Writing an Extended Essay

Table of contents

Defining the Extended Essay

Many students have never heard of the extended essay and IB Baccalaureate Program. This is because it is an essay requirement for students seeking the International Baccalaureate Certification. It can be likened to a mini-thesis, however, it is not as in-depth a project as that type of work. The IB candidate conducts an independent research project on a chosen topic and works in collaboration with supervisor throughout the process.  The project is ultimately presented in the form of a scholarly paper which must be accepted in order for the student to earn the International Baccalaureate (IB) certification.

Generally, those who write extended essays are between the ages of 16-19 and enrolled in an IB program in their high schools. They develop a research question, conduct an original research project and the report the results. This essay is a part of a larger program which is internationally recognized and helps to ensure that students who complete the programs are good candidates for university admissions to schools of their choice.

Sample Extended Essay

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Purpose of the Extended Essay

For the candidate for DP or IB certification, the purpose of the extended essay is to meet the requirements of a certification that holds value in the teaching profession. The extended essay IB criteria are clear: the student must demonstrate that he can identify a suitable research topic, conduct systematic research, use critical thinking and analysis, and engage in intellectual discovery.

The extended essay and reflection sessions can be a valuable stimulus for discussion in countries where interviews are required prior to acceptance for employment or for a place at university.

Best extended paper topics

  1. Symbolism in Victorian Poetry
  2. Language in Lolita — Nabokov's way of seducing the reader
  3. Relationship between soil properties and the development of grape vines, their yield and wine quality
  4. Anti-essentialism and the comics definition debate
  5. Was the legal abolition of sati in 1829 more strongly advocated by the British colonialists or the Indian people?
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Steps in the Extended Essay Completion Process

If you follow these steps, you will have an end product that meets the key criteria for approval.

  1. Choose a topic from a list of approved subjects that are provided.

  2. Carefully review the IB extended essay criteria that are also provided.

  3. Be certain to work closely with your supervisor from the selection of topic forward throughout the entire process. Your supervisor will help to keep you on track, make valuable suggestions, and evaluate each step in the process. This will ensure that your final product will meet all specifications

  4. Devote enough time to research (a general rule of thumb is about 40 hours), so that you become a virtual expert on the topic.

  5. Set deadlines for each step in the process, so that you stay on track for completion

  6. Once the research is completed, you are ready to formulate a scholarly research question that is appropriate for the approximate 4,000 words you will be writing. Here is where your supervisor can be invaluable. 

  7. Organize your research materials into logical sub-topics that flow sequentially and logically for the points you intend to make. 

  8. Once your research is organized into those sub-topics, you are ready to change that research question into a hypothesis which your research is intended to prove.

  9. Develop a strong thesis statement based on your hypothesis. This must be included in the introduction of your piece.

  10.  You should have a clear extended essay outline based upon the sub-topic arguments you have developed. It doesn’t have to be formal but it should include the detail and the resource sources from which those details have come. 

  11. The body of the essay should include the points of the outline in that order. 

  12. The introduction should e composed after the body has been written, and it should state your thesis clearly and succinctly.

  13. Your conclusion should indicate exactly what you have achieved through your research, noting any limitations and making suggestions for further research on the topic.

  14. Be certain that all in-text citations are correctly formatted and that your bibliography contains only those resources that you used in your text.

  15. Last, write your abstract – a 200-300 piece that identifies your research question and your findings.

Extended essay guide infographic

IB Extended Essay Topic

Generally, you will select your broad topic from a list that has been provided. It must then be narrowed so that it conforms with the breadth and depth of the project – usually about 4,000 words or 8 pages, double-spaced. Be certain to select a topic that is of interest to you, or you will struggle with the project. And, as stated, your supervisor will be the best resource as you finalize your research topic. 

There are five general groups of categories for IB extended essay topics, as follows:

  1. Language and Literature, including learning foreign languages

  2. Individuals and Societies – sociology, humanities, political science, economics, history, psychology, anthropology, the environment, and religion

  3. Experimental Sciences – biology, chemistry, physics, etc.

  4. Mathematics

  5. The Fine Arts

As you select your specific topic within a category, be mindful that your word count requirement is about 4,000 words.

The IB does not proscribe which style(s) of referencing or in-text citation should be used by students.

The Final Structure of the IB Extended Essay

There is a required structure of your finished product, and it goes like this:

  • Title Page
  • Abstract
  • Contents Page
  • Introduction
  • Body (research methods, development of your points, and the results
  • Conclusion
  • List of References and any appendices if necessary

Looking at IB Extended Essay Examples

One of the best preparations you can make before you even begin step one of your project is to check out some examples of extended essays that have been produced by others and approved. Usually, your supervisor will be able to supply some for you to review.

If you cannot find examples through your supervisor, there is an excellent resource that will provide an array of samples in virtually every content field for you to review. 

Producing the IB extended essay is hard work, make no mistake about it. But it is a major part of the IB program, and, if your school offers such a program, grab the chance to participate. It will be one thing that truly sets you apart as you seek college admissions.

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