

12. Analyzing the concept of time dilation in relativity.

Psychology Research Topics

Discover the psychology research topics for students:

1. Investigating the effects of mindfulness meditation on stress reduction.

2. Studying the impact of early childhood experiences on adult behavior.

3. Analyzing the relationship between sleep patterns and mood.

4. Exploring the psychology of decision-making under uncertainty.

5. Investigating the effects of music therapy on patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

6. Studying the role of empathy in interpersonal relationships.

7. Analyzing the psychology of fear and phobias.

8. Investigating the effects of social isolation on mental health.

9. Exploring the influence of advertising on consumer behavior.

10. Studying the psychology of memory and recall.

11. Investigating the relationship between personality traits and career choices.

12. Analyzing the effects of social media on self-esteem.

Earth Science Research Topics

Here are some scientific research topics for high school students in earth science:

1. Studying the formation of earthquakes and their impact on landscapes.

2. Investigating the processes of erosion and sedimentation in rivers.

3. Analyzing the effects of climate change on glacial retreat.

4. Exploring the formation of volcanoes and their eruptions.

5. Investigating the geology of a specific region.

6. Studying the impact of tsunamis on coastal communities.

7. Analyzing the properties of different types of rocks and minerals.

8. Investigating the formation of caves and underground formations.

9. Exploring the processes of weathering and soil formation.

10. Investigating the geological history of a particular mountain range.

11. Studying the impact of wildfires on ecosystems and soil.

12. Analyzing the effects of climate change on the availability of freshwater resources.

Engineering and Technology Research Topics

Let’s dive into the engineering and technology research topics for high school students:

1. Investigating the efficiency of solar panels in different weather conditions.

2. Studying the aerodynamics of different wing designs in model airplanes.

3. Analyzing the impact of 3D printing on manufacturing processes.

4. Exploring the development of sustainable building materials.

5. Investigating the use of artificial intelligence in autonomous vehicles.

6. Studying the effectiveness of water purification methods.

7. Analyzing the design and performance of wind turbines.

8. Investigating the development of wearable health monitoring devices.

9. Exploring the use of drones for environmental monitoring.

10. Studying the impact of cybersecurity threats on modern technology.

11. Investigating the design and efficiency of energy-efficient homes.

12. Analyzing the potential of blockchain technology in various industries.

13. Investigating the impact of 5G technology on wireless communication networks.

Health and Medicine Research Topics

Discover the scientific research topics for high school students in health and medicine:

1. Investigating the effects of different types of exercise on physical fitness.

2. Studying the impact of nutrition on weight management.

3. Analyzing the relationship between sleep patterns and overall health.

4. Exploring the effectiveness of alternative medicine treatments.

5. Investigating the genetics of a specific medical condition.

6. Studying the effects of stress on the immune system.

7. Analyzing the impact of vaccinations on public health.

8. Investigating the use of telemedicine in healthcare delivery.

9. Exploring the factors influencing antibiotic resistance.

10. Studying the psychology of pain perception.

11. Investigating the effects of environmental pollutants on human health.

12. Analyzing the relationship between diet and chronic diseases.

13. Studying the potential benefits of gene therapy in treating genetic diseases.

Mathematics and Computer Science Research Topics

Let’s explore the mathematics and computer research topics for high school students:

1. Investigating the properties of prime numbers and their applications.

2. Studying the algorithms used in data encryption.

3. Analyzing the efficiency of sorting algorithms.

4. Exploring the applications of artificial intelligence in image recognition.

5. Investigating the mathematics of fractals and their visual representations.

6. Studying the use of data mining in predicting consumer behavior.

7. Analyzing the algorithms used in recommendation systems.

8. Investigating the mathematics of network theory.

9. Exploring the applications of game theory in decision-making.

10. Studying the mathematics behind cryptography.

11. Investigating the use of machine learning in natural language processing.

12. Analyzing the algorithms used in optimizing transportation routes.

13. Analyzing the applications of quantum computing in solving complex problems.

Tips for Conducting Scientific Research Topics for High School Students

Before you embark on your research journey, consider these tips:

  • Define clear research objectives.
  • Seek guidance from teachers or mentors.
  • Maintain organized records of your work.
  • Stay persistent and embrace failure as a learning opportunity.

Engaging in scientific research topics for high school students can be an incredibly rewarding experience. It allows you to explore your interests, develop critical skills, and contribute to our collective understanding of the world. When selecting a research topic, remember to choose something that genuinely excites you, is relevant to your field of interest, and is feasible given your available resources. 

Whether you’re passionate about biology , chemistry, physics, social sciences, or any other field, there’s a fascinating research topic waiting for you to explore. So, roll up your sleeves, ask questions, and embark on your scientific research journey—it’s an adventure that can shape your future and the world around you.

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science research papers for high school students

Journal of Student Research

Journal of Student Research (JSR) is an Academic, Multidisciplinary, and Faculty-reviewed Journal (Houston, Texas) devoted to the Rapid Dissemination of Current Research Published by High School Edition , Undergraduate and Graduate students.

