How to write an extended essay

What is the extended essay?

The extended essay is an independent research project on a topic chosen by the student working in collaboration with their supervisor. The extended essay puts forward a well-reasoned argument in relation to a research question. This essay is a formally presented scholarly paper that should not exceed 4000 words (approximately eight typed pages, double-spaced, with Times New-Roman font). Extended essays contain all of the following components (not necessarily written in this order):

  • Title page
  • Abstract
  • Contents page
  • Introduction
  • Body (development/methods/results)
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Appendices

Why is the extended essay required?

The purpose of writing an extended essay is for you to be able to pose insightful questions appropriate to the topic, focus the topic, engage in a systematic research process, develop creative and critical thinking, work independently, develop writing and communication skills, experience the satisfaction of intellectual discovery. When the student exits the programme, s/he should know how to plan and pursue research, apply analytical and evaluative skills to their work, understand the implications and context of his/her research, use language appropriate to their research topic, gather and interpret material from credible sources, then use the gathered material to develop and present a well-reasoned argument.

How the extended essay is accomplished?

Students can accomplish the extended essay by following the steps listed below:

  • Choose a topic from the list of approved subjects in the Diploma Programme (see Handbook).
  • Become familiar with the assessment criteria. Marks are given according to how well essay meets these criteria.
  • Work cooperatively with supervisors when deciding upon a topic.
  • Devote 40 hours to research and write a fully developed extended essay. Plan deadlines for each phase of the investigation and writing process.
  • Formulate a focused research question. The question must not be either too broad or too narrow to answer thoroughly in 40 hours/4000 words. Work with your supervisor on focusing your question. In order to choose the best question the student should have some knowledge in the topic area. The question should be one the student cares about.
  • Decide how and where research materials will be gathered. Gather and critically evaluate these source materials. Come up with a tentative plan on how these materials will be used. What has been discovered? How and where will it be used to support an argument? Organize research materials in a logical sequence appropriate to the chosen topic and tentative argument.
  • Choose a reference system appropriate to the subject.
  • Write the body of the essay. Make references and cite sources as you write. Use and cite only those materials that support your argument. Develop an argument using the material you have gathered, but showing your own thinking. Use subheadings to help you develop and clarify the argument. It should be clear to your reading audience how the evidence gathered supports the argument. If you discover something in your investigation that undermines what had been established, adjust the plan.
  • After the argument is clear, then write the introduction telling the reader what to expect, why the question is important, and how it fits into the greater discussion.
  • Write a conclusion telling what was achieved. Note any limitations here and bring up other questions that arose while accomplishing the extended essay.
  • Make sure citations are correct and complete. List only those resources actually used in the bibliography, not necessarily everything that was read.
  • Number pages and write contents pages.
  • Write abstract.

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