An extended essay is a thesis written under the supervision of an advisor. It is a mandatory component of the IB Diploma, and writing it could be challenging.
In this article, we explain the basics of what is an extended essay. We also take a look at the structural elements (outline, format, etc.) and offer some exciting topics and writing tips.
Follow this detailed writing guide compiled by our team of experts to ace your extended essay. Also, stick around until the end for some excellent extended essay examples.
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- What is an Extended Essay?
- Choosing an Extended Essay Topic
- Where to Get Ideas
- Step-by-Step Guide to the Research Process
- How To Write The Research Question
- How Do I Start My Extended Essay
- How to Present Your Extended Essay
- Extended Essay Examples
What is an Extended Essay?
An extended essay is a research project which provides students with an opportunity to investigate a specific question in-depth. Writing an extended essay is a part of the International Baccalaureate program (IB).
“What is an extended essay in terms of grading?” This essay (along with the TOK presentation) gives you up to 3 additional points toward your overall Diploma score. You need it to obtain a degree in your target field of study.
The extended essay word count is around 4,000 words. Remember that it’s all about quality rather than quantity!
Choosing an Extended Essay Topic
In most cases, you will not get a specific topic assigned for an extended essay. This paper is more about your interests and ideas.
Stick to these tips when picking the topic:
Don’t choose a topic your professor will like. Selecting some topic which may leave an impression is an easy way to guarantee yourself zero motivation.
Don’t pick an overly complicated topic. For obvious reasons.
Keep a positive attitude by picking a topic you love. If you enjoy biking or video games - write about that!
Narrow down the topic. The portrayal of Women in Mass Media (Film, Social
Networks, TV, News, etc.) is a course for a whole semester. The representation of Women in Video Games is narrow enough for a good topic!
Where to Get Ideas
We have summarised the main points of selecting a topic. But, what about some of the possible sources where you can find ideas?
Brainstorming. Sit down and write all of your topic ideas on paper. Brainstorming is about feeling free and writing whatever comes to your mind.
Social media. There’s more than enough content on Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter for extended essay ideas.
The Library. Head to your school library and shop around for interesting books, encyclopedias, categories, etc. It is probably the easiest way of picking a topic.
Databases. Skim online databases, like ProQuest or Questia to discover the latest trends in research. See what others are writing about. Maybe you could offer a new insight regarding a heavily discussed research subject.
Step-by-Step Guide to the Research Process
Research is an integral part of an extended essay. To speed up the process and maximise its effectiveness, we suggest that you stick to these steps:
Think about a subject area you are familiar with. It’s often better to pick subjects you’ve previously covered in your IB program.
Look through the guidelines concerning your selected topics. The grading rubric is what matters the most.
Conduct preliminary research. Dig deeper into your topic by reviewing relevant materials and highlighting important points.
Develop an outline. It will be a plan of action which you can always refer to when writing an extended essay.
Finish your Feasibility Study. A feasibility study checks to see if your ideas are feasible enough to continue pursuing the project.
How To Write The Research Question According to IB Standards
A proper research question is half the battle. Out of the entire prompt offered by the instructor, a student has to highlight the main point and make a research question to answer throughout the paper. Make sure that you have strong evidence to support your answer.
“Your goal is to propose a relevant research question related to the main subject of your writing that will motivate people to study more about it. Specify how the community will benefit from your research.”
Many students ignore the difference between a topic & research question. A topic is something more general.
You cannot come up with the research question unless you decide on the topic to cover. The research question is the heart of your project:
It identifies the proposal;
Motivates the audience (catches the reader’s eye)
And guides your claims and inquiries.
There are several types of questions to choose from. The 1st group is called “convenient.” It’s excellent if you have to state a question on a form; the 2nd group is “fads,” (those could be an extended essay on books such as “The Great Gatsby” or “Lord of the Rings”).
Once you’re ready with the question, back it up with some intellectual debate.
Use the step-by-step instructions below to offer the best research question ever.
Analyse the statement of purpose;
Observe the collected data, including your notes & reference materials;
Decide whether you have enough evidence;
Come up with a solid argument.
Suggest the ideas how something has changed to find innovative solutions to the issue that you investigated.
Here is an example of some good research questions and potential topics:
How Do I Start My Extended Essay?
Pick an Advisor that knows a lot about your topic. A biology teacher would not be great for your History EE.
How to Write an Extended Essay Outline?
The best way to start an essay with a free-ended topic is to find an area of interest: what would you like to write about? Follow these steps:
Build an extended essay outline around the research question. The introduction should contain your research query and your main argument, otherwise known as the thesis statement.
The body is easiest to divide into three parts.
The concluding paragraph should restate your main argument, thesis statement, and summarise your findings.
An outline should be the notes of what you plan to state. Do not fiddle with the Roman numerals; keep it clean with bullet points and short sentences.
