In my opinion, the Extended Essay requirement of the Diploma Programme, is one of the more enjoyable and challenging parts of the course. Students endeavor to write a mini-thesis on an original topic, based on a subject on their choice. Economics and Business Management seem to be common subject choices and I regularly supervise 4-5 students each year. Students pick topics which are either related to Singapore, or a country where they call home. In recent years, Singapore has provided plenty of original topics relating to recessions and government interventions.
Some of the recent research questions from my students include…
- To what extent will the policy of supplementary income payments be effective to boost the Gross Domestic Product of Japan in 2009?
- To what extent has the recession affected the consumption of demerit goods in Singapore?
- Are the movie industries in Singapore recession-proof?
- To what extent has price changes affected the demand for public transport in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area?
- To what extent are the HDB flats affordable in Singapore from 2000 to 2010?
- How effective are Electronic Road Pricing policies in reducing congestion in Singapore?
- To what extent has the government intervention in the market for hybrid cars lead to rise in demand in Singapore?
Some of these questions are good, but some questions are too broad in their focus. A good research question is essential to a good Extended Essay. Three of these topics received “A” grades.
What makes a good research question?
Any research question must be answered within the 4000 word limit, and therefore needs to be limited in both scope and economic content. A question which focuses on consumers in Singapore is in my opinion too broad. Selecting a cohort of consumers, such as working age males, would be a more focused approach. Limiting the number of economic concepts covered is also important. A good essay will explain one concept in sufficient depth and make links through the analysis to other related concepts. For example, an explanation of market failure could include links to elasticity but shouldn’t go any further to explain effects on economic growth, or inflation.
The way the research question is phrased is equally important. A closed question should be restructured to a question which can quantified. Rather than “what is the effect of government interventions on the market for hybrid cars” it could be restructured as “to what extent has the government intervention ….led to changes in demand.” Students can then conduct in-depth analysis which explains how much the demand has changed, or to justify the degree of success or failure of the policy. To simply state that,the intervention has lead to an increase in demand is too basic.
What kind of information should an extended essay include?
A good essay includes an innovative range of data, which could be either from a secondary or primary source, but preferably both. In my opinion, an essay with a good selection of primary data that is checked against other secondary research is a good approach. Too often students rely on the internet for all of their secondary research. They will be penalised for this approach in some of the criteria. The holistic judgment (Criteria K) is judged by the teacher and examiner and will reward students that adopt innovative or clever ways to collect data. Students can sometimes compensate in an essay with lots of secondary data by showing examples of in-depth analysis that makes links between separate pieces of secondary data. A survey of movie attendance during a recession, checked against secondary data on movie takings and consumer incomes will provide sufficient resources to analysis.
How could students improve their overall marks in an Extended Essay?
Each extended essay is assessed against a set of criteria. The criteria is very detailed and includes eleven different catagories. The highest level in some of these categories are easier to attain than others. For instance every student should achieve the highest level in each of the following. Criteria G,H and I
It is extremely important that economic terminology is used and that definitions of key terms are provided.This will clearly enhance the academic tone of the essay. Definitions should be precise. For example, a discussion of elasticity should refer to percentage orproportionate changes as opposed to “big” or “small” changes.
“Consistent” is the key word here: the conclusion should develop out of the argument and not introduceany new material. Any obvious limitations to the analysis/argument should be restated here, as evidenceof critical awareness. For example, if a survey is carried out but the sample size is deemed to be rathersmall, then it could be stated that the sample size might limit the validity of the conclusion drawn. Ifinterviews are carried out, it could be noted that the ideological bias of the interviewees might limit thevalidity of the conclusions drawn.
This criterion relates to the extent to which the essay conforms to academic standards about the way inwhich research papers should be presented. The presentation of essays that omit a bibliography or thatdo not give references for quotations is deemed unacceptable (level 0). Essays that omit one of therequired 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).Additionally, if diagrams are poorly presented or if the information shown on the diagram is unclear, onemark should be deducted. (Source: IB DP Economics – Syllabus – first exams 2005)
For several other criteria, it appears harder to achieve the top band. The harder criteria involve analytical and evaluative writing. There is no easy way to gain high marks, but I think students need to follow the criteria very carefully to ensure they gain all of the “basic” marks. Below is a sample checklist which I have found useful. Students need to work through the list to ensure they have completed the essential parts of the Extended Essay.
Econ EE Checklist (accessed from IB Online Workshop – previous examiners)
Introduction and Getting Started!
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The Extended Essay (EE) is one of the requirements of the IB Diploma Programme. It provides students with an opportunity to conduct independent research on a topic of interest to them. It is written on a freely-chosen topic as long as there is a subject teacher in school, as the candidate must have a subject supervisor.
The IBO recommends that candidates spend approximately 40 hours in total on their extended essays, and if you put it off until that last weekend, your work won't be nearly as good as it can be. Talk to your IB school supervisor, as it is his or her job to set internal school deadlines (i.e. choosing a topic, formulating an outline, rough draft, final draft, etc).
- Firstly, find a topic you're actually interested in, or you'll never work on it.
- Don't stress. After doing all your research 4,000 words is nothing (your first draft could be 6,000-8,000 words). While the Extended Essay has the potential to make you hate your own topic (as many academic assignments do), an interest in the topic can motivate you to pull through in the end.
- Many students are appalled at the sheer number of words that this task requires. But by following the guidelines set out for you, you'll quickly realize how hard pressed you will be to contain your work to the limit.