Articles Indexed in Scholarly Databases


The journal seeks articles that are novel, integrative, and accessible to a broad audience, including an array of disciplines. The content of the journal ranges from Applied research to Theoretical research. In general, papers on all topics are welcome to submit. The journal uses an automated process from manuscript submission to publication. Manuscript submission, peer review, and publication are all handled online, and the journal automates all clerical steps during peer review.

Trusted By Student Authors Globally

science research papers for high school students

Focus and Scope

Students strive to be successful at publications, and with JSR, authors aspiring to publish will receive scholarly feedback after the reviews of their submissions are received. This feedback will help authors identify areas of improvement to their submission and help them better understand the process to be successful at publication. Once published, we strive to provide a global platform for our authors to showcase their work.

Journal Support for Published Articles

Faculty-Refereed Review Process

This journal uses a double-blind review, which means that both the reviewer and author identities are concealed from the reviewers, and vice versa, throughout the review process. Authors need to ensure that their manuscripts do not give away their identity to facilitate this. To find out more about the review process, please visit the  Author Guidelines  page. We invite teachers and faculty interested in reviewing articles for this journal; please visit our  Reviewers  page for more information.

Open Access Policy

This journal provides access to its published content on the principle that making research freely available to the public supports a greater global exchange of knowledge. Learn more about  Open Access .

Authors Retain Copyright

Articles published in this journal are under a  Creative Commons License , and the authors retain the copyright to their work.


Call for papers: volume 13 issue 2.

If you are an undergraduate or graduate student at a college or university aspiring to publish, we are accepting submissions. Submit Your Article Now!

Deadline: 11:59 p.m. February 29, 2024

About this Publishing System

A guide to writing a scientific paper: a focus on high school through graduate level student research


  • 1 NIEHS Children's Environmental Health Sciences Core Center, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53201, USA. [email protected]
  • PMID: 23094692
  • PMCID: PMC3528086
  • DOI: 10.1089/zeb.2012.0743

This article presents a detailed guide for high school through graduate level instructors that leads students to write effective and well-organized scientific papers. Interesting research emerges from the ability to ask questions, define problems, design experiments, analyze and interpret data, and make critical connections. This process is incomplete, unless new results are communicated to others because science fundamentally requires peer review and criticism to validate or discard proposed new knowledge. Thus, a concise and clearly written research paper is a critical step in the scientific process and is important for young researchers as they are mastering how to express scientific concepts and understanding. Moreover, learning to write a research paper provides a tool to improve science literacy as indicated in the National Research Council's National Science Education Standards (1996), and A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011), the underlying foundation for the Next Generation Science Standards currently being developed. Background information explains the importance of peer review and communicating results, along with details of each critical component, the Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion. Specific steps essential to helping students write clear and coherent research papers that follow a logical format, use effective communication, and develop scientific inquiry are described.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Communication
  • Education, Graduate
  • Guidelines as Topic*
  • Peer Review*
  • Science / education*
  • Science / methods
  • Universities

Grants and funding

  • R25 OD011142/OD/NIH HHS/United States
  • P30ES004184/ES/NIEHS NIH HHS/United States
  • R25RR026299/RR/NCRR NIH HHS/United States

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[email protected].


12 Research Journals for High School Students

  • Last modified 2024-01-15
  • Published on 2023-07-20

science research papers for high school students

1. The Concord Review

Introduction: The Concord Review (TCR) is an academic research journal dedicated to publishing historical research papers written by high school students in English. In the spring issue, the quarterly journal has published 1,362 research papers from authors in 46 states and 41 countries. Many TCR authors have gone to prestigious universities and colleges across the U.S. and worldwide. Aralia also published the Guide to the Concord Review to guide students through the process of submitting for the Concord Review, along with the introduction of the Historical Research and Writing class.

Competition Format: All essays should be on a historical topic, although the topic can be in any time period from ancient to modern, and any area from domestic to foreign. Essay submissions must be 5,000-9,000 words, with Chicago-style endnotes and a bibliography. The student must be the sole author of the submission, and the research paper may not be published elsewhere except for a publication of the secondary school the student attends. Students can submit more than one research paper.

Eligibility : Secondary students from all countries and schools can participate.

Deadline : Summer Issue – February 1 / Fall Issue – May 1 / Winter Issue – August 1 / Spring Issue – November 1

Fee : Range from $70 – $150 depending on which type of membership level students want to sign up for. Each author who submits a paper and submission fee, receives the next four issues of the journal in eBook (or print for $30).

Membership Details (Annual Fee): 

  • Author – eBook – $70.00 (USD): With your essay submission fee of $70, you will receive a complimentary 1-year subscription to the Electronic (eBook) Edition of The Concord Review. You can choose the Print Edition instead for an additional $30 + shipping and handling.
  • Author – Print US – $110.00 (USD): Your essay submission fee of $100 + s&h entitles includes a 1 year subscription to the Print Edition of The Concord Review delivered to your US address.
  • Author – Print International – $150.00 (USD): Your essay submission fee of $100 + s&h includes 1 year subscription to the Print Edition of The Concord Review delivered to your address outside the United States.

