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IB Extended Essay

How to Write an Extended Essay Proposal

The first ‘official’ step in the Extended Essay process is often writing a proposal. This can seem intimidating at first, but it’s a really helpful thing to write. It’s a great way to get an overview of the steps along the EE journey and it helps you get started - which can be one of the hardest parts! 

In your proposal you lay out your idea, your timeline for working on it, and what you will need to conduct the research. Here we’ll take you through how to write an Extended Essay proposal by looking at each of these parts.

The Idea

Coming up with an idea is often the hardest part! The key to this is setting aside specific chunks of time to deep dive into topics you find interesting. It’s highly unlikely that an idea will randomly pop into your head otherwise. 

In these scheduled chunks, spend time looking at newspaper and journal articles, TED talks, documentaries etc. The recommended section with related articles is a great place to find the next thing that you want to look at. It’s like the YouTube recommended videos, except falling into a hole on these is actually helpful for your research!

For more tips on finding your topic, check out our previous blog post about it here

The Question

Most schools will ask you to give your research question in your proposal. Don’t worry - this can normally be altered later on as long as it’s not a complete topic change! 

The key thing to remember when developing your research question is that it needs to be open-ended enough to allow you to fully investigate your topic. You shouldn’t go into your research with an answer to your question already in mind, and so your question shouldn’t direct you to any one outcome. 

For more specific help with writing your question, take a look at this blog post.

The Timeline 

A key use of the proposal is to help your teachers determine if your Extended Essay topic is viable. One of the main ways that they assess this is through the timeline that you suggest. The IB say that your EE should take 40 hours to complete. While this may seem like a lot at the moment, once you get started you’ll realise it’s actually not much time! It’s important that any project you embark on isn’t going to take longer than this. We all know how busy the IB is!

An easy way to create a timeline is to use the different stages of writing the essay. For example, you will need to do research, analyse your date, plan the essay, write the first draft, edit it, and then produce a final draft. Some of these stages (like conducting your research and analysing data) are likely to take longer than others. 

It’s also important to consider the other deadlines you have during the time when you’re working on your EE. For example, if you have exams at the end of the school year it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to do all of your EE research at the same time as revising for them. 

Here’s an example of a timeline: 

  • Initial background research - early April
  • Conduct main research - late April to end of May
  • Data analysis - July 
  • Plan structure of essay - August
  • Write first draft - first 2 weeks of September 
  • Revise draft - last 2 weeks of September
  • Final draft hand in - first week of October

Notice how I’ve not planned anything for June - this gives time to revise for end of year exams and to take a proper break at the start of the summer! 

Resources Needed

Schools often use the proposals to get an idea of the support that you will need throughout the EE process. It’s important to make sure you lay out any resources you will need. This might be specific chemicals or space in a lab if you’re doing a Chemistry project. For a Geography project, this might be a specific piece of mapping software like ArcGIS. 

Thinking through what you will need is also a helpful starting point for you. It will hopefully help you get started with your research as quickly and smoothly as possible! 

Throughout writing your proposal, it’s important to remember that the aim isn’t to answer your research question! This document is about planning your project and is really designed to help you make sure it’s feasible. 

If you’re having trouble with your Extended Essay proposal, we are here to help! Check out the “IB Extended Essay” category on the blog or take a look at the online private tuition that we offer here.

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