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Common Questions

What categories of research can you present?

We have these categories:

Behavioral Science || Biological Science || Biotechnology || Chemistry || Computer Science || Earth/Space Science || Environmental Science  || Mathematics || Physical Science/Physics || Technology/Engineering

Reach out to the regional or state director if you are not sure how your project fits a category.  We use the categories to group students so each room at a regional or state event includes similar categories and are judged together.

What grades can present?

The middle school event is for grades 6-8; the high school event is for grades 9-12.  Students present and share in their grade event.  Winners at the state level in the high school event can advance to participate in a national gathering of winners at a national science conference for professionals (AAAS).

Can you do a team project?  Does the entire team present?

If a research project was done jointly by 2-3 students, all members of the team may present the paper and answer questions. All team members must be given the option/opportunity to present, that is, one team member should not participate without the agreement of other team members.

Only students who participate in-person in presenting the project are eligible to receive the medals/awards, and for high school students, receive financial support to participate in American Junior Academy of Science.  The same time allowance described above for a single presenter for presentation and questions applies also to joint papers.  If team members live in multiple NCSAS districts, you can reach out to the Director ( to help determine which district to compete.

What happens when you go to a regional/state event?

You will submit your paper in advance so judges can read your paper prior to seeing your presentation.   At NCSAS, you will give a short 10 minute presentation (Powerpoint, Google Slide, or similar) that highlights the project.   Other students will also present before or after you in your room.  Typically you will be presenting in a classroom or conference room.  Judges (typically people who work as researchers or teach advanced courses) review your paper and presentation and ask questions about your research.  They often will want to know more about your project, project design, or have questions on items you share in your presentation.  When possible a judge may have some general background in your project category, but often your work may be presenting something "new to them."  Judges complete the scoring without sharing scores with students, and do not publicly announce any scores. 

Can I share a project from Advanced Placement Research?

If you are taking the College Board course AP Research through your school, yes, you can share your AP Research project prior to submitting it to the College Board for review.  The 2020 guidelines state "If students are submitting their AP Research work to competitions prior to submitting to the AP Digital Portfolio for scoring, teachers should work with students on strategies on how to receive feedback from competition judges without violating the AP Research rules on engaging with expert advisers outlined on page 52 [of the guidelines]. Specifically, students must make sure judges are aware that students are not allowed to receive specific, directive feedback about their work prior to the final AP Digital Portfolio submission."  In summary, judges can ask questions, but not direct you to make specific changes or seek specific resources.

Are there other research competitions or research events in North Carolina?

NC Student Academy of Science, the NC Science and Engineering Fair, and Junior Science and Humanities Symposium are three of the top venues.   Students who complete mentored research at a university sometimes present at the SNCURCS, State of North  Carolina Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium.  A summary of other research sharing or research competition events is posted by NCSSM Distance Education and Extended Programs, though competition dates for 2023 are not all updated.

What are examples of projects, so I understand what it means to "research"?

Check out these example the NC Science and Engineering Fair (another research competition) of posters students share.  A key difference of NC Student Academy is the ability to write a paper and give a presentation to judges.  

How do I write or format the paper?

See our documents page for our handbook, which outlines the headings for a paper.   Generally you should follow the steps of your process (science process or engineering process) and explain in detail the background to your project, paraphrase other research that influenced your project idea, methods, findings, explain your method or design in details, explain your results in detail, and explain the impacts of your findings.  Please cite in a bibliography any sources you use, and indicate in the paper where you paraphrase or quote from another source.

These papers are generally written in the 3rd person (not using I) but it is not a requirement.  Label any tables and figures (table 1, table 2 or figure 1, figure 2) so you can refer to them in your paper.  Providing captions to your figures or tables can help the judges. 

What types of projects can your present?

Focus on projects that discover something not yet known, than something people have already determined.   Using the definition from the College Board, "In the classroom and independently (while possibly consulting any expert advisers), students learn and employ research and inquiry methods to develop, manage, and conduct an in-depth investigation of an area of personal interest,"  This can mean improving or expanding on the work of past research,  testing an new hypothesis or new design, improving on an existing design, or testing an idea in a new context.  More guidance on 'what is research' is posted here from Science Education Resource Center.

Many problems can be place-specific (your town, a stream near your apartment or home, a specific population of people), so previous research/findings can be studied in the context of a specific place, community, or situation it has not been studied before. 


The following are very important to learning about research, but we are not ready to showcase them at NCSAS:

  • Literature reviews---meaning, you are summarizing the work of other experts without any new finding, design, or outcome---what many students informally call 'a research paper'.

  • Shadowing/Assisting---you helped an expert with repetitive parts of their work or watched them work.

We cannot accept projects that:

  • Endanger the health and well being of student researchers or participants, animals, the environment, and/or use private or non-public data or property without permission and consent of their owner.

  • Misrepresent the student contribution or contribution of other students or experts to the project.


What does the 'advanced' category mean?

The 'advanced' category is for students that received more additional support in completing their project .

  • The student spent or received gifts worth more than $200 for the project in addition to materials provided by the school (audio-visual supplies are excluded).

  • The student researcher worked under the direct supervision of an employee of a hospital, college or university, commercial laboratory or industry, or a professional research organization. 

  • The student used a data base of which a substantial portion was obtained from instrumentation or other procedures that the student researcher did not personally operate or perform.

  • The project is a continuation of a study for which results have previously been reported by other students

If your teacher has significant expertise in the topic of your project, they can reach out to the Regional Director to determine if it is appropriate for the 'advanced' category.  

What should go into the presentation?

Judges will read your paper in advance of the presentation (10 minute length).  The presentation is a chance to highlight what you thought was most important about your project design, experimental design, methods, findings, and conclusions.  Judges have access to your paper for technical detail/data, and can ask questions, so you are not obligated to include 'everything' about your project.  For example, you could highlight important parts of your methods, but do not need to review every step.  Remember, the presentation is a chance to share what 'excites you' about your project in a way a paper cannot.  There is no specific format requirements for the presentation.  We suggest you rehearse so you know you are do not have too many or too few slides and or ideas to share.

Is this the same as Science Fair?

There are actually four statewide programs for students to share research in North Carolina, in addition to national opportunities.

NC Science and Engineering Fair

NC Student Academy of Science (this site)

NC Junior Science and Humanities Symposium

NC International Science Challenge

Proper Citation and Use of Artificial Intelligence or Image Manipulation

All papers and presentations must cite (fully reference) any ideas, data, results, or conclusions of others, whether paraphrased or used directly.   Use of artificial intelligence tools, or tools that create, auto-generate, or write content, or re-write someone else's ideas, based on user-generated prompt(s) or submitted content.  Use of AI tools to create any portion of a paper/presentation, images, or data must be cited with the name of the tool and the content in the paper/presentation. Manipulation of original photos or images should also be noted in your methods, even if making simple edits (increase brightness, cropping)  See guidance from APA

Basic grammatical and word choice edits where AI-based suggestions are made to content fully written and produced by you do not need to be cited.

More questions...

We will be adding more questions and answers here.  Email with any questions.

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