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Extended Essay Breakdown Express

The IB Extended Essay is a 4,000-word thesis written under a supervision of an advisor and is a mandatory component of the IB Diploma. This essay, along with the TOK presentation, could give you up to 3 additional points toward your overall Diploma score.

Table Of Contents

How do I start my Extended Essay?

The best way to start an essay with a free-ended topic is to find an area of interest. What would you like to write about? Brainstorm if you have no ideas. Jam-write for 10 minutes straight without stopping or make a mind map of what you’re interested in. EssayPro has many good brainstorming tips here.

How do I Pick an IB Essay Topic

Pick a topic that’s one of your IB subjects or something that’s closely related to your hobbies or passions. In this stage, make sure your topic is broad, so you have room for exploration.

For example:

Now, this topic is too broad. It could be a novel or a Ph.D. dissertation. That’s no good; you need to narrow this topic down.

At this point, you should do some research on your topic and find out if you’re actually interested in it. If you find it boring, refer back to the brainstorming section.

How do I create a research question?

Now that you know more about your topic, ask questions that pique your interests as well as ones that you crave an answer for. This is essential for Criterion A (research question).

Here is an example of some good research questions or potential topics:

  • Economics: How did College Board monopolize aptitude testing?
  • Psychology: What affects did the Syrian refugee crisis have on the psyche of young Children?
  • History: How did the Second Red Scare, lasting roughly from 1950 to 1956, heighten tensions between Russia and America during the Cold War.
  • Chemistry: How does Iron sedimentation affect the water quality in West Africa?
  • Biology: Do earlier school start times hinder children’s ability to learn?
  • English: How has Albert Camus’ novel The Stranger been lost in translation?
  • Math: What makes Euler’s Identity the most beautiful equation of all time?
  • Film: How has Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho shaped the thriller genre?

How do I pick an Advisor?

Pick an Advisor that knows a lot about your topic. A biology teacher would not be great for your History EE.

Meeting with your advisor is not mandatory, however, it is a very good idea to do so. The more help you can get on this thing, the better.

When is a good time to start writing?

Start as soon as possible. Your life will be so much easier if you have your essay complete before Year II. If you’re overwhelmed during the school year, do your extended essay during the summer; your future you will thank you.


Now that you have your research question, build a paper outline around it. The introduction should contain your research query and your main argument, otherwise known as the thesis statement. The body is easiest to divide into three parts. The conclusion should restate your argument and summarize your findings. An outline should just be the notes of what you plan to state. Do not fiddle with the roman numerals; keep it clean with bullet points and short sentences.

Annotated bibliography

At this stage, you should be reading through your primary sources and creating an annotated bibliography. This just means posting any relevant information that you plan to quote or use in your essay into a separate document and listing some points that you plan to address. Start your Works Cited page right away.

Title page

An extended essay cover page is easy, but an extremely important component of your essay. If you don’t follow the title page format of the IB closely, you might jeopardize your essay score. The title page is a standalone document with the title of your essay and your name centered. Include the name of your school and your IB number.


Your paper introduction should state your thesis and your research question. In order to get the highest benchmark for this section, you must present this: “The context of the research question is clearly demonstrated. The introduction clearly explains the significance of the topic and why it is worthy of investigation.” This last sentence is important. Don’t forget to state why your topic is important to study. This is a good tip for any essay; if something isn’t important, why would it be worth reading?

Essay Writing Advice From Our Professional Team

Jessie Pro Writer, from EssayPro

Writing a good extended essay is difficult, but if you are an IB student, you’ll know that those three extra points can really make a big difference. Remember that it's not as overwhelming as it sounds. Some people write a custom essay that’s 6,000 to 8,000 words long, while others will reach about 2800-3500 on their first draft. An important thing to keep in mind that 4,000 words is the maximum word count.

Personal writer advice is to start this as soon as possible. You will thank yourself in the second year if you already have your extended essay done. If word count is what you’re worried about, then you would probably want to write over 3,000 words, since a short essay might imply that the topic was not investigated thoroughly. However, some essay topics may require only 2,000 words to investigate them fully. As the article articulates and I want to reinforce: do not pick a subject that you don’t think you’ll like. It is of utmost importance that you genuinely enjoy what you’re writing about. The topic selection is wide enough; you can explore any IB class that exists. One constraint though is that you cannot do your essay in Theory of Knowledge. In gist, aim high and you will succeed!

