IB students around the globe fear writing the Extended Essay, but it doesn't have to be a source of stress! In this article, I'll get you excited about writing your Extended Essay and provide you with the resources to get an A.
If you're reading this article, I assume you're an IB Student getting ready to write your Extended Essay. If you're looking at this as a potential future IB student, I recommend reading our other introductory IB articles first: What is the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program? and What is the IB Curriculum? What are IB Diploma Requirements?
Why Should You Trust My Advice?
I'm a recipient of an IB Diploma, and I happened to receive an A on my IB Extended Essay. If you don’t believe me, the proof is in the IBO pudding,
If you're confused by what this report means, EE is short for Extended Essay, and English A1 is the subject that my Extended Essay topic coordinated with. In layman’s terms, my IB Diploma was graded during May 2010, I wrote my Extended Essay in the English A1 category, and I received a grade A.
What Is the Extended Essay?
The IB Extended Essay (or EE) is a 4,000 word structured mini-thesis that you write under the supervision of an advisor (an IB teacher at your school), which counts towards your IB Diploma (to learn about all of the IB diploma requirements, check out our other article). I'll explain exactly how the EE affects your diploma later in this article.
For the Extended Essay, you choose a research question as a topic; this topic needs to be approved by IBO (which is not very difficult). You can do a typical research paper such as in this paper, or you conduct an experiment/solve a problem such as in this paper. Most schools allow you to pick your advisor (an IB teacher preferably at your school, although you can also get access to one at another school through the Pamoja Education). I'll explain how to pick your IB EE advisor below.
The IB Extended Essay must include:
- A cover page
- An abstract (one-page synopsis of your essay)
- A table of contents
- The 4,000-word essay (which will range from 10-20 pages depending on whether your topic requires illustrations such as an experiment would)
- A bibliography
What Should You Write About in Your Extended Essay?
You can technically write about anything, so long as the IBO approves it. However, you should choose a topic that falls into one of theIB Course Categories, (such as Theatre, Film, Spanish, French, Math, Biology, etc.) which shouldn’t be difficult because there are so many class subjects. Here is a range of sample topics with the attached extended essay:
You can see from how varied the topics are that you have a lot of freedom when it comes to picking a topic. So, how do you pick when the options are limitless? I will help you with that next:
6 Tips for Writing a Grade A Extended Essay
Below are the six key tips you need to follow to write an outstanding Extended Essay.
Tip #1: Write About Something You Enjoy
I love British theatre and ended up writing mine about a revolution in post-WWII British theatre #theatrenerd. I really encourage anyone who pursues an IB Diploma to take the Extended Essay seriously. I ended up receiving a full-tuition merit scholarship to USC’s School of Dramatic Arts program and in my interview for the scholarship, I spoke passionately about my Extended Essay. I genuinely think my Extended Essay helped me get my scholarship.
How do you find a topic you are passionate about? Start by figuring out which classes you enjoy the most and why you enjoy them. Do you like Math because you like to problem solve? Or do you enjoy English because you like to analyze texts?
Once you have figured out a general subject area such as Physics, you should brainstorm more specific topics by putting pen to paper. What was your favorite chapter you learned in that class? Was it astrophysics or mechanics? What did you like about that specific chapter? Is there something you want to learn more about? I recommend spending an hour on this type of brainstorming.
Tip #2: Chose a Topic That Is Not Too Broad or Too Narrow
This is a fine line. You need to write about something specific, but not so specific that you can’t write 4,000 words on it. You can’t write about WWII because that would be a book's worth of material. You don’t want to write about what type of soup prisoners of war received in POW camps because you probably can’t come up with 4000 words on it. However, you could possibly write about how the conditions in German POW camps were directly affected by the Nazis successes and failures. This may be too obvious of a topic, but you get my point.
If you're really stuck trying to find a not too broad or narrow topic, I recommend trying to brainstorm a topic that uses a comparison. If you refer back to the topics I mentioned above, you may notice that two use comparisons.
