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Independent Research Projects

Opportunities for your students to do practical, independent research projects

Would you like your students to work more independently? Would you like them to do authentic research in science? Up and down the UK, students are doing practical, independent research projects on scientific topics that interest them. Inside are just some of the ways your students can get involved in practical projects. Is it worth the effort?

A review carried out by the University of York and the UCL Institute of Education found evidence that students who do independent science research projects:

  • learn more science
  • have improved attitudes towards science
  • are more likely to follow careers in science, technology, engineering and maths
  • gain confidence in and beyond science, through the freedom to explore the unknown with others.

There are lots of different schemes, and many are easy and straight-forward to get involved with. The time commitment can be as big or small as you like, ranging from simply flagging the opportunity to your students, through to writing a funding application and co-ordinating activity over the course of a term, or even a school year. It need not cost anything to get involved and you may even be able to get funding to support your work.

Schemes at a Glance

 Scheme (A-Z)

Age Group



What do you need to do?

Big Bang Fair


Out of lesson, within school hours

Outside school

You need to register to attend and to arrange the trip to the Fair.

CREST Awards



A mixture of school, clubs, placements, collapsed timetable days

It depends on the age of the students. 

Do try this at home


Within school hours

Mainly in school

Just use the materials!

Extended Project Qualification (EPQ)



In and outside of school

If your school offers the qualification, teacher involved as appropriate.

Gopher Science Labs


A mixture of in-school and out-of-school time

Mainly in school

Need to apply for the activity initially.

Student then work on activities.

National Science and Engineering Competition



Mainly in school

There will be greater involvement with the younger students and less involvement, more mentoring/guidance only for the older students

Nuffield Research Placements


Summer holidays

Outside school

You must flag the opportunity to students, Then the student applies for and carries out the project themselves.

You will also need to provide a reference for the student.

Royal Society of Chemistry Experimentation Hub


Mainly lesson time, some out of lesson term time

Mainly in school

Just explore and find the right activity for your students.

Activities may be carried out by students independently, or incorporated into a lesson.

Royal Society Partnership grants


Mainly lesson time, some out of lesson term time

Wholly within school

You must apply for the activity and remain involved throughout.

Main Guidance

Nuffield Research Placements

Nuffield Research Placements offer over 1,000 students each year the opportunity to work alongside professional scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians. Students conduct 4-6 week research projects during summer holidays in universities, companies and research institutes.

Nuffield particularly encourage students from disadvantaged backgrounds and those who don't have a family history of going to university. We cover travel expenses and give additional bursaries to those who are eligible.

Royal Society Of Chemistry Experimentation Hub

The Royal Society of Chemistry views practical skills and experience as vital to a well-rounded chemistry education. We've collected key information, resources, and event news in one place to better support practical projects and activities.

Our experimentation hub is an online home for practical project-related activities and events, including resources, interactives, and our very popular annual Global Experiment (which, in 2016, is CREST-accredited and will investigate UV protection).

Royal Society Partnership Grants

The Partnership Grants scheme offers up to £3,000 to UK schools or colleges to run an investigative project in partnership with a practising STEM professional (research or industry). Successful projects are proven to deliver a better understanding of STEM, improve perceptions of those working in STEM professions and give students pride and ownership in STEM from participation in the investigative process.

Further Guidance

Practical Guide To Extended Science Projects

A special Big Picture supplement by the Wellcome Trust to support teachers and students interested in doing an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) based upon practical science and their own research.

The guide includes details on the whole process, from identifying a project, planning it, carrying out the research and writing it up. Wellcome has also produced a separate resource to help ensure students’ research is ethical.

The Institute for Research in Schools

The Institute for Research in Schools is a charity that provides opportunities and support for school students and teachers to take part in authentic research at school and so experience the excitement and inspiration of being at the cutting edge in science. 

The STEM Learning Centre

The STEM Learning Centre houses the UK’s largest collection of STEM teaching and learning resources, in order to provide teachers of STEM subjects with the ability to access a wide range of high-quality support materials.

IOP Teacher Network

The Institute of Physics offers support for all teachers and pupils in England through its Physics Network Coordinators. These are experienced teachers or former teachers who organise innovative and inspirational CPD workshops – at no cost to schools or participants.

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