Extended Essay  : General

Choosing your topic

by marie on 04 Aug 2004 09:41 a

What the IBO has to say, taken from the AISB Secondary School Website

Choice of Subject

The subject in which the extended essay is registered must be chosen from the official list provided by the IBO. The IB Diploma Coordinator can provided this to the students. It is advisable to choose the subject for the extended essay before deciding what the topic or research question of the essay will be. The subject chosen for the extended essay does not have to be one of the subjects being studied by the student, but students are expected to have sufficient knowledge and skills in the chosen subject. This is extremely difficult if the student is not studying the course.

Students should choose a topic that is:

— Challenging and interesting

— Limited in scope to allow examination of an issue/problem in depth

— Allow the collection or generation of information/data for analysis and evaluation

— Requires personal research

What the students have to say:

Marie (IB Completed):

Choosing your Extended Essay topic can be very difficult. You're free to write it in any subject you wish as long as it is in the IBO curriculum. Remember that as well having to research for your subject, you have to also write 4,000 words on it. It would be a great idea to choose a topic you know you will enjoy.

Levi (IB Completed):

It can be in any IB subject, even one you are not studying (as long as it's in the IB curriculum). Basically you can write on anything you are interested in, as the IB subjects can cover almost all areas (some people decide on subject then topic, while others do it the other way around).

DrSoySauce (IB Completed):

If you are trying to figure out what to do, I would ask your IB coordinator for the criteria for the different subjects. They change, so they might be more difficult for science.

Marie also says:

It's best to choose a topic you know your examiner will not know much about. For example in history it would better to choose your local history over Hitler.

Carlos (IB First Year):

Do you know that is possible to do your extended essay in CAS or in TOK. Crazy, isn't it ?

Marie finally says:

Here are a list of topics students have chosen in the past. Hopefully you can get ideas from these:


Marie: A Comparitive Study Between Japanese and Chinese Junior High School History Textbooks.

BulMaster: The First Non-Communist Governments in Bulgaria and their Legacy.

Stressed_:X : Was the Legal Abolition of Sati (burning a woman with her husband's dead body) in 1829 More Strongly Advocated by the British Colonialists or the Indian People?

FalconIBer: Portuguese History. Basically that the Portuguese domination of the Age of Exploration led to their domination of trade as well.

Levi: Was the adventus Saxonum a Folk Migration? A Source Based Approach


Linda: Language in Lolita - Nabokov's Way of Seducing the Reader (for English B HL)

Grace: Symbolism in Victorian Poetry.

Pucca: Impact of the Social Context on Holden Caufield and Huckleberry Finn

DrSoySauce: On the Novels of Raymond Chandler.

Dan_zed: "Milton was of the Devil's Party." To what Extent is William Blake's reading of John Milton's Paradise Lost an Accurate One?

Kildare: “The Pen’s view of the Sword”: An examination of Seamus Heaney’s response “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland in Wintering Out and North?” (English A1)


Jonatan: Investigating the Electromagnetic Levitation of an Aluminium Ring.

Tomek: The Design, Construction and Calibration of an Apparatus for Measuring Lipid Concentration in Milk [sic.]

Portugal: How Pressure in the Tyres of a Bike Affects the Braking Distance.

Guido: On Superconductivity.


Graffis: Kinetics of Enzymatic Reactions. I investigated action of pharmaceutical and natural amylase.


More Chaos: What are the effects of nitrogen deficiency on pea growth inoculated with rizobium bacteria?


Silltilly: On Vedic Mathematics

Ancksha: How to Write Ana with Mathematical Functions.

Computer Science

Brj: Talked about MP3 data compression algorithms.

If you want to submit your IB Extended Essay topics please do!


Location: Cambridge, UK

by Moneto502 on 29 Sep 2004 10:07 am

Hi. I recently started my Extended Essay on Vedic math and was really surpirsed to see somone (Silltilly) wrote on the same topic. Do you have advice or good resources you could lead me to? Or is it best to chose a topic that examiners may not have ever heard of before? Help! Please.


by marie on 09 Nov 2006 06:46 am

jasonbirring wrote:

im doing my EE in geography, and it is due in like 3 weeks but i havent started. anyyyyyyy ideas????

Work your ass off. Three weeks is very late ain't it?!


