Extended essay guide biology
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The Complete IB Extended Essay Guide: Examples, Topics, and Ideas
IB students around the globe fear writing the Extended Essay, but it doesn’t have to be a source of stress! In this article, I’ll get you excited about writing your Extended Essay and provide you with the resources to get an A.
If you’re reading this article, I assume you’re an IB Student getting ready to write your Extended Essay. If you’re looking at this as a potential future IB student, I recommend reading our other introductory IB articles first: What is the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program? and What is the IB Curriculum? What are IB Diploma Requirements?
Why Should You Trust My Advice?
I’m a recipient of an IB Diploma, and I happened to receive an A on my IB Extended Essay. If you don’t believe me, the proof is in the IBO pudding,
If you’re confused by what this report means, EE is short for Extended Essay, and English A1 is the subject that my Extended Essay topic coordinated with. In layman’s terms, my IB Diploma was graded during May 2010, I wrote my Extended Essay in the English A1 category, and I received a grade A.
What Is the Extended Essay?
The IB Extended Essay (or EE) is a 4,000 word structured mini-thesis that you write under the supervision of an advisor (an IB teacher at your school), which counts towards your IB Diploma (to learn about all of the IB diploma requirements, check out our other article). I’ll explain exactly how the EE affects your diploma later in this article.
For the Extended Essay, you choose a research question as a topic; this topic needs to be approved by IBO (which is not very difficult). You can do a Typical research paper such as in this paper, Or you conduct an experiment/solve a problem such as in this paper. Most schools allow you to pick your advisor (an IB teacher preferably at your school, although you can also get access to one at another school through the Pamoja Education). I’ll explain how to pick your IB EE advisor below.
The IB Extended Essay must include:
- A cover page
- An abstract (one-page synopsis of your essay)
- A table of contents
- The 4,000-word essay (which will range from 10-20 pages depending on whether your topic requires illustrations such as an experiment would)
- A bibliography
Your completed Extended Essay will then sent to the IBO to be graded (I will go into more detail on grading below).
What Should You Write About in Your Extended Essay?
You can technically write about anything, so long as the IBO approves it. However, You should choose a topic that falls into one of the IB Course Categories, (such as Theatre, Film, Spanish, French, Math, Biology, etc.) which shouldn’t be difficult because there are so many class subjects. Here is a range of sample topics with the attached extended essay:
You can see from how varied the topics are that you have a lot of freedom when it comes to picking a topic. So, how do you pick when the options are limitless? I will help you with that next:
6 Tips for Writing a Grade A Extended Essay
Below are the six key tips you need to follow to write an outstanding Extended Essay.
Tip #1: Write About Something You Enjoy
I love British theatre and ended up writing mine about a revolution in post-WWII British theatre #theatrenerd. I really encourage anyone who pursues an IB Diploma to take the Extended Essay seriously. I ended up receiving a full-tuition merit scholarship to USC’s School of Dramatic Arts program and in my interview for the scholarship, I spoke passionately about my Extended Essay. I genuinely think my Extended Essay helped me get my scholarship.
How do you find a topic you are passionate about? Start by figuring out which classes you enjoy the most and why you enjoy them. Do you like Math because you like to problem solve? Or do you enjoy English because you like to analyze texts?
Once you have figured out a general subject area such as Physics, you should brainstorm more specific topics by putting pen to paper. What was your favorite chapter you learned in that class? Was it astrophysics or mechanics? What did you like about that specific chapter? Is there something you want to learn more about? I recommend spending an hour on this type of brainstorming.
Tip #2: Chose a Topic That Is Not Too Broad or Too Narrow
This is a fine line. You need to write about something specific, but not so specific that you can’t write 4,000 words on it. You can’t write about WWII because that would be a book’s worth of material. You don’t want to write about what type of soup prisoners of war received in POW camps because you probably can’t come up with 4000 words on it. However, you could possibly write about how the conditions in German POW camps were directly affected by the Nazis successes and failures. This may be too obvious of a topic, but you get my point.
