Introduction and Getting Started!
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The Extended Essay (EE) is one of the requirements of the IB Diploma Programme. It provides students with an opportunity to conduct independent research on a topic of interest to them. It is written on a freely-chosen topic as long as there is a subject teacher in school, as the candidate must have a subject supervisor.
The IBO recommends that candidates spend approximately 40 hours in total on their extended essays, and if you put it off until that last weekend, your work won't be nearly as good as it can be. Talk to your IB school supervisor, as it is his or her job to set internal school deadlines (i.e. choosing a topic, formulating an outline, rough draft, final draft, etc).
- Firstly, find a topic you're actually interested in, or you'll never work on it.
- Don't stress. After doing all your research 4,000 words is nothing (your first draft could be 6,000-8,000 words). While the Extended Essay has the potential to make you hate your own topic (as many academic assignments do), an interest in the topic can motivate you to pull through in the end.
- Many students are appalled at the sheer number of words that this task requires. But by following the guidelines set out for you, you'll quickly realize how hard pressed you will be to contain your work to the limit.
- Make sure that your focus is somewhat specific, or that you have a specific topic in mind (instead of just a general subject area).
- Example: Your final essay title should be somewhat similar to the style used in the Internal Assessments for the 20th Century World Issues course - specific and focused with some form of cause and effect. Check the official Extended Essay guidelines for more on this - it offers sample essay titles (along with title choosing advice and essay titles to avoid) for each subject area.
- If the above example does not apply to you, perhaps ask your IB Coordinator for examples from students past. Many of them keep a record of every essay, mainly to ensure there is no plagiarism.
- Make sure you stay on top of the work.
- Look over the guidelines and the explanations.
To get a diploma, you need to complete the TOK Essay and the Extended Essay. At best, you can achieve 3 bonus points towards your IB diploma, so don't ignore your schoolwork, as your courses are worth much more. The point matrix is outlined in the "Diploma Points Matrix for the Extended Essay and TOK" grid in the IBO form. You can still get your diploma if you get a "Mediocre" on one and an "Elementary" on another. NOTE: As of May 2010, an 'Elementary' on both TOK and Extended essay is an automatic fail, but you may still pass with an 'Elementary' on either one, just not both. An 'Elementary' on either is a so called 'failing condition' which requires a minimum 28 points rather than the usual 24 to obtain your diploma.
However, you can make a very good essay, provided you allot yourself enough time to write about something you are interested in. The IBO knows that you are between 16 and 18 years old and thus does not require a perfect essay or a groundbreaking new discovery. They just want to see that you can work on and complete a big project.
Picking a Topic
You'll want to write about a topic or subject you're fairly familiar with. For instance, if you've nailed the process of writing labs, do a science investigation. It'll be just like a big lab write-up, and writing the method, materials, qualitative/quantitative observations are all part of the word count, and take up a significant amount of words.
Find out if there are competitions or scholarship opportunities in which you can enter your essay. Why not kill two birds with one stone and head off to university with a scholarship? If you don't win, at least you'll get feedback, something the IBO neglects to give.
Writing a Good Extended Essay
Everyone wants to write a good Extended Essay, but just remember that it's really not as overwhelming as it sounds. Some candidates will find their first drafts are in the 6,000 to 8,000 range, while others will reach about 2800-3500. In fact, keep in mind that 4,000 words is the maximum word count and not where you must get to. While most essays have a word count in the 3,900 range, it is perfectly acceptable to submit an essay that is 3,500 words. While there is no actual minimum word count, you would probably want to write over 3,000 words, since a short essay might imply that the topic was not investigated thoroughly enough. However, some topics - mathematics among them - may require only 2,000 words to fully investigate them.
Keep legible, consistent and accurate notes that include bibliographic information. There's nothing more annoying than browsing through a 1200 page book looking for where that key quotation came from. Cite your sources in a consistent manner (either in MLA or APA format, or some other recognized format). IBO is very strict with plagiarism, so remember that the text has to be your own and do not forget to make references. You will have to sign an IBO form certifying that your EE is your own, and has no unsourced material in it, before they will even read your essay. Failure to submit an Extended Essay will result in no diploma being awarded.
Use the internet to find information but do include books in your research especially if your essay is not on the Sciences. Be skeptical in your use of the internet. Anyone can post anything, so read with a critical eye. Generally, university and academic websites are good sources to refer to. News sources are generally reliable, but be sure to stay away from "gossip" media which often contorts the truth.
Keep in mind that a general guide line used in many schools is 5 sources minimum for the IA in History, so if you are doing a History paper aim to have as close to ten sources as possible if not more for the EE.
