What is the extended essay for IB?
The extended essay is a compulsory element of the International Baccalaureate for any subject group. The components are an essay of 3500 to 4000 words and a viva voce, and these are completed over the course of a year. The key focus of the extended essay is to allow students to develop research skills into a topic of their choosing, and extend their engagement beyond the school syllabus.
How do I choose an IB extended essay topic?
The requirement for the selection of a topic for the extended essay is that it must be either connected to one of the student’s six subjects of study or a world studies issue. The latter allows students to frame a combined issue from two of their subjects through a global focus. Think of this option as a funnel style essay - a wider global issue is analysed in terms of its impact on the student’s environment or generation.
What can the IB extended essay be about?
The extended essay gives students an opportunity to focus on a particular area of interest within a subject or relate their subject to another area of interest outside of their studies. Topics of the latter kind often combine popular culture with a subject; works of television, film or music can form the basis of an extended essay if the question is formulated carefully. This allows a student to select something that they are truly engaged and interested in exploring, thus helping them to develop skills relevant to university study.
How do you write a research question for an extended essay?
Extended essay research question examples:
Some examples for the six subject groups and the world studies option can be found below:
Group 1: Studies in Language and Literature - an English Literature topic is often about comparison between writer’s styles, contextual factors and their bearing on selected works or viewing texts through particular frameworks. For example, an extended essay could examine how two different writers use the sonnet form in their different literary eras - Di-Di-Dah-Dah-Di-Dit by Simon Armitage against Sonnet 20 by Shakespeare.
Group 2: Language Acquisition - a French extended essay could be focused on the use of language in a particular film maker’s major works, such as Jean-Luc Godard.
Group 3: Individuals and Societies - a History extended essay could be about the changing perception of key historical figures, such as a comparison of the attitudes towards King John in Tudor and Victorian eras.
Group 4: Sciences - a Chemistry extended essay could focus on applying chemical analysis to a student’s area of interest such as the types of soil needed on the surface of planets to support extraterrestrial life.
Group 5: Mathematics - a Maths extended essay could look at a particular mathematical principal and apply it to a real-world or fictional example. For example, the practical uses of differential calculus in other subjects.
Group 6: The Arts - a Visual Arts extended essay might evaluate the success of a particular architectural design such as how successful was the Baroque architect Christopher Wren in his design of St Paul’s cathedral?
World Studies - A world studies extended essay should focus on a wider issue through a local lens. For example, how does mass media bias affect polling performance in the run up to general elections.
How do you get high marks on your IB extended essay?
Top tips for achieving high marks in the extended essay are as follows:
- Make sure your topic has a clear focus. Part of the joy of working on the extended essay is the ability of students to relate their work to an area of personal interest, however this must be aimed at answering a specific question. Successful extended essays often focus on two points of comparison or how one subject of study relates to certain criteria.
- Research the subject area before deciding on your topic. Make sure the area you have chosen to focus on has enough data or research to draw reliable conclusions. The aim of the extended essay is not to venture into uncharted territory, rather to further your engagement with your subjects.
- Make sure you are excited by your chosen topic. If you have picked a focus that enthuses you and engages your interest, this will come across in your work. It will also make the extended essay an invaluable asset when applying to university.
- Keep track of all research as you work to make sure you have a full list of references.
- Have a plan that includes your arguments, structure and topic headers. This will help you to stay on track and focused on your question.
Extended essay structure and components
Just like in subject specific essays, the introduction functions to outline your thesis statement and an overview of the contents. It is our recommendation that a rough draft is written at the start of your process, but that this is evaluated as your research and writing is conducted.
In most extended essays, this section can be broken into the following three phases: investigation, analysis and evaluation. In investigation, the parameters of your focus are set out and your data compiled. Once this has been completed, the data or evidence can be analysed against the focus of your question, and finally you can evaluate the results.
Once you have completed the body paragraphs, your conclusion can be written. Just as with other essays, the function of the conclusion is to confirm and summarise your findings, therefore no original concepts or evaluation should be included.
Additions to the essay
In addition, students must compile an abstract of the essay. This is a 300-word overview with the question, summary of the analysis and your conclusions. In terms of formatting, the essay must include title and content pages, bibliography and appendices.
This is a reflective interview with your supervisor. The key areas of discussion will be the success of your evaluations, challenges in the process and what you have learnt through the process. Effective preparation for this element would be formulating answers to all three of these criteria and practicing a discussion of your work with a friend or parent.
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