If you’re really stuck trying to find a not too broad or narrow topic, I recommend trying to brainstorm a topic that uses a comparison. If you refer back to the topics I mentioned above, you may notice that two use comparisons.
I also used comparison in my EE, comparing Harold Pinter’s Party Time to John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger in order to show a transition in British Theatre. Topics with comparisons of 2-3 plays/books/diets/etc. tend to be in the sweet spot of not too narrow or broad because you can analyze each portion and after doing in-depth analysis on each, you compare and explain the significance of the comparison. The key here is that the comparison needs to be significant. I compared two plays to show a transition in British Theatre.
Comparisons are not the only way to get a grade A EE. If after brainstorming, you pick a non-comparison based topic and you are still unsure if a topic is too broad or narrow, spend 30 minutes doing some basic research and see how much material is out there. If there are over 1,000 books/articles/documentaries out there on the exact topic, it may be too broad. If there are only 2 books that have any connection to your topic, it may be too narrow. If you are still unsure, ask your advisor! Speaking of advisors:
Tip #3: Choose an Advisor Who Is Familiar With Your Topic
If you are not certain of who you would like to be your advisor, I would start by creating a list of your top three choices. Next, create a list of pros and cons (I know this sounds tedious, but it really helps!).
For example, Mr. Green is my favorite teacher, and we get along really well, but he teaches English, and I want to conduct an experiment to compare the efficiency of American Hybrid Cars to Foreign Hybrid Cars. Ms. White teaches Physics, I had her a year ago, and she liked me. She could help me design my experiment. I am going to ask Ms. White!
Do NOT just ask your favorite teacher to be your advisor. They may be a hindrance to you if they teach another subject. I would not suggest asking your Biology teacher to guide you in writing your English EE.
EXCEPTION: If you have a teacher who is passionate and knowledgeable about your topic (as my English teacher was about my Theatre topic), you can ask that instructor. Consider all of your options first before you do. There was no theatre teacher at my school, so I could not find a theatre-specific advisor, but I chose the next best thing.
Some IB high schools require your IB Extended Essay advisor to sign an Agreement Form. Make sure you ask your IB coordinator if there is any required paperwork. IBO does not require any paperwork. If your school needs a Form signed, make sure you bring it with you when you ask a teacher to be your EE advisor.
Tip #4: Choose an Advisor Who Will Push You to Be Your Best
Some teachers may just take on students because they have to and may not be passionate about reading drafts and may not give you a lot of feedback. Choose a teacher who will take the time to read several drafts and give you extensive notes. I would not have gotten my A without being pushed to make the draft better.
Ask a teacher that you have experience with through class or an extracurricular activity. Do not ask a teacher that you have no connection to; a teacher who does not know you is unlikely to push you.
Note: The IBO only allows advisors to suggest improvements to the EE, but they may not be engaged in writing the EE. The IBO recommends that the supervisor spends approximately two to three hours in total with the candidate discussing the EE.
Tip #5: Make Sure Your Essay Has a Clear Structure and Flow
IB likes structure. Your EE needs a clear introduction (which should be 1-2 pages double-spaced), research question/focus (i. e. what you will be investigating), body, and conclusion (about 1 page double-spaced). An essay that has unclear or poor organization will be graded poorly. Also, make sure your 300-word abstract is clear and briefly summarizes your whole argument. An ambiguous abstract will make it more challenging for the reader to follow your essay’s argument and will also hurt the grading of your EE.
The body of your EE should make up the bulk of the essay. It should be about 8-18 pages double-spaced (again just depending on whether or not you include diagrams). Your body can be split into multiple parts. For example, if you are doing a comparison, you might have 1/3 of your body as Novel A Analysis, 1/3 as Novel B Analysis, and the last 1/3 as Comparison of Novel A and B Analysis.
If you are conducting an experiment or analyzing data such as in this EE, your EE body will have a clear and obvious parts following the scientific method: stating the research question, discussing your method, showing the data, analyzing the data, discussing uncertainties, and drawing a conclusion/evaluating the experiment.