Location: Cambridge, UK


The Word Limit and Word Conversions

by marie on 04 Aug 2004 10:52 am

What the IBO has to say:

The upper limit is 4,000 words for all extended essays. This upper limit includes the introduction, the body, the conclusion and any quotations, but does not include:

Essays in excess of 4,000 words are subject to penalties and examiners are not required to read material in excess of the word limit.

Candidates writing their extended essay in Japanese or Chinese should use the following conversions:

Japanese: 1 word = approximately 2 Japanese characters.

Chinese: 1 word = approximately 1.2 Chinese characters.

An abstract not exceeding 300 words must be included. It does not serve as an introduction but presents a synopsis of the extended essay, and therefore should be written last.

What the students have to say:

DrSoySauce (IB Completed, father is an examiner):

What we were told is that if you write more than 4,000 words, you're taking your chances with the examiners: they don't have to read any more than 4,000.

Plus, my English teacher who is an examiner said that if he's bored with an essay, he's not going to read more than that. People should learn better editing skills.

Marie (IB Completed):

When I first heard that we had to write around 4,000 words I panicked. I had never written that much in my life! But after loads of research, I found that near the end I had around 5,000 words and was struggling to cut down, so don't worry about not meeting the word limit! My supervisor in the end said: 'we have to be ruthless' and we had to cut down whole paragraphs So yes, that's my little anecdote on meeting word limits in the Extended Essay. History and English people, remember that references don't count!

Kildare (IB Completed):

It's very hard to keep it below 4,000 words though and you really have to constantly refine it and make it as tightly written as is humanly possible. My initial piece was 10,000 words, my first 'formal' draft 5,100. To get a good grade on your EE you really do need to put in a lot of work.

Stressed_:X (IB Completed):

4,000 words really is not enough - my final draft was 3,994 words!!! I suggest you people still thinking about what to do make sure you choose something you feel personally attached to and think you would enjoy finding out more about. Also, try and do something connected to the career you would eventually like to pursue (I want to do law, therefore legal women's rights...) Seriously, it's a good opportunity so don't waste it on a topic you completely dread studying from the start!!


I did an extended essay in Maths which was cool because hardly anyone does that. They don't expect all that much from you. In fact, they don't care if you write about 1,000 words cos it's mainly formulae and stuff anyway

Do you have anything to say about the word limit? Please submit!


Location: Cambridge, UK

by Cari on 12 Aug 2004 05:22 am

What is the lower limit for word count?

All these people saying that they had to cut down cared about their topics. I neither care, not care to care about mine: I just need to turn something in.


Location: daytona beach

by Nowakowski on 12 Aug 2004 07:26 pm

As far as I know there is basically no limit, but abviously it is quite impossible to write a good essay with less than 100 words. It's just important not to exceed the limit of 4000 [although I've heared they accept up to 4200 words and still don't award null points.


Location: Edinburgh (Uni) / Poland Gdansk

by marie on 13 Aug 2004 11:02 am

My school advised us to write at least 2000 words. However, judging the minimum amount you should write is difficult. To build up a strong argument leading to a powerful conclusion you will probably need at least 3500–3999 words. However, at the same time, if you lack information (or even if you have enough!) you do not want to drone on and on pointlessly trying to reach this limit. Also, my friend who did his extended essay in maths wrote only 2000 words (not including the formulae) and received an A — just showing the difficulty of judging the minimum word limit.

But generally, ppl who have received As in the past have written just up to the word limit.

What subject do you intend to do your extended essay on?


Location: Cambridge, UK

by Levi on 13 Aug 2004 04:23 pm

I've heard that for maths is it possible to write a very good EE as low as 3,000 words, because the essential part is the maths itself, which does not count for any words. However, as I general guidline I would say write 3,500–4,000 words.


Location: Cambridge

by sunechama9000 on 20 Sep 2004 02:30 pm

Actually for Math Extended Essay, each equation = 2 words, according to the criteria I had. My essay was about 2500 words + about 300 words worth of equations. I got A for it, so I say the word limit is not your target. The target is to write up what you want to say within 4000 words. Therefore the minimum word limit can vary due to your skills and/or your topic and whether you can write strong argument or not.


