With summer either already here or very near, it’s time for our next step in the Extended Essay Step-by-Step Guide. This one will help give you that push to put all of that essay preparation to use. Yes, it’s time to bite the bullet and write the thing.
To recap, this is the stage that comes after:
Finalising a Question
If you don’t feel you’ve quite nailed something in that list above, have a read of our previous blogs in the series for a comprehensive breakdown of what you can do to get there. If on the other hand you do feel you’ve done all of this, you should know WHAT you’re going to say. The real question is HOW. This isn’t a post about how to write. I know you’ve written things before. This blog is about how to make yourself get that writing for this Extended Essay on the page in front of you.
1. Know When You’ll Write Your Essay
It should be obvious that the key to making sure you write your extended essay is to find the time to write it. But you’d be surprised how easily the time can slip away without a single word getting typed or written. Especially in summer, that pesky thing called procrastination can disguise itself as everything from the new season of Orange is the New Black to a trip to a lake to swim with pelicans.
To make sure you get the writing done when you want it done, take half an hour to get organised. Work out when, objectively, you will have the time to devote some love and care and sweat and blood to this essay. And do it in chunks. Half a day at a time is ideal. Start by scheduling a few at a time near the start of your holiday so that you can see how much time this will actually take you and adjust your schedule accordingly.
To be extra efficient, don’t just decide when you will work on your essay, but decide what you will work on. Set deadlines for finishing different stages of the essay throughout the summer. For a Language, Literature, or Group 3 essay you might set deadlines for completing the introduction, body, conclusion, and proofreading. For a Group 4 Science essay your deadlines could be more detailed, separated for completing sections on background information, methods and materials, and data analysis, for example.
Exercise 1: Take out your calendar, work out what plans you already have for the summer which you’ll need to work around, and mark out your devoted Extended Essay time. Don’t have a calendar? No problem! Download our own printable Extended Essay time planner by clicking here!
2. Getting the Words on the Page
Now you’ve organised yourself and found time to do the writing, it’s time to sit down and put the words on the page. The biggest tip I can possibly give you is to remind that getting any words on the page at all is more important, at this stage, than getting ‘the right words’. This is only a first draft, and at this point it’s only a draft of a first draft. So do whatever you can to help yourself put pen to paper/hands to keyboard.
If you feel like you can launch straight into writing that essay, great! Sit down and do that. On the other hand if you’re still unsure where you start there are a bunch of techniques you can try to help get you started.
- There’s nothing to say you have to write the essay in chronological order! Instead you could take each paragraph of your essay one at a time, and start with the section you feel most confident, or excited about.
- A lot of people find it easier to write things by hand before typing it. If you’re experiencing what I like to call ‘keyboard fear’, ditch the laptop, take a pen and a piece of paper, and write your essay as if you are answering the question in an exam.
- If you’re struggling to turn your outline into full sentences, forget about eloquence for a while and just write it in whatever way you like. No need for good words. Just write. No one will see it but you.
Exercise 2: Pick one of the three options above and try it: write your favourite ‘piece’ of the essay first, write as much as you can by hand in one writing sprint, or lose the grammar and just get the ideas down in the right order.
3. Perfect Your Extended Essay Language
Perfect language doesn’t matter at the beginning of your writing process. But making sure that your writing is clear, well-paced and polished is essential for the final product. You’ll get a chance to fix up the writing later in the process, but paying attention to your language, tone and style as you go along will save you a lot of time in the long-run. More importantly, it will help you to see what is and isn’t making sense now.
A great way to get into the right frame of mind for writing a formal essay is to read other examples. Have a look at our free resources page to see how other successful IB students have written their essays in the past. Alternatively you could remind yourself of general guidelines to academic writing like this guide here.
In general it’s better to be simple. Avoid the temptation to write as many long, complicated words as you possibly can so that you reach the 4000 word limit faster! I promise you that the most common Extended Essay problem of all IB students is fitting their words into the word limit at the end. So take some time to relax, breathe, and only write what you need to write.
Case in point: Which sentence makes more sense to you?
- It is arguable that during the nineteenth century, and in the latter half of the century in particular, many people perceived a growth in what can be termed the mass market for novels and literature.
- The later nineteenth century saw an increase in the literary mass market.
Exercise 3: Paste one of your completed paragraphs onto a new document and cut out the unnecessary words and phrases. Aim to cut words down by 10%. Do this for each one of your paragraphs either as you go along or at the end.
The only thing left to say now is to just do it. It will be tough, but you won’t have a better time to work on it than this summer*. If you’d like more help from us have a look at our assignments package for online private tuition, or our Mid-IB Extended Essay workshop.
(*And if you hate the idea of doing it now, think about doing it next term when you have 10 other deadlines to meet as well!)
Read Part 6: Motivation
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.