Once you have researched your topic, you should spend a lot of time structuring and organizing your essay. Make sure your essay has a clear introduction, research question/focus (i.e. what you will be investigating), body, and conclusion. A poorly organized or unclear essay will hurt the assessment of your essay. You should also spend some time making sure that your 300-word abstract is clear and succinct in summarizing your essay. An unclear abstract will make your essay difficult to understand and will also hurt the assessment of your essay.
Although this is stated in the "General Requirements" for the Extended Essay, I feel it is necessary to repeat: if you are doing a paper in a subject not offered at your school, be very careful, especially if doing your paper in World Religions. You might want to either reconsider your choice of topic, or make sure you have several people with good credibility in that topic reading your paper. If you don't, especially in World Religions, you could end up offending your reader, and I promise you, you do not want to do that.
You can do your extended essay on any topic for which an IB class exists - i.e. something like Islamic History, which only about 100 candidates a year write about. However, you cannot do your extended essay in Theory of Knowledge, most pilot subjects and school-based syllabus subjects (check with your IB coordinator). Bear in mind that getting a good score in your extended essay, combined with your score for your Theory of Knowledge essay, may reward you with up to 3 bonus points. So aim high!
IBO Official Guide
The IBO's official guide to writing the Extended Essay can be found here: http://xmltwo.ibo.org/publications/DP/Group0/d_0_eeyyy_gui_1012_1/html/production-app3.ibo.org/publication/258/part/1/chapter/1.html
The above site is quite useful in perusing tips and hints for writing the essay, in addition to viewing the IBO standards for the essay. Note that the above link is for consideration purposes only.
"three: The Ultimate Student's Guide to Acing the Extended Essay and Theory of Knowledge" by Alexander Zouev - a book full of tips and time savers for IB EE.
EXTENDED ESSAY GUIDELINES
Mr. Crown's Advice Concerning Your Extended Essay
IN ORDER TO DO WELL ON THIS ASSIGNMENT YOU MUST READ THE EXTENDED ESSAY BOOKLET CAREFULLY. YOU ARE EXPECTED TO KNOW ALL OF THE IB GUIDELINES AND ASSESSMENT CRITERIA FOR YOUR ESSAY DETAILED IN THIS BOOKLET. IN PARTICULAR, EVERYONE MUST CAREFULLY READ PAGES 10-23 (GENERAL GUIDELINES AND GENERAL ASSESSMENT CRITERIA) AS WELL AS THE SUBJECT GUIDELINES AND ASSESSMENT CRITERIA FOR ESSAYS IN YOUR SPECIFIC SUBJECT AREA. FOLLOW THE BOOKLET CAREFULLY WHEN YOU WRITE YOUR ESSAY BECAUSE YOUR ADVISOR AND THE IB WILL REFER TO THE ASSESSMENT CRITERIA WHEN YOUR ESSAY IS GRADED.
Also, read and follow the guidelines below.
Title Page - Place the title ¼ of the way down from the top of the page. Remember that the title is not the same thing as your research question or topic. Think of an informative title which conveys the essence of your essay. In the bottom right corner of your paper include the following:
Extended Essay Final Draft
Advisor: Mr. or Ms.________
Word Count: ______________
Abstract - The abstract should be no more than 300 words. It must be written in 3rd person. The
abstract is a formal synopsis of your essay which explains the scope of your investigation and states the research question and conclusion. Include a word count for the abstract at the bottom of the page. The abstract comes directly after the table of contents.
Page Numbers – Page numbers must be included on each page except the title page. Use the “Insert” menu on Microsoft Word.
Table of Contents - The table of contents identifies each section of the paper (Abstract, Introduction, Body, Conclusion, Bibliography, Endnotes, Appendix, Illustrations, etc.) as well as topical subsections. Page numbers in the table of contents and the essay must match. Include section and subsection headings labeled in bold throughout the essay to guide the reader and identify the different sections of the essay.
Introduction - Introduce the topic and provide enough information about your topic in order to enable the reader to comprehend the significance of your research question. Each extended essay must have a research question. The research question is the central question you are trying to answer through your research and writing of the extended essay. This question, if properly composed, will enable you to maintain your focus on a topic of narrow and limited scope while also help you to maintain the purpose and orientation of your entire investigation. The research question must be clearly and precisely stated in the early part of your extended essay. It must be sharply focused so that it is susceptible to effective treatment within the 4000 word limit. Your extended essay will be assessed in part according to the extent to which the essay appropriately addresses and develops the specific research question. The reader will also evaluate your success in collecting information relevant to the research question. Include the research question in the introduction stated precisely and focused in such a way that it is susceptible to effective treatment within the 4000 word limit. Establish the significance of the research question and explain why it is worthy of study. You may also briefly discuss why your topic is of significance to you personally. At the end of the introduction state your thesis (or hypothesis for science). Clearly identify the research question and thesis as such. Briefly and concisely preview your body by providing a “game plan” for the rest of the paper. The game plan briefly explains how you intend to answer the research question and support the thesis, that is, how you propose to proceed in the body.
