While planning and writing your Extended Essay, the most important things to consider are your subject-specific essay guidelines and their expectations. You can obtain these from your essay supervisor or from your school. Once you go through these, you will have a better understanding of the grading criteria as well as the basic Dos and Don’ts.

After consulting numerous teachers, extended essay supervisors, examiners as well as going by our own experience as IB DP students and having gone through numerous essays ourselves, we have come up with the following tips and pointers:

Group 1: English (Language &) Literature

  • Within your introduction, describe briefly WHY your topic is interesting or worth investigating. Be original.
  • Develop your argument instead of describing a summary of the textual matter.
  • Use quotations in an appropriate manner to support your ideas.
  • In your conclusion, try to arrive at a final thought instead of merely restating your thesis and wrapping up your topic.

Group 3: Individuals and Societies (Humanities)

    • Extended essays in the Humanities are NOT extended versions of Internal Assessment type assignments in individual disciplines. You are expected to spend much more time and effort in researching your topic of interest in depth and focus on investigating your research question well beyond the confines of a 2000 word assignment.
    • The essay must have a focused Research Question - the narrower the question, the greater the scope for depth and quality of research.
    • Try to avoid using ambiguous or ill-defined terms and concepts within your essay.
    • In citing examples, make sure to provide adequate detail in each instance - remember, quality is preferred over quantity of examples.
    • Whenever surveys are being conducted, make sure to use a broad sample to minimize bias.
    • Your conclusion should not present any new arguments.
    • Do NOT use the IA approach! The IA is much narrower, and for that you use only a few primary sources.
    • Using primary sources only affects the quality of your content in Criteria C (Investigation), D (Knowledge & Understanding) and K (Holistic Judgement).
    • Use plenty of secondary sources to make your Extended Essay a proper, academic paper; incorporate in-depth research.
    • Link your Research Question to relevant arguments within your paper; present both sides of any issue to achieve balance.
    • Use precise jargon and business terminology; define specific terms within the text, and apply the concepts instead of merely mentioning them.
    • For all Macroeconomics related topics, it is best to focus on a specific region instead of looking at global trends.
    • Before finalizing your Research Question, make sure that all the necessary information is available to you.
    • Choose a relevant, recent topic: avoid using something from the distant past or something speculative about the future.
    • Diagrams should pertain to specific content mentioned within the essay instead of using generic labels.
    • Economic theory should be integrated within the analysis instead of being in a stand-alone section.
    • Do NOT use the IA approach! This is an extended essay, and you are expected to write a more coherent, academically focused paper.
    • Your research question should be obvious and well-integrated within your introduction, to provide smooth transition and significance.
    • When you use multiple secondary sources during your research, make sure that these have academic value i.e. peer reviewed papers, educational or government approved websites as compared to sensationalist literature, opinionated blog entries, etc.
    • You should use secondary opinions to support your own original views and analysis instead of using others' opinions to form your argument .

Group 4: Experimental Sciences

    • Extended essays in the Experimental Sciences are more than just extended lab reports. You must ensure there is a significant individual experimental component within your research - otherwise data collection and processing is derivative at best.
    • The essay must talk about the context, the significance and the worthiness of your investigation.
    • A well planned investigation will not have a predetermined outcome and will be free from bias.
    • Investigations with a few clearly defined dependent variables which are easy to adjust, measure and analyze are ideal for writing a successful scientific essay.
    • In your investigation, you should discuss the pros and cons of various methods before explaining how you made your choice. This is essential for planning.
    • Ensure that all experimentation is useful, and that the observations and results can be used to make scientific deductions.
    • Explain the relevance and application of any theories or formulae within your essay before using them for data collection and processing.
    • In your data processing and evaluation component, do not waste too much time and words on error analysis but instead assess whether your assumptions and secondary data sources were valid in the first place.
    • Analyze the accuracy of secondary data and see if it relates to your hypothesis.
    • Ensure that you have an organized experimental plan - start on time and complete data collection early, else you risk leaving out valuable theoretical content that relate your experiments to your Research Question.
    • The design of your experiment should be realistic and easily reproducible in a basic laboratory - do NOT waste time with elaborate construction of models or unfeasible sports mechanics.
    • If you use sophisticated equipment for making measurements, explain your understanding of the basic mechanisms of such instruments and link this to how it relates to your research question. Example: motion sensors, photo gates etc.
    • While presenting your data, make sure to use simple but easily understandable graphs - do NOT use multiple independent variables at the same time on the same graph.
    • Avoid writing about human diseases, symptoms and treatments - 4000 words is not sufficient to cover this in the required level of depth.
    • Similarly, avoid writing about the impact of certain foodstuffs and products on the human diet and health.
    • There should be a clear indication of planning the experimental component, data collection and processing, as well as an explanation of why this is necessary.
    • A first person singular, active voice is recommended - this makes things easier to follow for both the writer and the audience.
    • Make sure your variables are at least implicit within your research question, if not explicit.
*The tips provided here are a compilation of our own experience, feedback from teachers and examiners around the world, as well as the information contained in Extended Essay Guide (IBO, Aug 2012)