Breaking down the IB Extended Essay criteria

  • Criterion A: Make sure your research question is “sharp and focused”. This is not a place to add snaz to your writing.

  • Criterion B: Restate your research question and state your thesis. Make sure to define exactly why your research query is important.

  • Criterion C: Use a wide range of primary, secondary, and tertiary sources. Don’t forget to work on that Works Cited page as you go.

  • Criterion D: Make sure you wholesomely understand what you’re writing about. Spend a lot of time reading your sources and learning things about your subject.

  • Criterion E: Your essay needs to flow logically and coherently. Stick to your outline, don’t go on tangents. Extra information that doesn’t answer your research topic will not grant you a better mark, it will only hinder the overall quality of your essay.

  • Criterion F: Analyze your information. Make connections throughout your essay. Don’t simply list factual information; no one wants to read that. In order to really hit those top scores, you need to elaborate on multiple aspects of the information you present.

  • Criterion G: Make sure your language is coherent and straight to the point. Avoid passive constructions and adverbs.

  • Criterion H: Your conclusion is very important; as mentioned before, you should restate your findings and include any unresolved questions you didn’t answer in your body paragraphs.

  • Criterion I: This criterion is the easiest to do and the easiest to mess up. After completing your essay, double and triple check that your “layout, organization, appearance and formal elements of the essay consistently follow a standard format.” Make sure you have the title page, table of contents, page numbers, illustrative material, quotations, documentation (including references, citations and bibliography) and appendices.

  • Criterion J: Your essay needs to be special. Throughout your essay and in your conclusion, demonstrate “intellectual initiative, depth of understanding and insight.” Be analytical and define why your topic is important. If you are interested in what you’re saying, most likely the reader will also be fond of your information.

August 30, 2017     Introductory Meeting during Junior Seminar / Research Skills Lab class

  • Introduction to the Extended Essay and Senior Project

Fall, 2017     Junior Seminar/Research Skills Lab class time devoted to:

  • Introduction to WSA Library EE Guide, and IB documents:
    • IB Assessment Criteria for the EE
    • Relevant EE Subject Guide(s), including the World Studies Guide
    • IB's ethical guidelines related to academic honesty, citing and referencing, and (if applicable to your subject and topic) research and fieldwork, and use of animals)
  • Introduction to EE assessment criteria
  • Research methods, referencing skills, literature review skills
  • Generating research questions

October 2-6, 2017     Individual check-in meetings with EE Coordinator

  • Scheduled during Junior Seminar class
  • Be prepared to answer these questions:
    • Have you chosen an IB subject area of research, or do you know the two subjects your would choose for a World Studies Extended Essay?   
    • What IB subject area do you see this research fitting in to?
    • What sparked your interest in this subject area?
    • What background reading have you done so far?
    • How are you planning on organizing your research, notes, ideas, etc. so that you'll be able to access them when you're ready to write?
    • Do you have a provisional research question that will fit in with your chosen subject?
    • What are the next steps in conducting your research?

November 28, 2017

DUE:  By 8:20 AM on 11/28/2017 to Susan Trower 

'Student Undertaking Contract' signed by both student and parent

DUE:  'Proposed Subject and Topic Form' signed by student; Include one or two proposals, each with:

EE subject, or WSEE theme and two IB subjects

Specific topic area or research question

Rationale for choosing this topic area

DUE:  Feasibility and Viability Report - one report for each EE proposal - each with:

5 - 10 sources

Correctly referenced in chosen citation style

Five of the sources must have at least two notes each; notes must include:

Summary of key points, bullet points of themes, ideas, research, etc.

Quotes as appropriate, page numbers, new references, paths of investigation, etc.

Headings with any information from the source that relates to the EE topic / research question

Summary of key points, bullet points of themes, ideas, research, etc.