2. (JEI) Journal of Emerging Investigators

Introduction : The Journal of Emerging Investigators is an open-access science journal and mentorship program that publishes research by middle and high school scientists. JEI is a non-profit organization operated by graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and professors across the United States. Graduate students contribute to the editorial and review processes, as well as the management of the journal. Since 2012, JEI has published over 250 papers by pre-college students. A sample research paper written by students and published in this journal, titled “A simple printing solution to aid deficit reduction” , was covered by CNN .

Submissions go through 4-6 stages of review after the manuscript is received. Summer and fall tend to be busier times for JEI, so research submitted at these times may take longer to go through the review process.

Eligibility : Middle and high school students.

Topic Guideline : Students have the freedom to choose their research topic. However, for all research related to vertebrate animal/human subjects , students are required to adhere to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) guidelines for ethical research.

Review Timeline : Submissions are accepted on a rolling basis. 

Fee : The subscription is free for students. 

3. Columbia Junior Science Research Journal

Introduction : The Columbia Junior Science Journal is a high school research journal for students with an interest in the natural sciences, physical sciences, engineering, and social sciences. CJSJ originated from the Columbia Undergraduate Science Journal, a professional-level science journal for scholars. The editorial team of the Columbia Undergraduate Science Journal also oversees CJSJ.

Eligibility : High school students worldwide can submit a single one to two-page research paper, or four to five-page review paper. Students can also collaborate with peers and mentors on their submissions.

Submission Deadline : Sep 30, 2024 (based on last year’s deadline)

4. Journal of Student Research

The Journal of Student Research (JSR), an academic, multidisciplinary, and faculty-reviewed journal, is based in Houston, Texas. This journal is devoted to the rapid dissemination of current research published by high school, undergraduate, and graduate students. It accepts AP, IB, Honors Research Articles, Review Articles, Research Projects, Research Posters, and more. Over 2,000 student authors from high schools and universities worldwide have had their work published in JSR.

Only five authors (including advisors) are allowed per submission. If you would like to include more contributors, you must pay $25 per individual. For a fast-tracked review, you can contact the journal and pay a fee.

Fee : $50 at submission for pre-review, and $200 post-review for articles chosen for publication upon notifying the authors.

Deadline : February 29, 2024

5. The Young Researcher

The Young Researcher is a peer-reviewed journal for secondary school students. The editor board includes expert researchers – typically, academics who work as professors in universities, or people with extensive research and publication experience.

List of the editors .

Submission Guideline: Submissions should be no more than 5,000 words, excluding references and appendices (in English). Articles should have:

  • Abstract + 4-6 keywords
  • Introduction
  • Literature Review
  • Method, Process, or Approach
  • Findings or Results Discussion,
  • Analysis, and/or Evaluation
  • Conclusion and Future Directions

The paper can be formatted in any acceptable citation style (MLA, APA, and Chicago). Upon submission, at least three expert editors will review the submission and will provide revisions upon selection for publication.

Deadline : May 1, 2024 (based on last year’s deadline)

6. International Journal of High School Research

International Journal of High School Research is an open-source and peer-reviewed journal that was started in 2019. IJHSR is open to receiving work in all areas of science and surrounding disciplines, including behavioral and social sciences, technology, engineering, and math. International Journal of High School Research primarily focuses on publishing articles containing new experimental data. It also requires “literature reviews”, which are a survey of previously published research, as well as sections where you are expected to draw new conclusions from your research, or discuss what you plan to publish next. The publication notes that the process for literature reviews is extremely selective, as they only publish 2 – 3 articles per issue (6 issues per year).

Submission Guideline: Students can publish articles in either the research or review sections. Research articles should include a discussion and presentation of original research, as well as new experimental data.

Review articles go through an extremely selective process because there is a limitation of 2-3 review articles published per issue. The purpose of the literature review is to provide a summation and evaluation of previous data published by researchers that has influenced your topic. There is no page limit for submissions.

All papers should be submitted in Arial font:

  • Body/Paragraph Text: 10pt font
  • Sub Headers: 12pt font, italicized, bold
  • Section Headers: 14 pt font, bold
  • Paper Title: 16pt font, bold

Fee : Upon acceptance for publication, students will pay $200. A copy of the printed journal will be mailed to the author. If for any reason students can’t pay the fee, they can contact [email protected] for support.

Evaluation Progress: Upon submission, the Editor in Chief will check for format, styling, and citations, and may send it back to the author for corrections. Next, they will review the paper for publication with two or more outside reviewers that have expertise in the respective field. After review, the paper will either be accepted or rejected. Upon acceptance, payment will be requested. Once paid, the paper is sent to copy editors and then sent for production. The whole process may take 2-4 months.

Deadline: IJHSR accepts submissions on a rolling basis.