Tip #6: Start Writing Sooner Rather Than Later!
You will not be able to crank out a 4,000-word essay in a week and get an A. You will be reading many, many articles (and, depending on your topic, possibly books, plays, and watching movies). Start the research possible as soon as possible.
Each school has a slightly different deadline for the Extended Essay. Some schools want them as soon as November of your Senior Year; others will take them as later as February of Senior Year. Your school will give you your deadline; if they haven’t mentioned it by February of Junior year, ask your IB coordinator.
Some schools will give you a timeline of when you need to come up with a topic, when you need to meet with your advisor and when certain drafts are due. Not all schools do. Ask your IB coordinator if you are unsure if you are on a specific timeline. Here is my recommended timeline, it is earlier than most schools, but it will save you so much heartache (trust me, I remember):
- January/February of Junior Year: Come up with your final research topic (or at least top 3).
- February of Junior Year: Approach a teacher about being your EE advisor (if he or she says no, keep asking others until you find one — see my notes above on how to pick an EE advisor).
- April/May of Junior Year: Submit an outline of your EE and a bibliography of potential research sources (I recommend at least 7-10) to your EE advisor. Meet with your EE advisor to discuss your outline.
- Summer between Junior and Senior Year: Complete your first full draft over the summer between Junior and Senior Year! I know, I know no one wants to work during the summer, but trust me this will save you so much stress come the fall when you are busy with college applications and other IB internal assessments for your IB classes. You will want to have this first full draft done because you will want to complete a couple of draft cycles as you likely won’t be able to get everything you want to say into 4000 articulate words the first time. Try to get this first draft into the best possible shape you can, so that you do not have to work on too many revisions during the school year on top of your homework/college applications/work/extracurriculars/etc.
- August/September of Senior Year: Turn in your first draft of your EE to your advisor and receive feedback. Work on incorporating their feedback into your essay. If they have a lot of suggestions for improvement, ask if they will read one more draft before the final draft.
- September/October of Senior Year: Submit second draft of EE to your advisor (if necessary) and receive their feedback. Work on creating the best possible final draft.
- November-February of Senior Year: Submit two copies of your final draft to your school to be sent off to IBO. You likely will not get your grade until after you graduate.
The early bird DOES get the worm!
How’s the Extended Essay Graded?
Extended essays are marked by external assessors (examiners appointed by the IB) On a scale of 0 to 36. There are «general» and «subject-specific» criteria, at a ratio of 2:1 (24 possible marks for the general criteria and 12 marks for the subject-specific one). The total mark is converted into a grade from A to E, using the below parameters:
Extended Essay Guide: Criteria, Format, Sample EEs
The Assessment Criteria in Brief!
The Assessment Crtiteria in Detail!
Notes from the IB
RE: Research Question and Title of Extended Essay
Please note the statement below from the EE curriculum manager regarding the need to have both a title and a RQ for all subjects. Previous versions of the EE Guide indicated that the title and the RQ should be the same for History, Business Management and Mathematics. This is no longer the case. All essays, regardless of the subject, need to have both a RQ and a title.
To answer your question, I am going to quote directly from a response John Royce provided, on this forum, in October in response to a very similar question: (it was a question about using Spanish sources — hence the mention of Spanish)
It is certainly permissible to use sources which are not in the language of the essay, but translation into the target language is required, one cannot assume that the reader understands the original language.
It is usual to quote the original as well as presenting the translation. [Do not put quotation marks around your translation, just around the original]
Umberto Eco argues («in Mouse or rat?») that direct translation may lose meaning, paraphrase or use of different idioms may be required to get the ideas across. Paul Bellos («Is that a fish in your ear?») makes a similar argument — direct translation may confound meaning. Direct translation may not be ideal — meaning and understanding are preferred — so, not to worry that your student with her good Spanish cannot present a direct translation.