Notes may be submitted using the Notecards feature in NoodleTools

Goal is to prove viability of proposed research question

December 14, 2017     Extended Essay supervisors assigned

January 16 - 25, 2018

Schedule appointment with supervisor and meet for first time (Initial Reflection Session)

As preparation for their first advisory session, students should be prepared to discuss the following:

  1. Criteria:  you should go over the subject-specific assessment criteria 
  2. Research question: work with your supervisor to narrow your topic/question down to a manageable scope (capable of being covered in 4,000 words); investigate the viability of your topic; if you have a wildly interesting but impractical question:  be prepared to heed the advice of your supervisor; know that it's up to you, and your supervisor will not prescribe or create a research question for you
  3. Exemplars:  ask for exemplars in your chosen subject from the EE coordinator or your supervisor.
  4. Library:  Be sure to check with the WSA Librarian for help in getting access to publications or online journals that would apply to your topic.
  5. Structure: Work with your supervisor to devise a plan as t how your research question could be structured or go to the session with a proposed structure you have in mind for review (chapter headings, for instance.)  MindMap® of ideas, flow charts, and other models could prove useful here to help you visualize your structure at this early stage.
  6. Time Management: If you are finding it difficult to plan your time due to other assessment pressures or extra-curricular demands, then it may be useful to speak to your supervisor with regards to creating a structured research timeline or more specific timetable to help you to see exactly what is required and when.

January 29, 2018

DUE:   'Research Readiness Form' to Susan Trower, signed by both student and supervisor

  • Turned in by 3:30 PM on 1/29/2018
  • Worth 50 points towards Spring Semester EE grade
  • Late form = 0 points

DUE:   First reflection (150-175 words) to Susan Trower via email

  • Emailed reflection must arrive by 3:30 PM on 1/29/2018
  • Worth 50 points towards Spring Semester EE grade
  • Late reflection = 0 points

February - March, 2018     Meet with supervisor at least two more times (10-20 minute sessions)

  • Things to be prepared to discuss with your supervisor:
    • Passivity - If you haven't done as much as you had hoped for since your first meeting, discuss the reasons and causes for this with your supervisor and ways to overcome or avoid this in future sessions.
    • Reading - Discuss your reading and/or research.  What have you found out?  Any surprises? Any useful lines of thought or approaches to the question?
    • Notes - Do you have a workable note-taking system in place?
    • Essay plan - Go over how to best structure your essay.
    • Exemplars - Try marking up a pre-existing essay with the assessment criteria, then go over this with your supervisor.  This will allow you to write with the assessment criteria firmly in mind.
    • Time-management - Be prepared to adjust your normal routines to accommodate any delays or issues with your EE so far. Sticking to deadlines will ensure you get this done!
    • Writing - Commit to getting started on your writing!
    • Research question - Tweaking  at this point is OK, but not big changes to your topic area or question.
  • Continue to use your RRS (Researcher's reflection space) to record reflections on what you are reading, writing and thinking

April 9-13, 2018   Meet with supervisor to discuss:

  • Completion of planned reading and/or research (Is further reading and/or research needed?)
  • Challenges encountered in EE process
  • EE presentation to Supervisors and Class of 2020 on May 1

April 16, 2018

DUE:   'Writing Readiness Form' to Susan Trower, signed by both student and supervisor, by 3:30 PM on 4/16/2018

  • Worth 50 points towards Spring Semester EE grade
  • Late form = 0 points

May 1, 2018

Extended Essay Presentations to Supervisors and Class of 2020

  • PowerPoint presentation, 8-10 slides, 5 minutes
  • Presentation of your most up-to-date findings and research
  • Scheduled during Advocacy and All School meeting time in two groups; one in the Conference Room and one in Parke 2
  • Includes:
    • Subject and research question
    • Background (what your EE is about)
    • Research conducted so far
    • Planned research for the summer
    • Working outline of the final contents page
    • Detailed summary of one or two chapters or sections
    • Problems encountered / solutions found
    • Bibliography, accurately referenced with chosen citation style
  • Worth 100 points towards Spring Semester EE grade
  • No presentation = 0 points

May 1, 2018

DUE: Student brings signed 'Extended Essay Progress Check Form' to be completed by supervisor after the presentation.