7. The Schola

Introduction : The Schola is a quarterly journal of humanities and social sciences written by high school students worldwide, and is the only international academic journal for students. It is an online journal with a subscription fee of $120 per year.

Submission Guideline: The essay must be 4,000 words long, written in English, and have the student as the sole author. The essay topic can be in philosophy, history, art history, economics, political theory, comparative government, public policy, international relations, or sociology. The whole review process can take up to 7 months to be published (meaning that once students submit their essay, they will be considered for the next three quarterly issues).

Eligibility : The Schola accepts submissions from high school students around the world.

Deadline : Essays are accepted year-round.

8. Journal of High School Science

Focused on science research by students. 

Journal of High School Science (JHSS) is a quarterly journal published in March, June, September, and December. JHSS is a STEM-focused journal that publishes research related to biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, technology, and/or an amalgamation of these disciplines. The editorial board is composed of various experts in the field of science across the United States.

Submission Guidelines: Authors can submit either a Review Article or an Original Research Article, and submissions are accepted at any time.

9. E=mc2 High School Mathematical Science Journal (Last issue: 2021)

The E=mc2 High School Mathematical Science Journal is hosted by the Chemistry Department at the University of Chicago. The journal is supported by the National Science Foundation and focuses on Regeneron semifinalists who use mathematics in their projects. The Regeneron Science Talent Search is a prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors. Regeneron participants must complete individual research projects to enter the competition.

Submission Guidelines: The competition consists of essay questions, project questions, 20-page original scientific papers, recommendations, transcripts, and optional test scores.

10. MirCore – High School Research Conference

MirCore is a research conference created by a non-profit organization of the same name, with the mission to generate testable hypotheses on disease etiology, biomarkers, treatment decisions, and prevention. Students can sign up for the High School Research Conference Registration to present at the conference or workshops. Please keep in mind that you need to have a research paper finished before submitting your abstract form.

Abstract Due: TBD

Conference Date:  TBD

11. National High School Journal of Science (Last issue: Summer 2020)

National High School Journal of Science, or NHSJS, is a free, online, student-run, and peer-reviewed research journal for high school students, run by students. Students can submit original research and short articles in the form of reports, policy, media, technical comments, and letters. Students can submit essays related to any STEM topics including, but not limited to, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Environment, Policy, etc.

Deadline: Rolling Admission

Website :

12. The Journal of Research High School (JRHS)

The Journal of Research High School (JRHS) is an open-access online research journal for high school researchers. Accepted research topics include Engineering, Humanities, Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Social Sciences, among other fields of study. The editors are volunteers with backgrounds as professional scientists, researchers, teachers, and professors in various disciplines. Approximately 30% of submitted papers have been published.

Deadline : Rolling admissions and the general timeline is approximately 3-6 months.

Website :

High school research journals offer students an opportunity to explore their interests, build important research skills, practice formal research presentations, and demonstrate their knowledge. From niche topics to more general science-related fields, there are a variety of reliable resources that provide quality content and platforms to showcase student work. For ambitious learners looking to push themselves and develop their academic careers, these research journals can serve as the perfect medium.

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Aralia Education is an innovative online education platform for ambitious middle and high school students worldwide. Aralia’s instructors propel students forward by helping them build a strong foundation in traditional academic courses. They also actively engage and guide students in exploring personal interests beyond their school curriculum. With this holistic approach, Aralia ensures its students are well-prepared for college and equipped for success in their future careers.

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science research papers for high school students

Effects of Parental Science Expectations on the Science Interests of Yi Junior High School Students in China: The Chain Mediating Role of Science Experience and Science Self-Efficacy

  • Published: 15 February 2024

Cite this article

  • Yanjun Zhang 1 ,
  • Yanru Yang 1 &
  • Xiao Huang   ORCID: 1  

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Currently, the issue of educational equity and balanced regional educational development for minority groups is receiving enormous attention. This study explored the influence of parental science expectations on science interests and related mediating effects on Yi junior high school students in China’s largest Yi-inhabited region. The results of the study found that parental science expectations significantly predicted the science interests of Yi junior high school students; science interests, science experience, and science self-efficacy played a chain mediating role between parental science expectations and science interests; minority areas are likely to suffer from a lack of science resources due to economic and environmental factors, parents’ failure to properly understand the value of science, and students’ lack of extracurricular science experiences, thereby resulting in minority students’ loss of interest in science. Therefore, there is a strong need to improve the science expectations of parents of minority students for their children, increase opportunities for minority students to participate in hands-on science activities and gain access to science media, and enhance their sense of science self-efficacy. These efforts are conducive to promoting increased interest in science among minority middle school students and enhancing educational equity and sustainable social development.

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science research papers for high school students

Data Availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author, Dr. Huang Xiao, upon reasonable request.

Abdurahimeti, A. R. (2023). Research on the development of biology school-based curriculum pointing to the cultivation of science attitude of ethnic minority middle school students in Xinjiang master’s thesis. Southwest University .

