Spotlight on the Extended Essay


The Extended Essay makes up the trifecta of the three core requirements for the IB diploma. It is, simply put, a 4,000-word piece of independent research that offers each student an opportunity to investigate a topic of special interest to them.

Unlike the rest of the IB programme, which is mostly prescribed, students get to create their very own topic of interest out of a huge selection of potential subjects. The aim of the extended essay is to help students develop important transferable skills such as research, critical thinking and self-management. Emphasis is also placed on engagement and reflection on the research process, which ultimately leads to a person's capacity to discover for themselves the answers to the enduring questions—big and small—encountered during their life.

IB students begin their EE journey in IB Year 1 (grade 11) in Term 3. After preliminary discussion with teachers, students are asked to choose a subject and topic that is of interest to them, carry out preliminary reading about the topic and start posing some general questions about the topic using words like "how", "why" or "to what extent". The focus in Term 4 is on their research and gathering data and planning their essay before they begin the writing process. In the first semester of IB Year 2, students complete a draft that receives written feedback from their supervisor before their final submission at the beginning of Term 3. The whole process culminates in the Viva Voce, the final reflection session.

Initially this task can appear daunting, however the trick is to choose a topic one will enjoy researching along with some good time management skills. Some topics have included:

"What effect did the dances in the Roaring Twenties such as the Charleston have on the changing role of women?"

"To what extent can Clint Eastwood be said to have resurrected the dying genre of the Western?"

"How do the musical influences found in pieces X, Y and C by the rock group Muse impact upon the listener experience?"

"How does the effect of urease activity differ between dried and fresh soy beans?"

"How has globalisation contributed to dietary changes and obesity in developed and developing countries?"

The scope of topics is varied and far-reaching and ultimately the extended Essay is an experience that students recognise as invaluable and enjoyable.

The long-lasting impact of the extended essay is captured in many reflections such as

"the feeling of self-accomplishment remains to this day"

For some, the extended essay

"sparked an ongoing passion for research",

but perhaps the most poignant remark shared was one former student's reflection that researching and writing the extended essay had revealed

"that I am capable of more than I had ever imagined'.

Elizabeth Daines

Head of Department Languages and Inner Core

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Last reviewed 25 February 2021
Last updated 25 February 2021