Project experimentation is the process of testing a hypothesis. The things that have an effect on the experiment are called variables. There are three kinds of variables that you need to identify in your experiments: independent, dependent, and controlled.


The independent variable is the variable you purposely manipulate (change). The dependent variable is the variable that is being observed, which changes in response to the independent variable. The variables that are not changed are called controlled variables.


The problem in this section concerns the effect of light on the reproduction of bread mold. The independent variable for the experiment is light and the dependent variable is bread mold reproduction. A control is a test in which the independent variable is kept constant in order to measure changes in the dependent variable. In a control, all variables are identical to the experimental setup—your original setup—except for the independent variable. Factors that are identical in both the experimental setup and the control setup are the controlled variables. For example, prepare the experiment by placing three or four loaves of white bread in cardboard boxes the size of a bread box, one loaf per box. Close the boxes so that they receive no light. If, at the end of a set time period, the mold grows, you might decide that no light was needed for mold reproduction. But, before making this decision, you must determine experimentally if the mold would grow with light. Thus, control groups must be set up of bread that receives light throughout the testing period. Do this by placing an equal number of loaves in comparable-size boxes, but leave them open.


The other variables for the experimental and control setup, such as the environmental conditions for the room where the boxes are placed—temperature and humidity—and the brand of the breads used must be kept the same. These are controlled variables. Note that when designing the procedure of your project experiment, you must include steps for measuring the results. For example, to measure the amount of mold growth, you might draw 1/2-inch (1-cm) squares on a transparent sheet of plastic. This could be placed over the bread, and the number of squares with mold growth could be counted. Also, as it is best to perform the experiment more than once, it is also good to have more than one control. You might have one control for every experimental setup.

  • Do have only one independent variable during an experiment.
  • Do repeat the experiment more than once to verify your results.
  • Do have a control.
  • Do have more than one control, with each being identical.
  • Do organize data.