The Extended Essay (EE)
The Extended Essay is a core component of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, and is mandatory for all students getting the full diploma, regardless of the subjects they are taking.
The aim of the EE is to provide students with the opportunity to research a topic of their interest, and showcase their knowledge and reading beyond the classroom syllabus. The essay also enables students to acquire some of the skills that are essential for researching and writing university Bachelor and Master theses.
Students start working on their essay in the second term of the first year of their IB Diploma Programme, around January.
The EE should be no longer than 4000 words, with a short viva voce at the end. The process takes around a year.
Select a Supervisor
Students will need a supervisor (usually one of the teachers at their school), who will meet regularly with them to help structure their research questions and guide them in writing the paper. The programme allows for one draft to be handed in to the supervisor for feedback, and then the second version is the final version.
Choose a Topic
The topic must be related to one of the six topics that the student is taking for their Diploma, or they can take an interdisciplinary ‘world studies’ issue that relates to two of their subjects. This requires that a global issue to be looked at through a local lens, for example how wider climate change, cultural, terrorism, technology or health trends are manifested in a specific context or place.
It is generally best for students to choose a topic that they are passionate about, not least because they will have to work on it for a year!
The topic needs to be approved by the IBO, which the school will help with.
Choose a Research Question
Once students have chosen their topic, they need to decide on a research question. A wrongly formulated research question will turn this learning experience into a stressful one. It is essential that the question is relevant, focused, that the answer is not a simple yes or no, but also that it is actually answerable. It is not necessary to prove the research question right – disagreeing with the initial hypothesis is perfectly fine. Questions will fall broadly into two categories: either they will be aimed at solving a problem, for example, through conducting an experiment; or they will lead to a research or study around the topic.
The question should not necessarily start with words like, ‘Does’, ‘Will’ or ‘Is’. To come to a meaningful conclusion, simply stating that ‘yes, it is true’ or ‘no, it is not true’ is insufficient. For this reason the highest scoring essays usually have a research question that start with, ‘To what extent’, ‘A study of’, ‘An analysis of’, or ‘How far’, or could even just be a statement to analyze.
Investigating, Analyzing, and Writing
Once the research question has been set and tested, it’s time to start collecting primary and secondary data. Keeping a log of the data is a good idea. The results of the research can be put in an appendix and, where appropriate, referred to in the text. In the essay itself the data can be summarised in charts and tables.
Once all the data has been collected, it can be analysed. The outcomes of this should be evaluated against relevant concepts and reading in the chosen subject. It’s a good idea to write out the arguments, structure, and headings before beginning writing so the essay is presented clearly and logically, using any terminology correctly.
Introduction and Conclusion
A rough draft of the introduction can be written at an early stage. After having collected, analyzed, and evaluated the data, the introduction can be adjusted to fit the essay. The introduction should explain why the research question is worth investigating, and how it relates to the subject, in other words, it should set the academic context for the essay.
The conclusion should be written at the end, and should not include any additional research or analysis. It should summarize what has already been stated. Examiners carefully look at this.
Abstracts were invented so that people who wanted to further research the topic could quickly learn if this essay would be valuable for their research. At the end of writing, the student needs to write the abstract, which is a 300-word summary of the essay. It should include the research question, a very short summary of the analysis and the answer to the research question.
Other Elements of the Extended Essay
Students also need a title page, contents page, references, bibliography, and any appendices (for example, containing any data). All of these things must be included in the word limit.
December: Introduce EE to students
January: Submit research proposal
February: Supervisor Assigned
February: First meeting with Supervisory (in TOK class)
March: Reflective Session #1 w/Supervisor (in TOK class)
May: 3rd Meeting with Supervisor (in TOK class)
May: Benchmark: first 1,500 words complete
June: 4th Meeting with Supervisor (in TOK class)
August: Benchmark: first 3,000 words complete
August: Reflective Session #2 with Supervisor (in TOK class)
September: FIRST FULL DRAFT DUE
October: Feedback session with Supervisor (notes on draft) (in TOK class)
November: FINAL DRAFTS DUE AND UPLOADED TO IBO FOR GRADING
December: Viva Voce Session with Supervisor (in TOK class)
The viva voce is essentially a short interview with the supervisor, in which they ask students to reflect on the strengths and successes of their findings, as well as looking at any areas that caused unexpected problems, and what can be learned from the research report. It’s nothing to worry about – it’s just something that can be greatly enhanced with preparation and thinking beforehand. They are also making sure that the report hasn’t been plagiarized!