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IB Extended Essay Solved: Everything You Need to Know about Topic Selection, Research and Writing

4000 words.

At first, this may sound impossible. But I promise, once you start writing, you’ll quickly realise that you are going to truly struggle to keep everything within the word count.

On my first draft, I hit 7000 words before I had even reached my second chapter. I paused, questioned whether life was still worth living, and then began to rethink the scope of my essay. Across the entire process, I wrote 10,000-15,000 words just to get to my final draft of 4,000 words.

So today, we’re going to cover everything you need to know from selecting a topic, structuring the essay and perfecting your final draft.

Topic Selection

There are three important considerations to balance when selecting your research topic:

1.  Personal Interest

You will spend hours working on your extended essay – these will be far more enjoyable if you are researching an area of interest. Start by picking a subject area to write in – some common disciplines include English, Business, Sport Science, Psychology and World Studies. It is best to choose a subject that you are both interested in and skilled at.

From there, try and think of ways to combine your personal interests with the topics you have learned in class.

Are you a gym rat? Write a Sport Science EE on optimising muscular hypertrophy and find out how to maximise your gains.

Do you love rap music? Write an English EE on the influence of your favourite artist on their genre and get the opportunity to take a deep dive into their music.

Are you a shopaholic? Write a Business EE on your favourite store and figure out how they keep you hooked!

2.  Viability

After you have a list of potential topics based on your interest, it’s time to get real. Some questions to ask yourself are:

·    Is there enough peer-reviewed research on your topic?

·    Can you understand the research well enough to write about it in your own words?

·    Will you be able to incorporate content from your chosen discipline?

·    Is this essay likely to allow you to demonstrate enough knowledge to score top marks?

This should help narrow down your list to a final topic.


3.  Scope

The last step is to narrow the scope of your topic. You won’t truly know until you start writing but try to start with a manageable scope so you can focus on your topic in sufficient detail. Below are some examples of topics which may be too broad and how they can be narrowed:

Too Broad

Specific and Focused

Maximising muscular hypertrophy in resistance training

The effect of free-weight compared to machine-based training on upper-body muscular hypertrophy in elite athletes

Creative marketing by Starbucks

The impact of Starbuck’s creative developments in their marketing mix on net profit from 2012-2022

Totalitarianism in Dystopian Fiction in 1984 and The Hunger Games

Comparing classic and contemporary dystopian fiction through 1984 and The Hunger Games to reveal the changing nature of totalitarianism

Research and Writing Process

So you’ve got your topic…what now?

The first step is to plan out a structure. While this will differ between essays, they will all have an Introduction, Body (often with multiple chapters/sections) and a Conclusion.

The internal structure should all be built around answering your RQ. This will require you to find reliable, peer-reviewed research, and figure out how it contributes to your argument.

Your role is similar to that of a lawyer; you have to find all the evidence, piece it all together and present it in a way that is easily digestible and supports your argument.

Some of the best steps to approach this process are:

1.  Find out everything you can and save your sources: Skim websites, articles, videos and just about anything you can get your hands on to learn about the issues surrounding your topic.

2.  Use the Chaining Strategy: If you find a great source on your topic, take a look at the other articles which they have referenced – Chances are that they will also have information that is useful to your essay.

3.  Start Writing: Procrasti-research is a real issue – So many times, students will tell me that they have found 30 or 40 sources on their essay but don’t yet have a word on the page. Take the leap and start writing your essay; it may not be perfect on the first go, but by establishing the foundations of your arguments, even with simple or poor language, you will be able to build the framework for your essay which can be polished later.

4.  Refine Your Essay: On your first read through, you may find that you are changing almost every sentence (that’s perfectly normal!) but keep rereading and refining it. Each time you read through the essay, you should have two goals – to improve the way you are expressing your ideas and to express them in a more concise manner so you can fit more into the essay. You may even ask a friend, parent or your tutor to read over it with you to get some feedback, looking also at the marking criteria.


And that’s it! From here, you should be well-equipped to get going on your Extended Essay. However, if you are looking for some more personal assistance with your IB Extended Essay, reach out to us and we can work with you to ensure you select the right topic, with the right research and the best structure to help you succeed!

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