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Aschbacher, P. R., Ing, M., & Tsai, S. M. (2014). Is science me? Exploring middle school students’ STE-M career aspirations. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 23 (6), 735–743.

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Young Scholars Summer STEMM Research Programs

2024 Young Scholars Summer STEMM Research application is OPEN.

Priority Deadline: March 24, 2024

2024 Young Scholars Application

Young Scholars FAQs

Rising 10th - 12th graders from Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin are encouraged to apply for this authentic STEMM research experience at a world-class research university for 6 weeks during the summer. Participating students gain hands-on experience in areas at the forefront of various STEMM fields, such as cancer immunology, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, physics, quantum mechanics, bioengineering, electrical engineering, and more! This program is an Increasing Diversity, Equity, & Access (IDEA) initiative that provides support and empowerment of traditionally excluded populations in STEMM including (but not limited to) the areas of gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and ability. IDEA initiatives provide a safe environment to build a community of peers and mentors who empower one another to be confident and courageous in their exploration of STEMM. All who meet the grade range and location eligibility are welcome to apply.

High School Student Applicants for Research Teams

2022 Student researchers in lab

Rising 10th – 12th Graders (from Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Iowa, or Wisconsin) are invited to apply to participate in the Young Scholars STEMM Research Program for 6 weeks during the summer to gain hands-on experience in areas at the forefront of various STEMM fields.

If selected, you will be assigned to a research group based on evidence within your application such as your personal statement and the coursework you have recently completed. To help narrow that focus, we ask you to pick two of the following three Young Scholar programs that seem most interesting to you when applying.

  • POETS Young Scholars  work with researchers in the Center for  Power Optimization and Electrothermal Systems . This center focuses on building better batteries or power distribution processes, gaining greater efficiency in large vehicles. This work is at the intersection of electrical and computer engineering, mechanical engineering, and materials science.
  • SpHERES Young Scholars  work with researchers affiliated with the Carle-Illinois College of Medicine, a premier institution where bioengineers work hand-in-hand with medical providers. The  Sparking High Schoolers' Excitement for Research in Engineering and Science  program focuses on medicine, bioengineering, and neuroscience.
  • Grainger Engineering Young Scholars (GEnYuS)  work in department-specific research groups that might include computer science, mechanical engineering, nuclear or quantum physics, aerospace engineering, materials science, electrical engineering, civil engineering, and more.

Those accepted into the program will be matched with another student, and in some cases, with a teacher from their school. (Everyone must apply separately and it is not required to have a teacher from your school to apply.)

Visit the Young Scholars FAQs

High School Researchers will:

Research students presenting at the final research symposium.

  • Participate in cutting-edge research activities of established researchers in engineering, computer science, and medicine.
  • Develop professional and college-ready skills with weekly seminars on various topics such as college admission processes and supports available, communicating scientifically, and how to prepare a research poster.
  • Develop greater confidence in yourself as a scientist and engineer.
  • Interact with faculty, post-doctoral researchers, graduate students, undergraduate students, and local high school teachers who will support you through this STEMM research adventure.
  • Showcase your research at the end of the experience with a research poster and symposium.
  • Plan for 30-35 hours per week of research and professional development time. A majority of activities will occur on the University of Illinois campus.
  • No cost to participate in this program other than transportation to and from campus. Housing, meals, and a monetary award are provided.

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Priority deadline: March 24, 2024

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How technology is reinventing education

Stanford Graduate School of Education Dean Dan Schwartz and other education scholars weigh in on what's next for some of the technology trends taking center stage in the classroom.

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Image credit: Claire Scully

New advances in technology are upending education, from the recent debut of new artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots like ChatGPT to the growing accessibility of virtual-reality tools that expand the boundaries of the classroom. For educators, at the heart of it all is the hope that every learner gets an equal chance to develop the skills they need to succeed. But that promise is not without its pitfalls.

“Technology is a game-changer for education – it offers the prospect of universal access to high-quality learning experiences, and it creates fundamentally new ways of teaching,” said Dan Schwartz, dean of Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE), who is also a professor of educational technology at the GSE and faculty director of the Stanford Accelerator for Learning . “But there are a lot of ways we teach that aren’t great, and a big fear with AI in particular is that we just get more efficient at teaching badly. This is a moment to pay attention, to do things differently.”

For K-12 schools, this year also marks the end of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding program, which has provided pandemic recovery funds that many districts used to invest in educational software and systems. With these funds running out in September 2024, schools are trying to determine their best use of technology as they face the prospect of diminishing resources.

Here, Schwartz and other Stanford education scholars weigh in on some of the technology trends taking center stage in the classroom this year.

AI in the classroom

In 2023, the big story in technology and education was generative AI, following the introduction of ChatGPT and other chatbots that produce text seemingly written by a human in response to a question or prompt. Educators immediately worried that students would use the chatbot to cheat by trying to pass its writing off as their own. As schools move to adopt policies around students’ use of the tool, many are also beginning to explore potential opportunities – for example, to generate reading assignments or coach students during the writing process.