Location: Japan


How to write a good Science Subject EE?

by Nowakowski on 06 Aug 2004 03:50 pm


I invite you to share your opinions about the technical side of writing an extended essay: that means what should be included where and so on.



Location: Edinburgh (Uni) / Poland Gdansk

by Nowakowski on 06 Aug 2004 03:51 pm

Here are some of my suggestions


What to write?

This is probably the most important part of your Science EE. Try to write it before you actually start working on any other part, for this will force you to organize yourself. A good abstract should contain, in general, answers to the following questions:

a) What was done ?

In the beginning, formulate the ‘task’ you were working on; remember, however, not to rewrite the title!

b) How was it done?

This part should be more complex:

i) quote the most important assumption(s)

ii) quote the name of any law/principle/rule/effect your investigation was based on

iii) briefly describe the method you used; if you used any particular devices (like NMR, spectrophotometer, Geiger Miller counter) or substances: summarize what you did

c) What was the outcome ?

explain clearly, but briefly, the result; try to consider what was your greatest achievement and state it, in bold

d) [optional] How did you verify your result?

What not to write?

— do not include trivial information (if you conduct experiments, then certain equipment is assumed)

— do not waste space; ask yourself: “what was really important, impressive and what makes this essay worth a good grade?”; avoid marginal information

— do not use florid vocabulary; abstract should be concise; remember: this is not a poetry competition: it is a scientific paper

— even if you think that the examiner might be unfamiliar with the area of your investigation do not explain anything in abstract; you may provide an additional chapter for ‘theoretical introduction’, or in the cases I will discuss later, in the appendix (do not hesitate to use that space!)

Conclusion and Evaluation

His is second most important part of your work. As you proceed with your essay, take an additional sheet of paper and write down all the ideas that come to your mind down. Particularly, try to enumerate your achievements, your failures and ideas about improvement.

In the beginning, make a few general statement: say, whether you achieved your aims, to what extent, state clearly the result: that is a direct answer to the research question. When it comes to presenting the rest of the ideas you came across, avoid blocks of text.

Bullet points: that’s the best solution, since your ideas become clearer immediately and they save a lot of your work and examiner’s time [and this is particularly important!!!];

Do not try to hide your failures; if you made a false assumption, or did not take some conditions or factors into consideration, include that here; this proves your ‘critical approach’

Choice of Figures and labels

Third most important factor of your essay. Try not to stick every photo or graph you made. Do, however, collect some from every part of your work, every experiment, etc.

Don’t be pithy in descriptions; try to catch reader’s attention: write what is so important about them, why you chose them, what they prove, make clear conclusions and, if any figure provides the answer for your research question, or has any other particular significance, write in bold, or even change the font (but avoid changing color too frequently); Even if you have nothing more to say then you’ve already said in the text, try to rewrite it in other words, or at least copy it.

As for the photos/graphs/tables & etc. of less importance, place them in appendix and refer to them in the text.

Why are good labels so important? As can be read in the thread “Physics EE Advice”, it’s all for clarity and saving examiner’s time, for he doesn’t have to search through every bit of your work for a particular information; moreover, they make your ideas easier to remember.


'uff, ale się napisałem


Location: Edinburgh (Uni) / Poland Gdansk


Following the Guidelines

by marie on 04 Aug 2004 02:31 pm

Marie (IB Completed) says:

If you want to score an A you've got to follow the guidelines. The IBO provide you with this so print it out and follow!

Here is a brief synopsis from the IBO of the guidelines. I've only mentioned what you have to do to receive top marks:

A. Research Question — The extent to which the focus of the essay is expressed and specified. This need not be in the form of a question. An example of an alternative form is a hypothesis.

To score top marks: The research question is clearly and precisely stated in the early part of the essay and is sharply focused, making it susceptible to effective treatment within the word limit.

B. Approach to the research question — The extent to which the essay appropriately addresses and develops the specific research question, including the collection of any relevant information.

To score top marks: The approach used is well chosen and highly appropriate to the research question.

C. Analysis/interpretation — The extent to which relevant materials, sources, data, and evidence are considered appropriately in the essay. Where the research question does not lend itself to systematic investigation in the context of an extended essay, the maximum level that can be award is 2.

To score top marks: An effective analysis/interpretation is carried out with skill and understanding.