What must be made clear is that the translations are those of the student; these are her understandings. Readers can make of that what they will — and if unsure, are presented with the original — they can seek another translation. A note in the acknowledgements and/or in the introduction to the effect that all translations are those of the writer is. essential.
In response to the question about the Bibliography/Works cited, my preference would be to list the source in its original Thai version, but perhaps with the English in brackets, to help the examiner.
Your bibliography will have the entries in Thai characters first in the document. Any in-text citation to Thai sources will be in (Thai characters [English translation]).
Citation in Thai [English translation]
Format of the Extended Essay
The extended essay should be written in a clear, correct and formal academic style, appropriate to the subject from which the topic is drawn. Given that the extended essay is a formally written research paper, it should strive to maintain a professional, academic look.
To help achieve this, the following formatting is Required:
- 12-point, readable font (Calibri or Times New Roman);
- Double spacing throughout entire Essay;
- Page numbering — top right corner;
- No candidate or school name or supervisor name on the title page or page headers.
Submitting the extended essay in the required format will help set the tone of the essay and will aid readability for on-screen assessment by examiners.
Required S tructure
The structure of the essay is very important. It helps students to organize the argument, making the best use of the evidence collected.
There are six required elements of the final work to be submitted. More details about each element are given in the “Presentation” section. Please note that the order in which these elements are presented here is not necessarily the order in which they should be written.
Six required elements of the extended essay:
- Title page
- Contents page
- Body of the essay
- References and bibliography — if MLA «Works Cited» if CSE «References»
The title page should include Only the following information:
- The title of the essay
- The research question
- The subject the essay is registered in (if it is a language essay also state which category it falls into; if a world studies essay also state the theme and the two subjects utilized)
- Word count
The upper limit is 4,000 words for all extended essays.
Please note: Examiners are instructed not to read or assess any material in excess of the word limit. This means that essays containing more than 4,000 words will be compromised across all assessment criteria. Given the holistic nature of the assessment criteria, students who write in excess of the word limit will self-penalize across all criteria.
2. Required Contents Page
A contents page must be provided at the beginning of the extended essay and all pages should be numbered. Please note that an index page is not required and if included will be treated as if it is not present.
3. Required Introduction
The introduction should tell the reader what to expect in the essay. The introduction should make clear to the reader the focus of the essay, the scope of the research, in particular an indication of the sources to be used, and an insight into the line of argument to be taken.
While students should have a sense of the direction and key focus of their essay, it is sometimes advisable to finalize the introduction once the body of the essay is complete.
4. Required Body of the Essay (research, analysis, discussion, and evaluation)
The main task is writing the body of the essay, which should be presented in the form of a reasoned argument. The form of this varies with the subject of the essay but as the argument develops it should be clear to the reader what relevant evidence has been discovered, where/how it has been discovered and how it supports the argument. In some subjects, for example, the sciences, sub-headings within the main body of the essay will help the reader to understand the argument (and will also help the student to keep on track). In structuring their extended essay, students must take into consideration the expected conventions of the subject in which their extended essay is registered.
Once the main body of the essay is complete, it is possible to finalize the introduction (which tells the reader what to expect) and the conclusion (which says what has been achieved, including notes of any limitations and any questions that have not been resolved).
Any information that is important to the argument Must not be included in appendices or footnotes/endnotes. The examiner Will not read notes or appendices, so an essay that is not complete in itself will be compromised across the assessment criteria.
5. Required Conclusion
The conclusion says what has been achieved, including notes of any limitations and any questions that have not been resolved. While students might draw conclusions throughout the essay based on their findings, it is important that there is a final, summative conclusion at the end. This conclusion(s) must relate to the research question posed.
6. Required References & Bibliography
Students should use their chosen style of academic referencing as soon as they start writing. That way they are less likely to forget to include a citation. It is also easier than trying to add references at a later stage. For more information on this, refer to the guidelines in the IB document Effective citing and referencing.
Writing the essay takes time but if students have used their Researcher’s reflection space and reflection sessions in a meaningful way they should be well prepared to develop their arguments.