What is the Extended Essay?

If you’re in your first year of the Diploma Programme, chances are you’re starting to hear a lot more about the Extended Essay from your teachers. This project is a quintessential part of the IB and many students find it intimidating at first! Here we’ll give you an overview of what the Extended Essay is and what the process of completing it looks like. By the end of the post we hope that starting the EE journey will feel a bit easier. 

What is the Extended Essay?

The EE is all about giving you the opportunity to dive deeper into something that you find fascinating! Maybe you’ve always wanted to know more about how climate change is impacting your local area or how the language used to describe different football players varies. Whatever is it you’re interested in, you can use the EE as a way of learning more about it!

Very generally, the EE is a 4,000 word essay. That may seem like a lot of words, but once you start writing it you’ll find it goes by quickly! 

For languages and humanities (like English Literature and History), it is structured very similarly to a regular essay. Instead of having one paragraph per idea, you’ll have a section per idea. 

The sciences and a few humanities subjects (like Geography) are structured in the same way as a lab report. You’ll most likely have an introduction, a methods section, your data analysis, and then a conclusion. 

The key takeaway here is that although you probably haven’t written something this long before, you’ve written essays that are structured in similar ways all through school!

What does the process look like?

All schools have slightly different timelines for completing the Extended Essay, but the stages are likely to be the same. You’ll start by coming up with an idea for a topic and submitting a proposal. 

A proposal normally needs to outline the topic that you want to investigate. Often schools ask students to include their research question in their proposal. They tend to also include an outline for the different steps of your research. Perhaps you need to start by finding and reading primary sources for a History EE. Or maybe you need to start by getting in the science lab and figuring out the steps for your experiments. 

Once you have your proposal submitted, it’s time to start your research! Many schools have you start towards the end of your DP1 year and then ask you to work on it over the summer. By the time you start your DP2 year, you’ll be finishing up your research and writing it!

The writing process can vary significantly in length based on the subject. For subjects like English and History the writing will probably take longer than for science subjects. Students doing science subjects often spend longer on their data analysis.

Most schools want you to have finished your EE by about October so that you have plenty of time to work on university applications and IAs. 

However, it’s important to remember that everyone’s Extended Essay process will be a bit different! Everyone’s projects are unique, which is part of what makes the EE so exciting. 

Check out our other articles on the EE here for more detailed information. If you find yourself in need of extra support for the EE, check out our online private tuition here. 

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