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What is the EE?

The IB Extended Essay (EE) is a 4000-word essay that gives you the chance to explore interesting topics relating to one of your DP subjects. It’s like a mini-thesis.

Tips on Getting Started

1. Pick a subject and topic:

Perhaps you have enjoyed your literature classes the most: that could be your subject. What themes did you find intriguing? You might have enjoyed Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and may choose to compare the play with Endgame. It’s important to spend some time picking your subject and topic because your essay must insightfully answer a research question.

2. Design a research question:

Start with a broad topic and brainstorm limiting factors, which are questions you can ask yourself to narrow your focus. The research question should eventually be fairly specific, such that a short 4000 word essay would be able to answer it with some depth.

For example, you can start with ‘the portrayal of women in 19th century novels’ (a broad topic). Asking yourself, ‘Which novelist specifically am I interested in? would limit your scope, and you can come up with better scope: ‘Portrayal of women in the novels of Jane Austen’ (a more focused topic). The next limiting factor would give you a refined title. Now ask ‘which novels?’ Keep going with this process till you have narrowed yourself down to an appropriately specific research question. This same process can be applied to the study of any subject of your choice.

Below is a table to give you an example of the process:


Below you will find some common question starter you can use to generate your working title:

  • In what ways…
  • To what extent….
  • What are the impacts of….
  • What is the influence of ….

3. Finding sources:

Find suitable sources as soon as you have your working title. Find at least 5- 7 reliable sources that relate to your title.

4. Changing your research question, subject, or topic:

It is fine to change the above, but give yourself a deadline, after which you cannot allow yourself to change the subject and topic. Adjustment to the research question is permissible as you might reconsider it while conducting your research. However, having a deadline to refine your research question would also ensure that you’re on the right track. This also means you should start more ahead of time that you originally planned so that you have time and space to get comfortable and make some mistakes.

Tips on Organizing your Sources

1. Distinguish between primary and secondary sources. For example, in Literature, novels, poems, and anthologies are considered primary sources while secondary sources comprise articles or literary reviews related to your topic.

2. Visit a library.

3. Structure your reading to avoid re-reading:


  • Type — Book? Journal?

  • What's it about?

  • Themes? Historical info?

  • What have you extracted?

  • Are there relevant paragraphs?

You can also organize the reading using mind maps, interconnected block lists, progression charts, and branches.

4. Research is important because an EE that is based on mere opinions will not score highly.

Tips on Writing the Essay

A formal essay follows the model below:

IB EE Essay Format

1. The introduction must explicitly state your research question. Write the introduction first because it will help you write a logical and coherent essay. The introduction functions as an outline of your essay.

2. You may want to think about subsections in your essay before you start writing. This will give you a sense of how much space or how many words each section of your analysis will take. The last thing you want is an essay that requires heavy cutting, or to struggle to meet the word count close to your deadline.

3. Examiners want to see logical arguments supported by relevant evidence. You must provide evidence to support your points and discuss the relationship between them, so make reference to your primary and secondary sources.

4. Use reporting verbs such as argues, highlights, defines, reinforces, asserts, and so on rather than thinks, shows, hopes, imagines, and so on.

5. Use linking words to link ideas and provide a logical flow of ideas.

6. Read through your paragraphs, again and again, reordering paragraphs, until you have a logical order.

7. The conclusion of your essay must reiterate your key findings, summarize main points, and provide a resolution to your conclusion. DO NOT introduce new findings or information. DO NOT pass judgments or make any accusations. AVOID including personal statements.

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Author Michelle

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