The extended essay is an in-depth study of a focused topic chosen from the list of approved Diploma Programme subjects—normally one of the student’s six chosen subjects for the IB diploma. It is intended to promote high-level research and writing skills, intellectual discovery and creativity. It provides students with an opportunity to engage in personal research in a topic of their own choice, under the guidance of a supervisor (a teacher in the school). 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. It is recommended that completion of the written essay is followed by a short, concluding interview, or viva voce, with the supervisor.
The extended essay is assessed against common criteria, interpreted in ways appropriate to each subject.
The extended essay is:
- compulsory for all Diploma Programme students
- externally assessed and, in combination with the grade for theory of knowledge, contributes up to three points to the total score for the IB diploma
- a piece of independent research/investigation on a topic chosen by the student in cooperation with a supervisor in the school
- chosen from the list of approved Diploma Programme subjects, published in the Handbook of procedures for the Diploma Programme
- presented as a formal piece of scholarship containing no more than 4,000 words
- the result of approximately 40 hours of work by the student
- concluded with a short interview, or viva voce, with the supervising teacher (recommended).
In the Diploma Programme, the extended essay is the prime example of a piece of work where the student has the opportunity to show knowledge, understanding and enthusiasm about a topic of his or her choice. In those countries where it is the norm for interviews to be required prior to acceptance for employment or for a place at university, the extended essay has often proved to be a valuable stimulus for discussion.
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.
The EE and Theory of Knowledge
Whichever subject is chosen, the extended essay shares with the theory of knowledge (TOK) course a concern with interpreting and evaluating evidence, and constructing reasoned arguments. Where the two differ is in the emphasis placed on the research process and its formal outcomes. These aspects are of primary importance in the extended essay but are given much less weight in TOK: in the Theory of knowledge guide (updated November 2008) the section describing the TOK assessment tasks states that “neither the [TOK] essay nor the presentation is primarily a research exercise”. At a more abstract level, both TOK and the extended essay promote reflection on the nature of knowledge and on how new knowledge is produced.
Some extended essay subjects include cross-cultural questions within them. Others invite such an approach. Whatever the subject, the extended essay student should strive to find relevant information from a diverse range of sources.
In working on the extended essay, students are expected to:
- plan and pursue a research project with intellectual initiative and insight
- formulate a precise research question
- gather and interpret material from sources appropriate to the research question
- structure a reasoned argument in response to the research question on the basis of the material gathered
- present their extended essay in a format appropriate to the subject, acknowledging sources in one of the established academic ways
- use the terminology and language appropriate to the subject with skill and understanding
- apply analytical and evaluative skills appropriate to the subject, with an understanding of the implications and the context of their research.
From Diploma Programme Extended Essay guide, International Baccalaureate, Cardiff, Wales, 2007