AI can also help automate tasks like grading and lesson planning, freeing teachers to do the human work that drew them into the profession in the first place, said Victor Lee, an associate professor at the GSE and faculty lead for the AI + Education initiative at the Stanford Accelerator for Learning. “I’m heartened to see some movement toward creating AI tools that make teachers’ lives better – not to replace them, but to give them the time to do the work that only teachers are able to do,” he said. “I hope to see more on that front.”

He also emphasized the need to teach students now to begin questioning and critiquing the development and use of AI. “AI is not going away,” said Lee, who is also director of CRAFT (Classroom-Ready Resources about AI for Teaching), which provides free resources to help teach AI literacy to high school students across subject areas. “We need to teach students how to understand and think critically about this technology.”

Immersive environments

The use of immersive technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality is also expected to surge in the classroom, especially as new high-profile devices integrating these realities hit the marketplace in 2024.

The educational possibilities now go beyond putting on a headset and experiencing life in a distant location. With new technologies, students can create their own local interactive 360-degree scenarios, using just a cell phone or inexpensive camera and simple online tools.

“This is an area that’s really going to explode over the next couple of years,” said Kristen Pilner Blair, director of research for the Digital Learning initiative at the Stanford Accelerator for Learning, which runs a program exploring the use of virtual field trips to promote learning. “Students can learn about the effects of climate change, say, by virtually experiencing the impact on a particular environment. But they can also become creators, documenting and sharing immersive media that shows the effects where they live.”

Integrating AI into virtual simulations could also soon take the experience to another level, Schwartz said. “If your VR experience brings me to a redwood tree, you could have a window pop up that allows me to ask questions about the tree, and AI can deliver the answers.”


Another trend expected to intensify this year is the gamification of learning activities, often featuring dynamic videos with interactive elements to engage and hold students’ attention.

“Gamification is a good motivator, because one key aspect is reward, which is very powerful,” said Schwartz. The downside? Rewards are specific to the activity at hand, which may not extend to learning more generally. “If I get rewarded for doing math in a space-age video game, it doesn’t mean I’m going to be motivated to do math anywhere else.”

Gamification sometimes tries to make “chocolate-covered broccoli,” Schwartz said, by adding art and rewards to make speeded response tasks involving single-answer, factual questions more fun. He hopes to see more creative play patterns that give students points for rethinking an approach or adapting their strategy, rather than only rewarding them for quickly producing a correct response.

Data-gathering and analysis

The growing use of technology in schools is producing massive amounts of data on students’ activities in the classroom and online. “We’re now able to capture moment-to-moment data, every keystroke a kid makes,” said Schwartz – data that can reveal areas of struggle and different learning opportunities, from solving a math problem to approaching a writing assignment.

But outside of research settings, he said, that type of granular data – now owned by tech companies – is more likely used to refine the design of the software than to provide teachers with actionable information.

The promise of personalized learning is being able to generate content aligned with students’ interests and skill levels, and making lessons more accessible for multilingual learners and students with disabilities. Realizing that promise requires that educators can make sense of the data that’s being collected, said Schwartz – and while advances in AI are making it easier to identify patterns and findings, the data also needs to be in a system and form educators can access and analyze for decision-making. Developing a usable infrastructure for that data, Schwartz said, is an important next step.

With the accumulation of student data comes privacy concerns: How is the data being collected? Are there regulations or guidelines around its use in decision-making? What steps are being taken to prevent unauthorized access? In 2023 K-12 schools experienced a rise in cyberattacks, underscoring the need to implement strong systems to safeguard student data.

Technology is “requiring people to check their assumptions about education,” said Schwartz, noting that AI in particular is very efficient at replicating biases and automating the way things have been done in the past, including poor models of instruction. “But it’s also opening up new possibilities for students producing material, and for being able to identify children who are not average so we can customize toward them. It’s an opportunity to think of entirely new ways of teaching – this is the path I hope to see.”

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Best Websites for High School Students

By Med Kharbach, PhD | Last Update: February 16, 2024

Websites for High School Students

In today’s fast-paced educational landscape, high school students have an unprecedented access to a wealth of knowledge right at their fingertips. Recognizing the immense potential of digital resources to supplement traditional learning, I’ve dedicated myself to meticulously combing through the vast expanse of educational technology websites.

My goal? To curate a selection that offers substantial learning value specifically tailored for high school students. Drawing from my extensive experience in reviewing EdTech tools, I present to you a compilation that not only enhances the academic journey but also inspires a deeper engagement with the material. These websites span a broad spectrum of disciplines, ensuring that students can find reliable, enriching resources regardless of their area of interest.

Websites for High School Students

Here are some good websites for high school students:

The library of Congress

The Library of Congress, home of U.S. Copyright Office, offers a wide range of educational materials and primary source documents including books, recordings, images, manuscripts, maps, and newspapers. 