Thesis – This belongs in the introduction, preferably at the end. You must take a position, construct an argument based on evidence, and defend your thesis. The entire essay must be a response to your research question and a coherent, organized, structured, logical, critical, in-depth examination and defense of your thesis.
Body (Methods and Results for science) - The body will differ depending on your subject. However for all essays the body be evaluated based on 1) your approach to the research question, 2) your analysis and interpretation of evidence, including critical analysis and evaluation of sources, and 3) your own argument and evaluation of this argument. SEE PAGES 19-20 of the Extended Essay Booklet and the Assessment Criteria for details. You must convincingly answer the research question and argue for your thesis, presenting evidence to support your arguments. You must evaluate your sources and demonstrate an ability to think and write critically and analytically. You need to plan this section carefully so that you are able to present your arguments in an organized, structured, convincing body which is constructed upon evidence. Evidence includes historical evidence derived from primary and secondary historical sources, textual evidence from a work of literature, and scientific data and the results of experiments and research.
Conclusion - The conclusion must be clearly stated and relevant to the research question. It must also be consistent with the thesis and its explanation and development presented in the essay. Where appropriate the conclusion indicates unresolved questions and new questions that have emerged from your research. This is more than a summary. Review how you have demonstrably and convincingly supported your thesis and answered the research question. Concisely restate your key points and discuss the broader implications of the thesis. How have you satisfactorily answered the research question?
Illustrations, data, charts, graphs, etc. - If you plan to include these make sure they are labeled and listed in the table of contents, and make sure you discuss their significance and relevance in the text of the essay.
Appendix - Please note that IB readers are not required to read the appendix thoroughly, so all essential information must be in the body of your essay.
Documentation - You must include footnotes, endnotes, or parenthetical citations. You also must include a bibliography. Documentation must be completed with meticulous concern for accuracy. Use your Guide to Writing Research Papers or the online Chicago Style Guide and make sure everything is in the correct style and format. Avoid accusations of plagiarism by treating documentation with the seriousness it deserves. In the bibliography include only sources you have cited in the essay. You need at least 15 sources, five of which must be articles from scholarly journals. The bibliography must be alphabetical by the author’s last name. Literature essays need six sources and may use in-text citations. Good history essays will have 30 to 40 footnotes and 15 sources. All history essay footnotes must follow the Chicago Style Guide.
This draft must be typed double spaced in 12 pt. Font and be as close to 4000 words as possible without going over the limit. The 4000 words includes the Introduction, Body, Conclusion, and any quotations. It does not include the Abstract, Acknowledgements, Table of Contents, Illustrations, Bibliography, Footnotes, Endnotes, or Appendices. Use Times New Roman or Courier font or a similar font; nothing fancy, flashy, or difficult for the eyes. Use black ink.
The essay must look neat and not sloppy. Do not use run-on sentences and paragraphs that are too long and attempt to treat too many topics. Do not allow careless grammatical and spelling errors to lower your grade. Paragraphs must be topical, readable, and of reasonable length. The essay must be structured and organized logically with all arguments and analysis presented and developed in a systematic fashion and order. Use smooth transitions between paragraphs to link the paragraphs, arguments, and sections of your paper. Use a spelling checker and make sure several competent people proofread your essay.
Your extended essay must address each of the following questions.
What is your research question?
Why is the research question significant and worthy of study?
Why is the research question significant to you personally?
What is your thesis?
What is your game plan for the rest of the essay?
What is the background information needed in order to understand your research question and thesis?
What are the distinct elements of your thesis? How can the thesis be divided and broken down into parts?
What are the central arguments you will make to defend your thesis?
What are the topical subsections of your body? Outline each subsection of the body.
How does each subsection build upon the previous subsection and lead up to the next? How does each subsection contribute to your defense of your thesis?
What evidence will you present to support your arguments and thesis?
What are your key sources? How will you integrate the evaluation of your sources in the Body?
How will you integrate critical analysis into your Body?
How have you sufficiently answered the research question and defended your thesis?
What are the major strengths of your thesis and your analysis and defense of it in your essay?
What could you have done better in the essay? Evaluate your own work critically.
What are the new questions and unresolved questions which have arisen from your research and analysis?
Include only those sources you have cited in the essay.