I also used comparison in my EE, comparing Harold Pinter's Party Time to John Osborne's Look Back in Anger in order to show a transition in British Theatre. Topics with comparisons of 2-3 plays/books/diets/etc. tend to be in the sweet spot of not too narrow or broad because you can analyze each portion and after doing in-depth analysis on each, you compare and explain the significance of the comparison. The key here is that the comparison needs to be significant. I compared two plays to show a transition in British Theatre.
Comparisons are not the only way to get a grade A EE. If after brainstorming, you pick a non-comparison based topic and you are still unsure if a topic is too broad or narrow, spend 30 minutes doing some basic research and see how much material is out there. If there are over 1,000 books/articles/documentaries out there on the exact topic, it may be too broad. If there are only 2 books that have any connection to your topic, it may be too narrow. If you are still unsure, ask your advisor! Speaking of advisors:
Don't get stuck with a narrow topic!
Tip #3: Choose an Advisor Who Is Familiar With Your Topic
If you are not certain of who you would like to be your advisor, I would start by creating a list of your top three choices. Next, create a list of pros and cons (I know this sounds tedious, but it really helps!).
For example, Mr. Green is my favorite teacher, and we get along really well, but he teaches English, and I want to conduct an experiment to compare the efficiency of American Hybrid Cars to Foreign Hybrid Cars. Ms. White teaches Physics, I had her a year ago, and she liked me. She could help me design my experiment. I am going to ask Ms. White!
Do NOT just ask your favorite teacher to be your advisor. They may be a hindrance to you if they teach another subject. I would not suggest asking your Biology teacher to guide you in writing your English EE.
EXCEPTION: If you have a teacher who is passionate and knowledgeable about your topic (as my English teacher was about my Theatre topic), you can ask that instructor. Consider all of your options first before you do. There was no theatre teacher at my school, so I could not find a theatre-specific advisor, but I chose the next best thing.
Some IB high schools require your IB Extended Essay advisor to sign an Agreement Form. Make sure you ask your IB coordinator if there is any required paperwork. IBO does not require any paperwork. If your school needs a Form signed, make sure you bring it with you when you ask a teacher to be your EE advisor.
Tip #4: Choose an Advisor Who Will Push You to Be Your Best
Some teachers may just take on students because they have to and may not be passionate about reading drafts and may not give you a lot of feedback. Choose a teacher who will take the time to read several drafts and give you extensive notes. I would not have gotten my A without being pushed to make the draft better.
Ask a teacher that you have experience with through class or an extracurricular activity. Do not ask a teacher that you have no connection to; a teacher who does not know you is unlikely to push you.
Note: The IBO only allows advisors to suggest improvements to the EE, but they may not be engaged in writing the EE. The IBO recommends that the supervisor spends approximately two to three hours in total with the candidate discussing the EE.
Tip #5: Make Sure Your Essay Has a Clear Structure and Flow
IB likes structure. Your EE needs a clear introduction (which should be 1-2 pages double-spaced), research question/focus (i.e. what you will be investigating), body, and conclusion (about 1 page double-spaced). An essay that has unclear or poor organization will be graded poorly. Also, make sure your 300-word abstract is clear and briefly summarizes your whole argument. An ambiguous abstract will make it more challenging for the reader to follow your essay’s argument and will also hurt the grading of your EE.
The body of your EE should make up the bulk of the essay. It should be about 8-18 pages double-spaced (again just depending on whether or not you include diagrams). Your body can be split into multiple parts. For example, if you are doing a comparison, you might have 1/3 of your body as Novel A Analysis, 1/3 as Novel B Analysis, and the last 1/3 as Comparison of Novel A and B Analysis.
If you are conducting an experiment or analyzing data such as in this EE, your EE body will have a clear and obvious parts following the scientific method: stating the research question, discussing your method, showing the data, analyzing the data, discussing uncertainties, and drawing a conclusion/evaluating the experiment.
Tip #6: Start Writing Sooner Rather Than Later!
You will not be able to crank out a 4,000-word essay in a week and get an A. You will be reading many, many articles (and, depending on your topic, possibly books, plays, and watching movies). Start the research possible as soon as possible.