The mission of the Library is to “to develop qualitatively the Library’s universal collections, which document the history and further the creativity of the American people and which record and contribute to the advancement of civilization and knowledge throughout the world, and to acquire, organize, provide access to, maintain, secure, and preserve these collections.”

The Smithsonian Learning Lab

The Smithsonian Learning Lab offers a diverse collection of resources to help students enhance their learning. These materials include recordings, digital images, texts, art and culture, and more. 

The Lab also provides tools that students can use to upload, adapt, create, and share educational resources with colleagues, teachers, and parents. Students can use the Lab’s search service to search for resources to use in their own learning projects. 

Google Arts and Culture

Google Arts & Culture is another great website for high school students. It provides students access to a huge repository of human knowledge stored in over 2000 cultural institutions from all over the world.

Students can use Google Arts & Culture to take virtual guided tours to different museums and exhibits in the world. They can also search for museums and exhibitions in their vicinity and explore their artwork. 

Other features provided by Google Arts & Culture include games to teach students cultural literacy , museum explorer to explore world museums, today in history featuring major art and cultural events and historical figures, Street View to help you tour famous sites and landmarks, discover artists from all around the world, and many more.

Applied Digital Skills

Applied Digital Skills by Google for Education offers a wide variety of educational resources to help students develop the skills necessary for thriving in and out of school. The site embeds video-based lessons that students can access anytime anywhere for free. 

The way it works is simple: students sign in as learners, once in their dashboard they can then start searching for lessons and begin their learning journey. 

There are over 100 lessons organized into different collections. Students can search for lessons by audience (e.g., late elementary, middle school, high school, adult learners), by digital tool (e.g., Apps Script, Docs, Drawings, Drive, Forms, Gmail, Maps, Meet, AutoDraw, Photos, etc) or by topic (e.g., Art, Business, Math, Science, Social Studies, Study Skills and Organization,  Foreign Language, Financial skills, communication, etc). 

BrainPOP offers a wide variety of educational games, animated videos and activities to enhance students learning and help them develop a better understanding of the world around them. 

BrainPOP’s  materials cover different topics and content areas including science, health, reading and writing, social studies, math, arts and technology. BrainPOP also provides tools ‘that challenge students to reflect, make connections, and engage in deeper, curiosity-driven learning’.

Besides the main BrainPOP, there is also BrainPOP Jr for kids K-3 and offers learning resources that cover STEM, social studies, reading/writing, health, and arts. BrainPOP ELL is for English language learning for students of all ages. It offers educational materials on vocabulary, grammar, listening, reading, and writing.

Prodigy is a free, adaptive math game that integrates Common Core math (1st-7th grade) into a fantasy style game that students absolutely love playing. Prodigy takes game-based learning a step further and provides teachers with a powerful set of reporting and assessment tools that allow them to easily identify trouble spots, differentiate instruction, and better manage classroom time.

Khan Academy

Khan Academy provides students access to a huge library of educational resources that include videos, interactive exercises, in-depth articles covering various content areas such as Math, science, economics, history, finance, and civics. Students can browse lessons by grade and topic.

Each lesson comes with video tutorials and step by step guides. There are also ‘practice exercises, quizzes, and tests with instant feedback and step-by-step hints’. More importantly, Khan Academy uses advanced algorithms to provide relevant learning materials tailored to each learner’s individual levels and skills. 

Brainly is knowledge-sharing platform where students get help with their homework. Brainly resources are crowd-source and students. Answers to students inquiries are provided by members of the site’s community including fellow students, teachers, educators, PhDs, experts, among others. 

Topics covered include Math, History, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Social Studies, Geography, Arts, Computer Science, Business, Law, Engineering, World Languages, Health and many more. For more similar sources check out best homework websites for students .

Math Homework Tools

This is a collection of some of the best tools to help students with their homework. Students can use them to seek help with their math problems and learn from their peers and tutors. 

Using these tools and calculators, students will be able to access step by step explanations of complex math concepts related to various math topics including algebra, trigonometry, geometry, calculus, statistics, and many more. Also, these tools work both on desktop and mobile devices enabling students sync their learning experiences across different platforms.

Final thoughts

In conclusion, as we navigate the ever-evolving realm of educational technology, it’s crucial to remember the core purpose of these resources: to enrich and support the learning journey of high school students. This collection represents just a starting point, a springboard into the vast ocean of knowledge that digital education offers. Whether it’s exploring the rich archives of the Library of Congress, embarking on virtual tours with Google Arts and Culture, or tackling math challenges on Prodigy, these websites are gateways to discovery and growth. I encourage students and educators to delve into these resources, experiment with them in and out of the classroom, and continue to share insights and recommendations.

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Meet Med Kharbach, PhD

Dr. Med Kharbach is an influential voice in the global educational technology landscape, with an extensive background in educational studies and a decade-long experience as a K-12 teacher. Holding a Ph.D. from Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, Canada, he brings a unique perspective to the educational world by integrating his profound academic knowledge with his hands-on teaching experience. Dr. Kharbach's academic pursuits encompass curriculum studies, discourse analysis, language learning/teaching, language and identity, emerging literacies, educational technology, and research methodologies. His work has been presented at numerous national and international conferences and published in various esteemed academic journals.

