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Extended Essay

Core Content

Students are required to independently write a research essay (maximum 4000 words) on a topic of their own choice in an IB subject.

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All Extended Essays are marked externally by IB examiners.

The aims of the extended essay are to provide students with the opportunity to:

  • Pursue independent research on a focused topic
  • Develop research and communication skills
  • Develop the skills of creative and critical thinking
  • Engage in a systematic process of research appropriate to the subject
  • Experience the excitement of intellectual discovery.
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All full IB Diploma Programme students must undertake an Extended Essay on a topic of their choice: this requirement reflects the principle that independent research skills are vital to all areas of study and deserve a central role in the curriculum. With the other Core components, the Extended Essay makes the DP a coherent and integrated qualification. The Extended Essay is an in-depth study of a focused topic within a DP subject. It is recommended that students spend a maximum of 40 hours on it, though many willingly exceed this, often by a significant amount. Candidates have around 3 hours contact time with an academic supervisor, who is usually a teacher within the school, but they are expected to work independently for the remainder of the time. The supervisor provides the candidate with advice and guidance in the skills of undertaking research – by assisting, for example, with defining a suitable topic; with techniques of gathering and analysing information / evidence / data; with documentation methods for acknowledging sources and with writing an abstract. The work is typically undertaken over several months. This leads to a major piece of formally presented, structured writing, in which ideas and findings are communicated in a reasoned and coherent manner, appropriate to the subject chosen.

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The IB recommends that completion of the essay is followed by a viva voce with the supervisor.

The assessment criteria are common to all Extended Essays, regardless of the subject; however, each separate subject area has specific guidance as to how the assessment criteria can be interpreted. A proportion of the marks is based on subject specific merit but the majority is awarded for specific research skills that are common and highly-transferable:

  • Formulation of Research Question
  • Introduction to the Research Question
  • Investigation
  • Knowledge and understanding of the topic
  • Reasoned argument
  • Application of analytical and evaluative skills
  • Appropriate use of language
  • Conclusion
  • Formal presentation (referencing, bibliography etc.)
  • Abstract
  • Holistic judgment
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Recent examples of Extended Essay research questions:

  • How is the subject of death treated in selected poems by Emily Dickinson? (Group 1)
  • To what extent has Bill 101 contributed to increasing the prevalence of the French language in Quebec? (Group 2)
  • How might the concept of "the dictatorship of the proletariat" in Marxism-Leninism be defined? (Politics)
  • How is Markov Chain Theory applied to Google's PageRank? (Mathematics)
  • What is the inter-relationship between painting, sculpture and architecture in Florence between 1400 and 1450? (Visual Arts)

Download AIS Extended Essay Handbook