Each school has a slightly different deadline for the Extended Essay. Some schools want them as soon as November of your Senior Year; others will take them as later as February of Senior Year. Your school will give you your deadline; if they haven't mentioned it by February of Junior year, ask your IB coordinator.
Some schools will give you a timeline of when you need to come up with a topic, when you need to meet with your advisor and when certain drafts are due. Not all schools do. Ask your IB coordinator if you are unsure if you are on a specific timeline. Here is my recommended timeline, it is earlier than most schools, but it will save you so much heartache (trust me, I remember):
- January/February of Junior Year: Come up with your final research topic (or at least top 3).
- February of Junior Year: Approach a teacher about being your EE advisor (if he or she says no, keep asking others until you find one - see my notes above on how to pick an EE advisor).
- April/May of Junior Year: Submit an outline of your EE and a bibliography of potential research sources (I recommend at least 7-10) to your EE advisor. Meet with your EE advisor to discuss your outline.
- Summer between Junior and Senior Year: Complete your first full draft over the summer between Junior and Senior Year! I know, I know no one wants to work during the summer, but trust me this will save you so much stress come the fall when you are busy with college applications and other IB internal assessments for your IB classes. You will want to have this first full draft done because you will want to complete a couple of draft cycles as you likely won’t be able to get everything you want to say into 4000 articulate words the first time. Try to get this first draft into the best possible shape you can, so that you do not have to work on too many revisions during the school year on top of your homework/college applications/work/extracurriculars/etc.
- August/September of Senior Year: Turn in your first draft of your EE to your advisor and receive feedback. Work on incorporating their feedback into your essay. If they have a lot of suggestions for improvement, ask if they will read one more draft before the final draft.
- September/October of Senior Year: Submit second draft of EE to your advisor (if necessary) and receive their feedback. Work on creating the best possible final draft.
- November-February of Senior Year: Submit two copies of your final draft to your school to be sent off to IBO. You likely will not get your grade until after you graduate.
The early bird DOES get the worm!
How’s the Extended Essay Graded?
Extended essays are marked by external assessors (examiners appointed by the IB) on a scale of 0 to 36. There are "general" and "subject-specific" criteria, at a ratio of 2:1 (24 possible marks for the general criteria and 12 marks for the subject-specific one). The total mark is converted into a grade from A to E, using the below parameters:
|Rubric Assessment Points Earned||Descriptor Letter|
|Grade 30 – 36||Excellent: A|
|25 – 29||Good: B|
|17 – 24||Satisfactory: C|
|9 – 16||Mediocre: D|
|0 - 8||Elementary: E|
Here is the typical breakdown of scores (from 2008):
% Awarded Grade
How Does the Extended Essay Grade Affect Your IB Diploma?
The Extended Essay grade is combined with your TOK (Theory of Knowledge) grade to determine how many points you get towards your IB Diploma. To learn about Theory of Knowledge or how many points you need to receive your IB Diploma, read our other articles on What is the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program? or IB Diploma Requirements. This diagram shows how the two scores are combined to determine how many points you receive for your IB diploma (3 being the most, 0 being the least).
So, let’s say you get an A on your EE and a B on TOK, you will get 3 points towards your diploma. Note: this chart is slightly outdated. Prior to the class of 2010, a diploma candidate could receive a failing grade in either the extended essay or theory of knowledge and still be awarded a diploma. However, as of 2014 (for the first examination in May 2015), a student who scores an E on either the extended essay or TOK essay will not be eligible to receive an IB diploma.
Sample Extended Essays
In case you want a little more guidance on how to get an A EE. Here are 50 Excellent (grade A) sample extended essays for your reading pleasure:
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These subject guidelines should be read in conjunction with the Assessment Criteria
An extented essay in human rights provides students with an opportunity to undertake an in -depth study of a limited topic in thus area of research. Students who are considering registering an extended esay in the subject(which is a school-based syllabus) are strongly advised to study carefully a copy of the syllabus, obtainable from IBCA, before making a final decision. The syllabus gives a clear idea of the scope and content of the subject, and will help students to decide wether their choice of topic is appropriate. The outcome of the reesearch should be a coherent and structured essay that effectively addresses a particular issue expressed as a research question, or, if this is unsuitable, a hypothesis.