- Make sure that your focus is somewhat specific, or that you have a specific topic in mind (instead of just a general subject area).
- Example: Your final essay title should be somewhat similar to the style used in the Internal Assessments for the 20th Century World Issues course - specific and focused with some form of cause and effect. Check the official Extended Essay guidelines for more on this - it offers sample essay titles (along with title choosing advice and essay titles to avoid) for each subject area.
- If the above example does not apply to you, perhaps ask your IB Coordinator for examples from students past. Many of them keep a record of every essay, mainly to ensure there is no plagiarism.
- Make sure you stay on top of the work.
- Look over the guidelines and the explanations.
To get a diploma, you need to complete the TOK Essay and the Extended Essay. At best, you can achieve 3 bonus points towards your IB diploma, so don't ignore your schoolwork, as your courses are worth much more. The point matrix is outlined in the "Diploma Points Matrix for the Extended Essay and TOK" grid in the IBO form. You can still get your diploma if you get a "Mediocre" on one and an "Elementary" on another. NOTE: As of May 2010, an 'Elementary' on both TOK and Extended essay is an automatic fail, but you may still pass with an 'Elementary' on either one, just not both. An 'Elementary' on either is a so called 'failing condition' which requires a minimum 28 points rather than the usual 24 to obtain your diploma.
However, you can make a very good essay, provided you allot yourself enough time to write about something you are interested in. The IBO knows that you are between 16 and 18 years old and thus does not require a perfect essay or a groundbreaking new discovery. They just want to see that you can work on and complete a big project.
Picking a Topic
You'll want to write about a topic or subject you're fairly familiar with. For instance, if you've nailed the process of writing labs, do a science investigation. It'll be just like a big lab write-up, and writing the method, materials, qualitative/quantitative observations are all part of the word count, and take up a significant amount of words.
Find out if there are competitions or scholarship opportunities in which you can enter your essay. Why not kill two birds with one stone and head off to university with a scholarship? If you don't win, at least you'll get feedback, something the IBO neglects to give.
Writing a Good Extended Essay
Everyone wants to write a good Extended Essay, but just remember that it's really not as overwhelming as it sounds. Some candidates will find their first drafts are in the 6,000 to 8,000 range, while others will reach about 2800-3500. In fact, keep in mind that 4,000 words is the maximum word count and not where you must get to. While most essays have a word count in the 3,900 range, it is perfectly acceptable to submit an essay that is 3,500 words. While there is no actual minimum word count, you would probably want to write over 3,000 words, since a short essay might imply that the topic was not investigated thoroughly enough. However, some topics - mathematics among them - may require only 2,000 words to fully investigate them.
Keep legible, consistent and accurate notes that include bibliographic information. There's nothing more annoying than browsing through a 1200 page book looking for where that key quotation came from. Cite your sources in a consistent manner (either in MLA or APA format, or some other recognized format). IBO is very strict with plagiarism, so remember that the text has to be your own and do not forget to make references. You will have to sign an IBO form certifying that your EE is your own, and has no unsourced material in it, before they will even read your essay. Failure to submit an Extended Essay will result in no diploma being awarded.
Use the internet to find information but do include books in your research especially if your essay is not on the Sciences. Be skeptical in your use of the internet. Anyone can post anything, so read with a critical eye. Generally, university and academic websites are good sources to refer to. News sources are generally reliable, but be sure to stay away from "gossip" media which often contorts the truth.
Keep in mind that a general guide line used in many schools is 5 sources minimum for the IA in History, so if you are doing a History paper aim to have as close to ten sources as possible if not more for the EE.
Once you have researched your topic, you should spend a lot of time structuring and organizing your essay. Make sure your essay has a clear introduction, research question/focus (i.e. what you will be investigating), body, and conclusion. A poorly organized or unclear essay will hurt the assessment of your essay. You should also spend some time making sure that your 300-word abstract is clear and succinct in summarizing your essay. An unclear abstract will make your essay difficult to understand and will also hurt the assessment of your essay.
Although this is stated in the "General Requirements" for the Extended Essay, I feel it is necessary to repeat: if you are doing a paper in a subject not offered at your school, be very careful, especially if doing your paper in World Religions. You might want to either reconsider your choice of topic, or make sure you have several people with good credibility in that topic reading your paper. If you don't, especially in World Religions, you could end up offending your reader, and I promise you, you do not want to do that.
You can do your extended essay on any topic for which an IB class exists - i.e. something like Islamic History, which only about 100 candidates a year write about. However, you cannot do your extended essay in Theory of Knowledge, most pilot subjects and school-based syllabus subjects (check with your IB coordinator). Bear in mind that getting a good score in your extended essay, combined with your score for your Theory of Knowledge essay, may reward you with up to 3 bonus points. So aim high!
IBO Official Guide
The IBO's official guide to writing the Extended Essay can be found here: http://xmltwo.ibo.org/publications/DP/Group0/d_0_eeyyy_gui_1012_1/html/production-app3.ibo.org/publication/258/part/1/chapter/1.html
The above site is quite useful in perusing tips and hints for writing the essay, in addition to viewing the IBO standards for the essay. Note that the above link is for consideration purposes only.
"three: The Ultimate Student's Guide to Acing the Extended Essay and Theory of Knowledge" by Alexander Zouev - a book full of tips and time savers for IB EE.