Nefrsef Bibliography Rules

Writing the bibliography

A bibliography gives a reviewer an idea of how much and what quality of background research you did for your project. Be sure to list every book, magazine, website, interview, or other source you used to choose your topic, prepare your research plan and make your hypothesis. Each entry should be in an accepted format.

Do not cite anything in your bibliography that you have not read.

Your teacher, sponsor, and judges should be able to assume that if you list a reference in your bibliography that you know what it says. You should also have a copy of at least the first page of every website you use in your notebook.

When you list your references you must have the following:

  1. Generic reference to the ISEF rules:
    • Book
    • Science Service. “International Rules for Precollege Science Research: Guidelines for Science and Engineering Fairs / 2006–2007.” Washington, DC: Science Service Science Education Department, 2006.
    • Website
    • Science Service. “International Rules for Precollege Science Research: Guidelines for Science and Engineering Fairs / 2006–2007.” 1 Sep, 2006. < http:// >
  2. Special Projects references:

    For projects in the Special Projects category, reference to at least one of the additional resources listed in the ISEF rules book for your type of project. For Example:

    • Human Subjects Projects
    • Department of Health and Human Services.“Code of Federal Regulation (CFR), Title 45 (Public Welfare), Part 46-Protection of Human Subjects (45CFR46).”(2003). < >
    • Nonhuman Vertebrate Animals
    • Institute of Laboratory Animal Resources (ILAR).“Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals.”(2003). < >
    • Pathogenic Microorganisms
    • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health.“Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL), Fourth Edition.”(1999). < >
  3. At least 3 project-specific references

    These should be books specific to your project. They should NOT be encyclopedias, dictionaries, or general information books.

  4. MSDS sheet references

    References to the source of MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) that you have consulted covering chemicals used in your project. It is not necessary to include the MSDS sheets with your project paperwork, but you must show that you consulted them. It is also a very good idea to keep the sheets with your logbooks.

Format for bibliography citations

To help you with the format of your citations, check the basic MLA guidelines as listed on a webpage from Long Island University. If your particular case is not listed, check with your teacher, or either of the standard guides below:

  • MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (6th edition)
  • Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (Fifth Edition)

Every project should have a notebook, a detailed written record of the scientific study. The contents should be specific and concise and should display the student's use of the scientific method. Among its contents should be:

  • An Introduction
  • Background Information
  • Nomenclature
  • Statement of Theory
  • Statistical Analysis
  • Other topics specific to the individual project
  • Although you will not be able to thoroughly examine every notebook, you will find it helpful to check the contents at least briefly.


    • The display is essentially a compromise of content versus time.
    • Ideally, it should stand on its own, describing the major elements of the project and should be easily read from 3 feet away.
    • If logically and neatly organized, it should require no more than 1-2 minutes reading time.
    • While appropriate graphs, photographs, illustrations and equipment displays are encouraged, gimmicks (e.g., flashing lights) are not.
    • If, after reviewing the display, you feel confused rather than hungry for more, it has not served its primary purpose.


    A genuine interest in the student's work, coupled with the determination to make judging a positive learning experience, is a good formula to use during your judging interview. The interview:

    • allows students to present their work in their own way
    • permits the judges to ask specific questions, review the work done and estimate student's understanding of the field
    • encourages verbal communication between exhibitors and judges
    • Ideally, exhibitors will be well organized, familiar with their field of study, relatively composed, courteous and eager to learn.
    • Please remember, however, that for many young exhibitors this is their first experience in a pressure situation.
    • Your own maturity will prove a valuable tool in drawing out theirs.
    • The importance of a positive approach cannot be over-emphasized.

    NOTE: The display may be dazzling, the logbook thorough and complete, the notebook neat and well written and the interview eloquent but, if the basic project idea (the question to be answered or the problem to be solved) and method of answering or solving it aren't valid, the student has not become a better scientist or engineer by doing the project. A review of the Judging Criteria on the score sheet should be useful in evaluating the overall project.

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