Choice of topic
Human rights considerations are relevent to almost any human activity, but particulary those involving the treatment of groups or individuals, use of resources and technologies, or access to service such as education. Human rights issues are often referred to in the media, especially in the context of war and conflict. The protection of human rights has also inspired the founding of servel important organizations such as theRed Cross, the United Nations and Amnesty international.
There are many topics that are potentially sutiabke for a human rights extented essay, However, when choosing a topic, it is important for students to bear in mind that it must encourge analysis and evalution rather then description and unsupported value judgement, and must allow critical evaluation of human rights issues and practices in light of relevent theories and arguments.
When choosing a topic, students must ensure that the various assessment criteria can be satisfied within the 4,000- world limit. Students are advised to avoid topics that are too broad in scope to permit an in-depth study within the prescribed word limit. A limited topic, throughly researched and with a clear focus, is perferable to broad topic that can only be examined superfically.
Students may use journalistic or visual material, interviews or data from the internet, but their essays should npt be based solely on such sources. An extented essay in this subject is expected to show that the student possesses a knowledge and understanding of human right theories.
The following examples of titles for human rights extended essays are intended as guidance only. The pairing illustrate that focused topics( indicated by the first title) should be encourged rather than broad topics(indicated by the second title).
- The political rights of women in Saudi Arabia " is better then " Women's rights".
- " The cultural rights of Australian Aborigines" is betetr then" The cultural rights of indigenous peoples".
- "The US intervention in Kosovo: a critical analysis of justifications for the use of force to protect human rights" is better than "The USA and Kosovo".
- 'The UN response to the genocide in Rwanda" is better than "The Rwandan genocide".
Treatment of the topic
The topic for a human rights extended essay should focus on a particular human rights issue or a practice of a particular agent, be it a government, individual or organization, linking this issue or practice to relevant theories of human rights. For example, the first topic in the following list (about the political rights of women in Saudi Arabia) could involve an exploration of the issue of cultural relativism versus the universality of human rights. Similarly, the third topic in the list could involve references to "just war" theories or arguments for and against the use of force in protecting rights.
Similar treatment should be applied to other topics. For example, a student studying the work of a local human rights organization or a local human rights issue should link this to relevant theories. An essay comparing US and Soviet rhetorical descriptions of a human rights issue during the Cold War, for example, should make explicit what ideas or theories of human rights these superpowers seemed to be promoting. Whatever the topic, the treatment must involve a consideration of relevant theoretical perspectives.
An effective treatment of a topic requires that issues, practices, and relevant theories and arguments are explained in a concise and analytical manner using appropriate terminology, and that the ideas are supported by well-chosen examples. The argument in the essay should be logical and students should aim to answer the research question or prove the hypothesis set out in the introduction. In addition, a good essay will demonstrate that the student has used sources of information critically, paying particular attention to biased language and reporting. Relevant illustrations, diagrams and statistical tables should also be used when appropriate.
The following are some examples of titles,research questions and approaches for human rights.
Title The political rights of women in Saudi Arabia
Research question To what extent can the limited political rights of women in Saudi Arabia be justified?
Approach Reading is undertaken to enable a description of the political rights of women in Saudi Arabia and arguments that support such limitations. The limited political rights are critically discussed in light of some human rights theories—for example, cultural relativism and universality of human rights.
Title : The US intervention in Kosovo: a critical analysis of justifications for the use of force to protect human rights
Research question To what extent was the US use of force in Kosovo a justified humanitarian intervention?
Approach Reading is undertaken to enable a summary of the debate that preceded the US intervention in Kosovo and the impact it had on Kosovo. The US intervention in light of the "just war" theory is discussed to assess to what extent the US actions were justified.
Title The UN response to the genocide in Rwanda
Research question How could the UN intervention in the Rwandan genocide be justified?
Approach: Reading is undertaken to enable a summary of the UN debate regarding the intervention in Rwanda and the impact the intervention had on the country. There is an analysis of arguments for and against intervention, an identification of which human rights theories the arguments are based on and a discussion of whether the UN response was justified.
