The extended essay is an in-depth study of a focused topic chosen from the list of approved Diploma Program subjects—normally one of the student’s six chosen subjects for the IB diploma.
It is intended to promote high-level research and writing skills, intellectual discovery and creativity. It provides students with an opportunity to engage in personal research in a topic of their own choice, under the guidance of a supervisor (a teacher in the school). This leads to a major piece of formally presented, structured writing, in which ideas and findings are communicated in a reasoned and coherent manner, appropriate to the subject chosen.
The aims of the extended essay are to provide students with the opportunity to:
· pursue independent research on a
· develop research and communication
· develop the skills of creative and critical
· engage in a systematic process of
research appropriate to the subject
· experience the excitement of
The extended essay is:
· compulsory for all Diploma Program
· externally assessed and, in combination
with the grade for theory of knowledge,
contributes up to three points to the
total score for the IB diploma
· a piece of independent
research/investigation on a topic
chosen by the student with the
cooperation of a superviser in the
· chosen from the list of approved
Diploma Program subjects
· presented as a formal piece of
scholarship containing no more than
· the result of approximately 40 hours
of work by the student
· concluded with a short interview, or
viva voce, with the supervising teacher
In the Diploma Program, the extended essay is the prime example of a piece of work where the student has the opportunity to show knowledge, understanding and enthusiasm about a topic of his or her choice.
Just a few basics: Beginning your Extended Essay
An Extended Essay has the following traits:
Through the research and writing of your Extended Essay, you show your ability to engage in personal research and to present your findings in an organized manner.
Your Extended Essay must fit the guidelines for one of the IB subjects listed below. Keep in mind:
Group 1 (English A1) – Literature
Group 2 (Language B) – Literature or Language
Group 3 (Individuals and Society)
Group 4 (Experimental Sciences)
Group 5 Mathematics
Group 6 (Elective Arts)
The Components of the Extended Essay:
The Introduction should include:
Investigation and Reasoned Argument
The essential feature of the major section, or body, of the essay is the systematic development of a reasoned argument in relation to the research question, utilizing appropriate sources. Your argument must show in-depth analysis.
The structure and the approach to this section will be shaped by the conventions of the particular subject in which the essay is undertaken. Some subjects may require sub-headings for major sections within the main body. For example, scientific investigations will usually have separate sections for method and results. In some other subjects, however, sub-headings should be avoided because they disrupt the flow and unity of an essay.
Should be clearly stated, relevant to the research question being investigated, substantiated by the evidence given, and indicate issues, unresolved questions and new questions that have emerged from the research.
Must include formal elements: title page, table of contents, page numbers, illustrative material (when appropriate), quotations, documentation (including references, in-text citations, and list of works cited) and appendices (when appropriate).
Should state clearly the research question investigated, how the investigation was undertaken and the conclusions of the extended essay.
Formal Presentation Information:
The extended essay should be written in a clear, correct and formal academic style, appropriate to the subject from which the topic is drawn. It must be typed.
The length of the extended essay:
The upper limit is 4,000 words for all extended essays. This upper limit includes the introduction, the body, the conclusion and any quotations, but does not include:
· the abstract
· the contents page
· maps, charts, diagrams, annotated
illustrations and tables
· equations, formulas and calculations
· citations/references (whether
parenthetical or numbered)
· footnotes or endnotes
· the bibliography
Essays containing more than 4,000 words are subject to penalties and examiners are not required to read material in excess of the word limit.
The title should provide a clear indication of the focus of the essay. It should be precise and not necessarily phrased in the form of a question.
An abstract not exceeding 300 words must be included with the essay submitted. It does not serve as an introduction, but presents an overview of the extended essay, and should, therefore, be written last.
The minimum requirements for the abstract are for it to state clearly:
· the research question being
· the scope of the investigation
· the conclusion(s) of the extended
The abstract should be typed, and placed immediately after the title page.
A contents page must be provided at the beginning of the extended essay and all pages should be numbered. An index is not required.
Presentation and overall neatness are important, and it is essential that illustrative material, if included, is well set out and used effectively. Graphs, diagrams, tables and maps are effective only if they are clearly labeled and can be interpreted with ease.
The direct or indirect use of the words of another person, written, oral, or electronic, must be acknowledged appropriately as must visual material in the essay, derived from another source. Not to do so is plagiarism. The list of works cited should include only those works such as books and journals that have been consulted by the candidate. Each work consulted, regardless of whether or not it has already been cited as a reference, must be listed in the list of works cited. The list of works cited should specify: author(s), title, date and place of publication, and the name of publisher, following a standard citation style.
Appendices, footnotes and endnotes are not an essential section of the extended essay and examiners are not required to read them, so care should be taken to include all information of direct relevance to the analysis and argument in the main body of the essay.
Examiners’ reports frequently emphasize the following positive steps.
Before starting work on the extended essay, students should:
· read the assessment criteria
· read previous essays to identify
strengths and possible pitfalls
· spend time working out the research
question (imagine the finished essay)
· work out a structure for the essay.
During the research process, and while writing the essay, students should:
· start work early and stick to deadlines
· maintain a good working relationship
with their supervisor
· construct an argument that relates to
the research question
· use the library and consult librarians for
· record sources as they go along (rather
than trying to reconstruct a list at the
· choose a new topic and a research
question that can be answered if there
is a problem with the original topic
· use the appropriate language for the
· let their interest and enthusiasm show.
After completing the essay, students should:
· write the abstract
· check and proofread the final version
Examiners’ reports also mention these things to be avoided at all costs.
Students should not work with a research question that is too broad or too vague, too narrow, too difficult or inappropriate. A good research question is one that asks something worth asking and that is answerable within 40 hours/4,000 words. It should be clear what would count as evidence in relation to the question, and it must be possible to acquire such evidence in the course of the investigation. If a student does not know what evidence is needed, or cannot collect such evidence, it will not be possible to answer the research question.
In addition, students should not:
· forget to analyze the research question
· ignore the assessment criteria
· collect material that is irrelevant to the
· use the Internet uncritically
· merely describe or report (evidence
must be used to support
· repeat the introduction in the
· cite sources that are not used.
One further piece of advice is as follows:
the more background a student has in the subject, the better the chance he or she has of writing a good extended essay. Choosing to write the extended essay in a subject that is not being studied as part of the Diploma Program often leads to lower marks.
The Concord Review Website
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