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
EXTENDED ESSAY GUIDELINES
Mr. Crown's Advice Concerning Your Extended Essay
IN ORDER TO DO WELL ON THIS ASSIGNMENT YOU MUST READ THE EXTENDED ESSAY BOOKLET CAREFULLY. YOU ARE EXPECTED TO KNOW ALL OF THE IB GUIDELINES AND ASSESSMENT CRITERIA FOR YOUR ESSAY DETAILED IN THIS BOOKLET. IN PARTICULAR, EVERYONE MUST CAREFULLY READ PAGES 10-23 (GENERAL GUIDELINES AND GENERAL ASSESSMENT CRITERIA) AS WELL AS THE SUBJECT GUIDELINES AND ASSESSMENT CRITERIA FOR ESSAYS IN YOUR SPECIFIC SUBJECT AREA. FOLLOW THE BOOKLET CAREFULLY WHEN YOU WRITE YOUR ESSAY BECAUSE YOUR ADVISOR AND THE IB WILL REFER TO THE ASSESSMENT CRITERIA WHEN YOUR ESSAY IS GRADED.
Also, read and follow the guidelines below.
Title Page - Place the title ¼ of the way down from the top of the page. Remember that the title is not the same thing as your research question or topic. Think of an informative title which conveys the essence of your essay. In the bottom right corner of your paper include the following:
Extended Essay Final Draft
Advisor: Mr. or Ms.________
Word Count: ______________
Abstract - The abstract should be no more than 300 words. It must be written in 3rd person. The
abstract is a formal synopsis of your essay which explains the scope of your investigation and states the research question and conclusion. Include a word count for the abstract at the bottom of the page. The abstract comes directly after the table of contents.
Page Numbers – Page numbers must be included on each page except the title page. Use the “Insert” menu on Microsoft Word.
Table of Contents - The table of contents identifies each section of the paper (Abstract, Introduction, Body, Conclusion, Bibliography, Endnotes, Appendix, Illustrations, etc.) as well as topical subsections. Page numbers in the table of contents and the essay must match. Include section and subsection headings labeled in bold throughout the essay to guide the reader and identify the different sections of the essay.
Introduction - Introduce the topic and provide enough information about your topic in order to enable the reader to comprehend the significance of your research question. Each extended essay must have a research question. The research question is the central question you are trying to answer through your research and writing of the extended essay. This question, if properly composed, will enable you to maintain your focus on a topic of narrow and limited scope while also help you to maintain the purpose and orientation of your entire investigation. The research question must be clearly and precisely stated in the early part of your extended essay. It must be sharply focused so that it is susceptible to effective treatment within the 4000 word limit. Your extended essay will be assessed in part according to the extent to which the essay appropriately addresses and develops the specific research question. The reader will also evaluate your success in collecting information relevant to the research question. Include the research question in the introduction stated precisely and focused in such a way that it is susceptible to effective treatment within the 4000 word limit. Establish the significance of the research question and explain why it is worthy of study. You may also briefly discuss why your topic is of significance to you personally. At the end of the introduction state your thesis (or hypothesis for science). Clearly identify the research question and thesis as such. Briefly and concisely preview your body by providing a “game plan” for the rest of the paper. The game plan briefly explains how you intend to answer the research question and support the thesis, that is, how you propose to proceed in the body.
Thesis – This belongs in the introduction, preferably at the end. You must take a position, construct an argument based on evidence, and defend your thesis. The entire essay must be a response to your research question and a coherent, organized, structured, logical, critical, in-depth examination and defense of your thesis.
Body (Methods and Results for science) - The body will differ depending on your subject. However for all essays the body be evaluated based on 1) your approach to the research question, 2) your analysis and interpretation of evidence, including critical analysis and evaluation of sources, and 3) your own argument and evaluation of this argument. SEE PAGES 19-20 of the Extended Essay Booklet and the Assessment Criteria for details. You must convincingly answer the research question and argue for your thesis, presenting evidence to support your arguments. You must evaluate your sources and demonstrate an ability to think and write critically and analytically. You need to plan this section carefully so that you are able to present your arguments in an organized, structured, convincing body which is constructed upon evidence. Evidence includes historical evidence derived from primary and secondary historical sources, textual evidence from a work of literature, and scientific data and the results of experiments and research.
Conclusion - The conclusion must be clearly stated and relevant to the research question. It must also be consistent with the thesis and its explanation and development presented in the essay. Where appropriate the conclusion indicates unresolved questions and new questions that have emerged from your research. This is more than a summary. Review how you have demonstrably and convincingly supported your thesis and answered the research question. Concisely restate your key points and discuss the broader implications of the thesis. How have you satisfactorily answered the research question?
Illustrations, data, charts, graphs, etc. - If you plan to include these make sure they are labeled and listed in the table of contents, and make sure you discuss their significance and relevance in the text of the essay.
Appendix - Please note that IB readers are not required to read the appendix thoroughly, so all essential information must be in the body of your essay.
Documentation - You must include footnotes, endnotes, or parenthetical citations. You also must include a bibliography. Documentation must be completed with meticulous concern for accuracy. Use your Guide to Writing Research Papers or the online Chicago Style Guide and make sure everything is in the correct style and format. Avoid accusations of plagiarism by treating documentation with the seriousness it deserves. In the bibliography include only sources you have cited in the essay. You need at least 15 sources, five of which must be articles from scholarly journals. The bibliography must be alphabetical by the author’s last name. Literature essays need six sources and may use in-text citations. Good history essays will have 30 to 40 footnotes and 15 sources. All history essay footnotes must follow the Chicago Style Guide.
This draft must be typed double spaced in 12 pt. Font and be as close to 4000 words as possible without going over the limit. The 4000 words includes the Introduction, Body, Conclusion, and any quotations. It does not include the Abstract, Acknowledgements, Table of Contents, Illustrations, Bibliography, Footnotes, Endnotes, or Appendices. Use Times New Roman or Courier font or a similar font; nothing fancy, flashy, or difficult for the eyes. Use black ink.
The essay must look neat and not sloppy. Do not use run-on sentences and paragraphs that are too long and attempt to treat too many topics. Do not allow careless grammatical and spelling errors to lower your grade. Paragraphs must be topical, readable, and of reasonable length. The essay must be structured and organized logically with all arguments and analysis presented and developed in a systematic fashion and order. Use smooth transitions between paragraphs to link the paragraphs, arguments, and sections of your paper. Use a spelling checker and make sure several competent people proofread your essay.
Your extended essay must address each of the following questions.
What is your research question?
Why is the research question significant and worthy of study?
Why is the research question significant to you personally?
What is your thesis?
What is your game plan for the rest of the essay?
What is the background information needed in order to understand your research question and thesis?
What are the distinct elements of your thesis? How can the thesis be divided and broken down into parts?
What are the central arguments you will make to defend your thesis?
What are the topical subsections of your body? Outline each subsection of the body.
How does each subsection build upon the previous subsection and lead up to the next? How does each subsection contribute to your defense of your thesis?
What evidence will you present to support your arguments and thesis?
What are your key sources? How will you integrate the evaluation of your sources in the Body?
How will you integrate critical analysis into your Body?
How have you sufficiently answered the research question and defended your thesis?
What are the major strengths of your thesis and your analysis and defense of it in your essay?
What could you have done better in the essay? Evaluate your own work critically.
What are the new questions and unresolved questions which have arisen from your research and analysis?
Include only those sources you have cited in the essay.