Students should aim to produce an argument that shows a good understanding of relevant concepts, ideas, theories and contemporary human rights issues. They should demonstrate an awareness of cultural and religious contexts that may affect the interpretation of human rights issues.
An extended essay in human rights is a formal essay that is marked according to the assessment criteria. An essay may appear to be satisfactory but it will not score well if the criteria are ignored.
Interpreting the assessment criteria
Criterion A: research question
The research question must be appropriate to the particular subject in which the essay is submitted. In human rights, this means that it must focus on some contemporary human rights issue. The research question must be clearly and exactly focused, and stated in both the abstract and introduction of the essay.
Criterion B: introduction
The introduction should explain succinctly the significance and context of the topic, why it is wo rt hy of investigation, what the key concepts are and how the research question relates to existing knowledge. A good introduction also provides an outline of the essay and may contain a hypothesis. It should not contain irrelevant background material.
Criterion C: investigation
The range of resources is influenced by various factors, but above all by the topic. Students should aim to use sources that present different theoretical approaches, as well as those that enable human rights issues to be understood from different cultural perspectives.
Criterion D: knowledge and understanding of the topic studied
Students should aim to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of human rights theories, issues and practices. Students should also demonstrate their awareness of cultural contexts and biases that often affect the ways that human rights theories, issues and practices are explained.
Criterion E: reasoned argument
Students should aim to present their ideas in the form of a logical and coherent argument that is relevant to the research question. Ideas should be substantiated with factual evidence and examples. Straightforward descriptive or narrative accounts that lack analysis do not usually advance an argument and should be avoided.
Criterion F: application of analytical and evaluative skills appropriate to the subject
Students should demonstrate their analytical skills by identifying premises, assumptions, and possible hidden agendas and biases linked to human rights theories and practices. They should be able to deconstruct arguments related to these theories and practices, and evaluate to what extent agents who claim to support particular principles are applying them in practice. Because human rights issues are often contested and it is not uncommon for biased views to be presented, students should pay special attention to the evaluation of sources. They should avoid unjustified and subjective value judgments regarding human rights issues, but be able to evaluate how theories and practices link to concepts of justice and equality.
Criterion G: use of language appropriate to the subject
The language used should be clear, unambiguous and precise. Terminology specific to human rights should be used wherever possible to communicate ideas efficiently. Sweeping generalizations, unsupported assertions, overly subjective value judgment and biased language should all be avoided. This criterion is not meant to disadvantage students who are not writing in their first language—as long as the meaning is clear, the subject content will be rewarded.
Criterion H: conclusion
The conclusion of a human rights extended essay should reflect the evidence and argument presented in the body of the essay. It should also, if possible, provide a direct answer to the research question or address the hypothesis. If the research did not support the original hypothesis, this should be pointed out in the conclusion. The conclusion should also, where appropriate, comment on the limits of the validity of the conclusion, given the scope of research.
Criterion I: formal presentation
This criterion relates to the extent to which the essay conforms to academic standards about the way in which research papers should be presented. The presentation of essays that omit a bibliography or that do not give references for quotations is deemed unacceptable (level 0). Essays that omit one of the required elements—title page, table of contents, page numbers—are deemed no better than satisfactory (maximum level 2), while essays that omit two of them are deemed poor at best (maximum level 1).
Criterion J: abstract
The abstract must consist of three elements: the research question (or hypothesis), the scope of the essay (that is, what was investigated and how it was investigated) and the conclusion. An abstract is not a precis of the topic.
Criterion K: holistic judgment
Qualities that are rewarded under this criterion include the following.
- Intellectual initiative: Ways of demonstrating this in human rights essays include producing new knowledge based on original research (such as interviews), interpreting data from a human rights perspective or interpreting human rights theories, issues and practices in an original way.
- Insight and depth of understanding: These can be demonstrated by producing original, well-justified and substantiated arguments that directly address the research question .
From:International Baccalaureate Organization. (2007). Human Rights. In IBO Extended essay guide, First examinations 2009, (pp. 108-111). New York: International Baccalaureate Organization.