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Former STEM Enhancement in Earth Science Interns Receive Prestigious Awards

The STEM Enhancement in Earth Science (SEES) Summer Intern Program is a nationally competitive STEM program for high school students. The program provides selected students with exposure to Earth and Space research. Interns learn how to interpret NASA satellite data while working with scientists and engineers in their chosen area of work. This content knowledge, coupled with hands-on experiences, allows the intern to gain experience in authentic NASA research through field investigation and data analysis. Several former SEES Interns were recognized in January, 2024, for their incredible accomplishments.

2024 Regeneron Science Talent Search

Four former SEES Interns were named in the top 300 scholars in the 2024 Regeneron Science Talent Search, the nation's oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors. $2,000 will be awarded to each scholar and their schools. Scholars were chosen based on their outstanding research, leadership skills, community involvement, commitment to academics, creativity in asking scientific questions, and demonstration of exceptional promise as leaders in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) through original, independent research projects, essays, and recommendations.

The former SEES Interns named in the top 300 are: Nikita Agrawal, 2022 Earth System Explorers; Alexa Bravo, 2022 Asteroid Photometry; David Backer Peral, 2022 Earth System Explorers & 2023 Artemis ROADS, and Riya Tyagi, 2023 Earth System Explorers. The full list of scholars can be viewed at:

Another former SEES Intern, Riya Tyagi, who was part of the 2023 Earth System Explorers Team, was selected as one of 40 finalists in the 2024 Regeneron Science Talent Search. Finalists were selected from 300 scholars and 2,162 entrants and are competing for more than $1.8 million, with a top prize of $250,000. The list of 40 finalists can be viewed at:

Brooke Owens Fellowship

Former SEES Intern, Zoe Koniaris, who was part of the 2019 SEES Mars Exploration Team, was one of 47 Fellows selected for the Brooke Owens Fellowship - a nationally acclaimed nonprofit program recognizing exceptional undergraduate women and gender minorities with space and aviation internships, senior mentorship, and a lifelong professional network.

The Brooke Owens Fellows will each be matched to an executive-level mentor in the aerospace industry who will support and work with the Fellows to help launch their careers in addition to a Brookie Alumni Mentor. Zoe is a Junior studying Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University and will intern with Ball Aerospace.

For the full list of the 47 Brooke Owens 2024 Fellows, visit:

The SEES High School Summer Intern Program is funded through NASA Cooperative Agreement Notice NNH15ZDA004C and is a part of NASA’s Science Activation Program .

STEM Enhancement in Earth Science (SEES) Logo consisting of white letters over the Earth. Underneath SEES it says Summer High School Intern Program.

Related Terms

  • Earth Science
  • Internships
  • Opportunities For Students to Get Involved
  • Science Activation

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science research papers for high school students

NASA Collaborates in an International Air Quality Study

NASA and international researchers are studying the air quality in Asia as part of a global effort to better understand the air we breathe. In collaboration with Korea’s National Institute of Environmental Research (NIER), the Airborne and Satellite Investigation of Asian Air Quality, or ASIA-AQ mission, will collect detailed atmospheric data over several locations in […]

science research papers for high school students

Meet NASA’s Twin Spacecraft Headed to the Ends of the Earth

Launching in spring 2024, the two small satellites of the agency’s PREFIRE mission will fill in missing data from Earth’s polar regions. Two new miniature NASA satellites will start crisscrossing Earth’s atmosphere in a few months, detecting heat lost to space. Their observations from the planet’s most bone-chilling regions will help predict how our ice, […]

science research papers for high school students

Do NASA Science LIVE on February 21! What’s it mean to be cool?

Discover more topics from nasa.

James Webb Space Telescope

science research papers for high school students

Perseverance Rover

science research papers for high school students

Parker Solar Probe

science research papers for high school students

Browse Course Material

Course info, instructors.

  • Mark Hartman, Principal Instructor
  • Peter Ashton, Assistant Instructor
  • Shakib Ahmed, CAI Intern
  • Simba Kol, CAI Intern
  • Dr. Irene Porro


  • Supplemental Resources

As Taught In

Learning resource types, res.hs-001 chandra astrophysics institute, course description.

The Chandra Astrophysics Institute (CAI), a Chandra X-ray Observatory–sponsored program run by the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research , was intended for students from the Boston area from a wide range of academic backgrounds with a limited opportunity to directly experience authentic science. 

The CAI was a year-long program to train for and take part in authentic astronomy projects. Participants built employable research, technology, and collaboration skills and the background knowledge necessary to understand how research science is done. Investigations of different astronomical systems were undertaken during a five-week summer session at MIT. Participants, mentored by MIT researchers and educators, then applied these skills to undertake research projects in x-ray astronomy based on observations made with the Chandra X-Ray Observatory.

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