Your IB extended essay is an integral part of the Diploma Program but also one of the most daunting. I mean, 4000 words is a lot, not to mention the pressure of formulating a research question and creating a final product that showcases your critical thinking skills and writing chops.
You may know all the basics of what an IB extended essay entails, but did you know that those basics are actually your key to success? Although the process may seem overwhelming, IB extended essays have a clear structure and marking criteria that you can hack to create something great.
The Diploma Program is meant to test your abilities and hone your skills, not trip you up. So stop overthinking your IB extended essay because there are simple and effective strategies you can use to create an engaging and impactful essay that scores well.
The Diploma Program empowers learners to develop future-ready skills. You can choose a topic you love and showcase your knowledge through an immersive learning experience you control. No dry and boring research topics, but rather the freedom to explore, innovate, and investigate.
The IB extended essay helps develop crucial life skills like:
- Critical thinking
- Time management
#1 Choose a Solid Foundational Topic
The topic you choose must be related to one of the six topics that make up your Diploma or it can be an interdisciplinary' world studies' topic that combines two subjects.
Choosing a topic seems like a basic step; however, it sets the tone for the rest of the project and deserves careful consideration.
Originality is key, and the best way to inject authenticity and originality into your project is to choose something you are passionate about. Think about which classes you like best. Why do you like them? What aspects do you particularly enjoy? Brainstorm the specific details that have captured your attention in the past and make detailed notes. For example, you may love Language and Literature, specifically the works of Jane Austen.
Tip: Keep the extended essay criteria in mind when choosing a topic. Remember how I said the basics are your key to success? Your essay is marked on focus and methodology. That means you need a topic that gives you research question options and multiple sources of inquiry. The project should also demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of the topic, so choose something you already know much about.
#2 Get Curious With Your Research Question
Okay, you have a topic, but now you must focus on creating the question to drive the whole project. No pressure, right?
But deciding on your research question shouldn't be stressful. This is your time to be curious, creative, and original. As long as your research question is relevant and focused, you can take a deep dive into the weird and wonderful world of, well, anything.
Take the time to understand the existing literature on your chosen topic, identify key concepts, and look for gaps in your knowledge. Then, you can decide what aspects you want to explore further and why.
Research Question Example
Initial Question: Explore the enduring fascination with Jane Austen's novels
Preliminary Research: Established body of literature
Interesting Aspects: The popularity of Austen's work, film adaptations, a personal favorite
Revised Question: Explore how the enduring fascination with Pride and Prejudice has persisted for over two centuries.
Tip: Your research question shouldn't have a 'yes' or 'no' answer. You should either be solving a problem or researching a topic. A good research question includes words like study, analysis, compare, discuss, and explore.
#3 Don't Skimp On Planning
The IB extended essay guidelines talk about planning, and it may seem like an obvious step. But think of your essay plan as a roadmap or Google Maps if you've never used an actual map.
Your plan can help organize your thoughts, conduct research, and present your ideas in a way that creates a compelling project. A well-thought-out plan gives you purpose and comfort when you feel overwhelmed or frustrated.
But where do you start? Use the basic extended essay guidelines to help you build a project framework. You know the word limit is 4000 words, which gives you the scope of work. There will be assigned deadlines, specific formatting requirements, and citation style.
Your project will also need:
- Title page
- Contents page
- Body paragraphs
- 300-word abstract
The guidelines give you so much helpful information, so use it to create a basic framework you can build on and flesh out.
#4 Research The Right Way
Research is a critical component of a high-quality IB extended essay, and here are some tips for getting it right.
Question your sources. Look for weak spots in your research and check the sources' validity.
Use a mix of sources. Opt for primary and secondary sources, academic papers, and studies. Government and NGO websites are also helpful for finding statistics.
Citation chaining. When you find a good source, check the references and citations for more related information.
Keep detailed and organized notes. You don't want to sift through pages of confusing notes or folders filled with unlabelled PDFs. Opt for a file or notebook or use digital options like Notion, Evernote, and Zotero. Make a note of source information, key points, and page numbers so you can easily access the information you need.
Make a mind map. Mind maps are a seriously underrated planning and research tool. A large visual representation of your project allows you to link ideas and note key concepts. When you see your whole project, you better understand how the paragraphs will flow and transition.
Take breaks. The IB extended essay is a long process; you probably have months to finish it. Take breaks and give your brain time to stew. Sometimes, your brain needs time to mull things over and process ideas. You may even find that a break offers a new perspective or angle that adds a bit of flare to your essay.
Incorporate theory. Theories help make connections between concepts, ideas, and themes. For example, by applying Reception Theory to "Pride and Prejudice," you can delve into the evolving responses and interpretations of the novel.
#5 Write By The Rules
The IB extended essay is a writing project, so prioritize your writing skills.
- Each paragraph should start with a topic sentence that introduces the main point.
- Use transition words like however, consequently, and moreover to improve the flow and connect ideas.
- Choose a point of view (1st, 2nd, or 3rd person) and stick with it.
- Be militant about citations.
#6 Understand The Power of Proofreading
Self-edit your extended essay and ask your peers and advisor to read it. What should you look for? Coherency, grammar, and formatting.
The editing period allows you to refine your argument, weed out inconsistencies and redundancies, and check your transitions. Be open to feedback and incorporate the points that make your essay stronger.
Tip: Review your work regularly, and don't wait until the last minute to edit and proofread. You need time to explore new ideas, make changes, and take a break between editing sessions.
3 Common Mistakes To Avoid
1. Overly broad or narrow topic. If your topic is too general, your essay may lack focus and depth and feel disorganized and unclear. If the topic is too narrow, you may struggle to find adequate sources and reliable research.
2. Poor research organization. Imagine rifling through reams of paper as you try to find a specific statistic or study. It's not a fun scenario and one that could cost you if you fail to cite a source. Too many students feel overwhelmed because they haphazardly tackle research.
3. Poor time management. It may seem like you have a lot of time to complete your IB extended essay, but leaving it to the last minute is a quick way to poor results. When you rush the research, your essay may lack depth. A lastminute.com approach also leaves minimal time for proofreading and editing.
Bonus Tips for a Better IB Extended Essay
Your IB extended essay doesn't have to be overwhelming, and you should ask for help when you need it. A friend or advisor can give you clarity, point out weak points, and offer support when you feel stressed. Asking for help gives you perspective.
Including real-world relevance in your essay makes it more engaging and relatable. It shows you can apply your knowledge and skills and makes your essay more persuasive.
Using the Jane Austen example, your research question could be, "How has the enduring fascination with Pride and Prejudice persisted for over two centuries, and what insights can it offer for understanding evolving perceptions of gender and societal expectations in contemporary society?"
Remember, the Extended Essay is not merely a requirement; it's a voyage of discovery. It's a chance to delve into a subject matter that fascinates you, cultivate research skills that will serve you well in the future, and present a piece of work that reflects your intellectual growth and passion.
The strategies for success aren't complicated. You simply need to believe in your ability to overcome challenges, ask for help, and be willing to learn. When you tackle your IB extended essay with passion, curiosity, and pride, you set yourself up for success. And, if you need some extra help, you can always contact us to learn more about our extended essay writing service.
Last edit at Oct 21 2023