D. Argument/evaluation — The extent to which the essay develops an argument relevant to the research question from the materials/information considered. Where the research question does not lend itself to systematic investigation in the context of an extended essay, the maximum level that can be award is 2.

To score top marks: A convincing argument, which addresses the research question, is well developed, well organized and clearly expressed. Where an evaluation is appropriate, it is fully substantiated.

E. Conclusion — The extent to which the essay incorporates a conclusion consistent with its argument, not necessarily in the form of a separate section.

To score top marks: A conclusion is clearly stated, is relevant to the research question and is consistent with the argument or explanation presented in the essay, Where appropriate, the conclusion clearly indicates unresolved question and new questions that have emerged from the research.

Abstract: The adequacy of the formal abstract as a synopsis of the essay.

To score top marks: Within the abstract, the research question, the scope of the investigation and the conclusion reached are all clearly stated.

Formal presentation: The layout table of contents, references, bibliography, appendices, title, quotations, illustrations and organization, where appropriate. General descriptors of the different achievement levels can be found on the following page.

To score top marks: The essay is within 4,000 words. The overall presentation and neatness of the essay are excellent. Illustrative material, if appropriate to the essay, is well set out and used effectively. A contents page or a list of section/chapter heading is provided and clearly set out. All pages are numbered. References (if appropriate) are set out consistently, according to a standard format. The bibliography (if appropriate) appears to include all, and only, those works of reference that have been consulted by the candidate and it specifies author/, title, date of reference which have been consulted by the candidate and it specifies author/s date of publication and publisher following consistently one standard method of listing sources. The appendix (if appropriate) contains only information/data that is required in support of the text.


Location: Cambridge, UK


Extended Essay on Religion

by Belle on 27 Aug 2005 11:52 pm

Hi, I am doing my extended essay on the subject of religion. I have atleast 2 topics to choose from and wanted to know if any or both are good topics to explore:

1. Why is religion important to mankind and what purpose does it serve?

2. Analysis on Bhagavat Gita (Hindu Scripture) and its relevance to our modern society.

If you have more ideas or inputs for these topics or for others, I would appreciate it!

Thank you,


by Levi on 28 Aug 2005 08:31 pm

I'd certainly advise you to go with the second topic - it sounds like something specific and something you might ahve something relevant and new to say. The first topic sounds like it should be the topic of someone's life's work - you'd can't really do justice to the importance on mankind in just 4 000 words. Besides that would be far less research orientated - if you focus on a certain religion and certain scriptures you can do a lot more specific research which would impress examiners a lot more.


Location: Cambridge

by Belle on 28 Aug 2005 10:20 pm

Thanks Levi for the prompt response.

For the EEssay, do I need an abstract and what purpose does it serve? Also, should I give an introduction (/brief intro) about the Hindu scripture and talk about what relevance it had before in that age?

For research notes, I heard that IB examiners dislike the use of internet for finding information...is it true? And, how many first-hand and second-hand resources does one need for the EEssay research?

That's all for now!

Thanks a lot,


by Belle on 31 Aug 2005 05:20 am

Anyone who is willing to respond my questions?



by marie on 31 Aug 2005 07:54 am

Belle wrote:

Thanks Levi for the prompt response.

For the EEssay, do I need an abstract and what purpose does it serve? Also, should I give an introduction (/brief intro) about the Hindu scripture and talk about what relevance it had before in that age?

For research notes, I heard that IB examiners dislike the use of internet for finding information...is it true? And, how many first-hand and second-hand resources does one need for the EEssay research?

That's all for now!

Thanks a lot,


Yes, you are required to have an abstract, introduction, body and a conclusion in your essay. You are marked specifically on these different sections. Your abstract should tell the reader what your essay is all about — basically it is your essay cut down into a small, small chunk. In real life the abstract is there for other readers to skim through and judge whether they want to read the whole article. Check out the marking scheme to find out what the examiners want in the abstract.

As for the sources — yes indeed if your bibliography consisted only of internet sources the examiner will not be very impressed. Of course, a couple is fine, but don't go overboard. Try to find as many primary sources as you can, because obviously that is your 'main' information. I personally had 30 sources, but I think I had more than a lot of people.


Location: Cambridge, UK

by Belle on 31 Aug 2005 09:43 pm

Thanks Marie for your help!