  • Worth 50 points towards Spring Semester EE grade
  • Late form = 0 points

June 1, 2018

DUE: 5 pages of writing due to Supervisor and Susan Trower

  • Emailed document must arrive by 3:30 PM on 6/01/2018
  • Worth 100 points towards Spring Semester EE grade
  • Late paper = 0 points
  • Options:
    • 5 pages of 'Body' of paper, based on the essay outline presented to EE Supervisors and the Class of 2020 on May 1, OR
    • 5 pages of writing total, comprised of paragraphs analyzing the information from at least 5 of the primary and/or secondary sources to be used for the paper.  For this approach, Eric Bright's worksheets for analysis of historical primary and secondary sources can be used to help with deciding how to structure the writing.

June 4 - 7, 2018     Meet with Supervisor to discuss:

  • Quality of preliminary writing submitted on June 1
  • EE assessment criteria (Students would benefit from reading Chapter 7. Assessment [maximizing marks], in Oxford Extended Essay Course Companion, by Kosta Lekanides, ISBN 9780198377764, before this meeting)
  • Summer plans for completing writing on the EE

June - August, 2018     Students write first draft of their Extended Essay

Summer Break

September 4, 2018

DUE: First 10 pages of draft due to Supervisor and Susan Trower

  • Emailed document must arrive by 3:30 PM on 9/4/2018
  • Worth 100 points towards Fall Semester EE grade
  • Late paper = 0 points

September 10-14, 2018


Meeting with Supervisor regarding quality of preliminary draft (no editing)

As preparation for the interim reflection session, students should have:

  1. attempted to refine a focused and appropriate research question
  2. significantly deepened their research and recorded pertinent evidence, information or data in the Researcher’s reflection space
  3. reviewed and consolidated the methodologies they are using
  4. formulated arguments based on the evidence that they have collected
  5. added to the working bibliography for their research.

September 17, 2018

DUE:   Interim reflection (150-175 words) due to Susan Trower via email

  • Emailed reflection must arrive by 3:30 PM on 9/17/2018
  • Worth 50 points towards Fall Semester EE grade
  • Late reflection = 0 points

October 22, 2018

DUE: Complete draft due to Susan Trower by 3:30 PM

  • Two (2) printed copies and an emailed digital copy required by 3:30 PM on 10/22/2018
  • Draft must conform to IB Formal Presentation Guidelines as provided to Candidate
    • Required components: Title Page, Table of Contents, Introduction, Body of Paper, Conclusion, Works Cited (NOTE: do NOT include an Abstract)
    • Required Format: Arial font, 12 point font size, double-spaced text, numbered pages, indented paragraphs, appropriate margins (1" on all sides is acceptable)
    • Acceptable file type: DOC or DOCX
  • Worth 100 points towards Fall Semester EE grade
  • Late paper = 0 points

Week of October 29 - November 2, 2018

Mandatory draft (revision) conference with supervisor

  • Scheduled by student in advance at discretion of Supervisor     
  • Set aside minimum of one hour for meeting

December 3, 2018

FINAL COPY DUE to Susan Trower by 3:30 PM

  • Emailed digital copy required by 3:30 PM on 12/3/2018
  • Final copy must conform to IB Formal Presentation Guidelines as provided to Candidate (see note above)
  • Worth 100 points towards Fall Semester EE grade
  • Late paper = 0 points

December 3-7, 2018


Final session with supervisor, scheduled by student in advance at discretion of Supervisor

Students should bring the following to this session:

  • extracts from their Researcher's Reflection Space (RRS) that illustrate how they have grown as learners through the process of reflection
  • a willingness to share their personal experience and to discuss the skills and development of conceptual understandings that they have acquired through the completion of the extended essay.

December 10, 2018

DUE:   Final reflection (150-175 words) due to Susan Trower via email

  • Emailed reflection must arrive by 3:30 PM on 12/10/2018
  • Worth 50 points towards Fall Semester EE grade
  • Late reflection = 0 points

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