The Extended Essay might seem like a chore or something you will put to the back of your mind over summer. But, it will very easily pile on top of you, one thing you really do not want.
One of OSC’s experienced IB teachers and Extended Essay examiner, Tim Williams, has given his view on how to ‘deal with the curse of the Extended Essay’ and how to get ahead this summer.
Over to Tim…
Long warm days…hammocks…the beach…warm nights…and…the damn Extended Essay…
Right. Right. Maybe it will just go away? Maybe the God Fairy will…? The school might evaporate? Pigs might fly?
When you add the EE to the possibility of looking at the labs, ToK, commentaries, coursework, orals, and presentations that come after the holiday, you have a stack of work ahead.
Ok, do not panic…here are a few things you can actually DO, instead of worrying and putting it all off. All in easy steps – you can’t think too much in summer.
1. Easy Housekeeping job
Get the bibliography up to date, and in the right format. This is something your school would have told you how to do. Maybe you’ve done it?
2. Interesting and useful
Meet people who can help with the research. Write 20 polite notes to contacts of your parents, their friends, your teachers, researchers, local universities, libraries, website owners… Even meet a couple of them, ask prepared intelligent questions. These become Primary Sources and guess what..examiners like them.
3. Small but vital
Check your research question. Try writing an answer in two sentences. Can you? Do you have what you need as evidence to prove those two sentences? Check it with your granny – does she understand the question and the answer?
4. Painful but labour saving
Try writing a plan (NOT a draft). Once you have the shape of the whole EE in your head, all the work you do just slides into place instead of needing constant re-arranging, storing, sorting, thinking about what matters…
5. Really easy 10 minute job
Re-read the Criteria and the notes with them. They tell you how to get the best marks for the essay.
6. Procrastinating but useful job
Break the EE down into manageable stages. Depending on how you’ve worked, and what you’re doing, but once you’ve done the research and got the information, it might well break down into these jobs (and possibly even in this order..)
- Write the conclusion. Yes. Because it’s only a draft. And now you’ll see what the rest of the essay is having to prove. Get someone to ask hard questions about it – what do you need to prove and explain ?
- Write the introduction. Yes. Because you should now know all this – why the topic is interesting, what you mean by your question. Easy start.
- Plan the body of the essay. Step by step. Because it’s a hell of a lot easier to write if you know how each paragraph is intended to lead to your conclusion. Try explaining it to your granny.
- Arghhh – write a draft? Because if you can give a draft to your friend they can use the Criteria and mark it almost as accurately as an examiner. So they can tell you pretty exactly what you need to do now.
- Write the Abstract.
- Do all those things it talks about in ’Presentation’.
- Remember 18 of the 36 marks are for things your 12 year old sister could do. Do them!
You can do a few of these before the summer holidays start, and then work out exactly when you’ll do the others. To help with the planning, download the OSC Calendar. Then you can relax, enjoy summer and try that hammock.
Tim Williams began IB teaching more than 30 years ago as Head of Languages at International College Spain in Madrid, and has since taught English, TOK, Psychology and other subjects in diverse roles around the world. His broad-ranging experience as teacher, administrator, department head, senior examiner, examiner trainer, and workshop leader, positions him perfectly to provide real-world advice to IB students.
The assessment criteria for the extended essay are both general to all subjects and specific to each subject. The criteria given below are the specific to the Language A: Language and Literature course. These are summaries of the actual criteria, which can be found in the Extended Essay guide on the Online Curriculum Centre.
Criterion A - Focus and method - 6 marks
Topic and research question: The research question should guide the extended essay and give it a strong sense of focus. The focus of the question should include the texts, either literary or non-literary. The research question must be clearly stated on the title pages, along with the name of the course (English A: Language and Literature) and the category (1-3) on which the question is based (see requirements for more information on the three categories). Avoid closed and leading questions. These are questions that are quickly answered and imply bias towards a particular answer. fd
Methodology: Students should undertake an analysis of the text(s) as it pertains to the research question. This includes an introduction explaining the question and why it is worthy of investigation. The introduction should be focused around the research question which must be stated as a question. Background information and a contextual understanding of the text(s) should be offered in the introduction. For categories 1 and 2, there should be a succinct reference to the history of the text(s) and the author(s). For category 3, a connection should be made between culture, context and the target language.
The methodology also includes a relevant conclusion that directly ties to the research question. In between the introduction and conclusion, students should be focusing on analyzing the primary text(s) and using secondary resources to support their claims.
Criterion B - Knowledge and understanding - 6 marks
Source materials and terminology: Students should very carefully select their primary and secondary source material. It should be pertinent and appropriate to the research question. Students will need to make sure to integrate their secondary source material seamlessly with their primary text(s). Correct use and understanding of literary and linguistic terminology is essential.
Students must also demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the text(s) (primary sources). There must be evidence that the student is engaged with the primary source(s). For category 3, both the production (context of composition) and reception (context of interpretation) of the text must be carefully considered with regards to culture.
Criterion C - Critical thinking - 12 marks
Research, analysis, and evaluation: For all three categories, students are expected to investigate the research question in light of the texts chosen. This investigation consists primarily of the student's own interpretations and criticism of the text, supported secondarily by secondary sources offered by critics. Students must develop a unique argument in answering the research question, illustrated by examples from the primary sources. A critical view of secondary sources is encouraged.
Students must support their personal interpretation of texts with strong textual analytical skills. Interpretations must not be the retelling of a critic's ideas from a secondary source.
The essay needs to go somewhere. It must not be a summary of a plot or textual features. Rather the development of a thesis with multiple, well-founded arguments must be included.
Criterion D - Presentation - 4 marks
Structure and layout: The research paper is presented with consistent referencing, quotations and formatting. The title page, bibliography or works cited, table of content, page numbering, illustrations and figures are clear and coherent.
A suggestion was made in the guide that most essays in Category 1 and 2 will be presented as a "continuous body of text." Sometimes, sections and headings will be necessary for a Category 3 extended essay, but they are not always needed.
Criterion E - Engagement - 6 marks
Process and research focus: The examiner uses the "Reflection on planning and progress form" or RPPF to determine this mark. It is the overall impression made by the examiner after reading the essay and is the opportunity for examiners to reward creativity, unique research insight and initiative. Students may score poorly on other criteria but be rewarded on criterion E.
Most importantly, students must take examiners through their learning journey, reflecting about decisions and plans while writing the essay. It is a rationale for their decisions and what they have learned because of it. Mere description of the process isn't warranted. Instead, examiners want to see the student's voice and thinking process.