How to Write an Extended Essay Introduction: Smart Tips
The best way to start an essay with a free-ended topic is to find an area of interest. In other words: what would you like to write about? Follow these steps:
Brainstorm: Jam-write for 10 minutes straight or make a mind map of what you’re interested in;
Develop a powerful hook sentence to grab the reader’s attention;
Provide some background info explaining the research topic;
Explain the significance of the chosen problem;
Finish the introduction with a sound thesis statement.
Your extended essay introduction should state your thesis & research question.
“In a perfect EE introduction, the context of the research question is demonstrated. The introduction clearly explains the significance of the topic and why it is worthy of investigation.”
This last sentence is important. Don’t forget to state why your topic is essential to study. It’s a good tip for any essay; if something isn’t important, why would it be worth reading?
Writing Extended Essay Body Paragraphs
Body paragraphs don’t need hooks as much as the introduction does. However, they should still be interesting to keep the reader’s attention on the page. Body paragraphs serve to prove the author’s main argument.
Every body paragraph must include these parts:
Summary of the main point into a single line that identifies the idea/subtopic behind the paragraph;
Two additional bullet points to expand every paragraph (evidence, data, quote + explanation of how the offered example relates to the conveyed idea);
Extra ideas that are directly relevant to the general idea behind it.
Making an Extended Essay Conclusion Impressive!
What should an extended essay conclusion contain? Check whether the conclusion has the following:
Restated/Rewritten thesis statement
Summary of the paragraphs (paraphrased topic sentences)
Implementation of the ideas
Predictions for the future
Verdict & a hook (usually, a rhetorical question)
How to Present Your Extended Essay
The structure of your paper is the way you present it. A paper of this type consists of more sections than most of the essays. Here is what you should include:
Your title is a clear, concise definition of the paper’s focus; it should not necessarily repeat the topic or research question.
- Enter the full title of your paper roughly 1/3 down of the 1st page and place it in the center. Never italicise, underline, make it bold, or add quotation marks around the essay’s title. The exception is the title that has the name of a book, story, poem, company, music composition, or film.
Example: The Influence of The Beatles on the development of pop rock music in the United Kingdom.
Enter your name and last name. Make sure it’s triple-space and centered.
Make it double-spaced, center, and enter the name of your educational institution along with your personal IB Candidate number in the last 3 spaces.
The last element of the title page is TOTAL WORD COUNT, and it has to be double-spaced, center, typed in capital letters.
An extended essay abstract is a summary of the main points. There are three basic elements to include in this part of your project: the research question, the scope of the study, & the conclusions.
Take the following steps to come up with a good abstract:
Highlight the sentences in your essay with the issue details;
Underline the research question/thesis;
Define keywords or phrases that display the scope & sequence of the study (a list without explaining in details);
Condense the conclusion into several concise sentences. That would be your abstract.
A statement declaring something to be factual/true. In the case of an academic or scientific paper, you should think about the people you would like to thank.
Make a list of those who supported your work or contributed something to your studies. Unlike the bibliography, these people should not necessarily be authors of the sources where you gather information.
Table of Contents
Create a full table of contents for your paper. Just like a table of contents in a book or online article.
Make sure that each basic paragraph has subheadings. List them in the order of their appearance in your table of contents, specifying the pages where each section starts/ends.
Those are the necessary visual elements to illustrate & support your writing (graphs, charts images, tables, etc.) You can either insert images found on the web (do not forget to provide proper references in such case) or come up with your own visual elements (e.g., prepare a graph in Excel and add it as an image using the Screen Saver option).
If your project requires some numerical data and its interpretation, involve this section. Put down and explain the necessary formulas & equations (the author should interpret them and explain the outcomes of each calculation).
Footnotes & Endnotes
In the case of in-text references, it depends on the format whether to include them or not. In some situations, a writer may decide to add an explanation of something where they don’t want to interfere with the flow of the content.
Footnotes usually serve the purpose of automatic page numbering.
It is the list of all visual elements used to support your writing as well as references to these inserted images, tables, graphs, etc. Simply copy-paste the pictures into this page, explaining where each comes from (source URL) and its usefulness.
Citations & References
While you can ignore some of the sections based on the selected writing style (format), each essay should contain in-text citations & references. The purpose is to reflect intellectual honesty in research practices. The usage of in-text quotations also helps to prove the central arguments of the author (serves as supporting evidence).
The basic information about the sources should contain the following:
Author’s name and last name
Title of work
Place of publication
Smaller details available (number, volume, issue, URL, number of pages cited, etc.)
Include a list of references to all sources that contributed to your work. A student should distinguish each author whose work contributed to their paper.
If you have to write an annotated bibliography, add little summaries of the sources that contributed to your study.
Extended Essay Examples
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