Extended Essay
Constructing an Argument

What is an Academic Argument?

Your extended essay is an exercise in developing and defending ideas. Although the heart of your essay is the single idea that you want to explore or defend, most of your paper will be devoted to the reasons why your reader should believe that your research question is valid. This analysis and explanation of your claim is called an academic argument.

Before writing your essay it is essential that you plan the structure of your academic argument.

In effect, the argument of your essay is an answer to the question:

  • Why is the central idea or research question of this essay valid or plausible?
  • Thus, it is helpful to view your essay as an answer to a question or a solution to a puzzle (the thesis) followed by an explanation of why that answer or solution is a good one (the argument).
  • An academic paper has to consist largely of giving reasons for what you are saying.


Constructing an Argument

Your preliminary reading and literature review should provide you with a general sense of a potential argument. At this stage you need to express as precisely as you can what your argument is. It is useful to identify four main points to explore that will support your argument. You should also think about and categorize the evidence that will be useful to support each main point in your argument.


As you continue researching, the reading material and primary sources that you analyze will help you to decide if your argument is on the right track. Your sources may suggest new arguments or help you to refine your original one. 

Evidence and Analysis

Central to a successful Extended Essay is the effective use of reliable and valid evidence to support your argument. The main steps involved in this process are:


  1. Locating suitable sources
  2. Organizing research information and suitable evidence
  3. Evaluating the value and limitations of both methodology and sources



One of the most important aspects of your EE is evidence. All points raised in your argument need to be supported by valid and reliable evidence. Academic papers do not include opinion or conjecture.

Evidence could take the shape of:

  • Quotes from secondary sources
  • Examples from real life situations (news, articles, events)
  • Examples and/or events from personal experience (the knowers perspective)
  • Facts and data – such as statistical information and measurements (Quantitative)
  • Illustrations and diagrams – both primary and secondary in nature


It is essential for EE’s in all subject areas to evaluate the resources and methodology used in response to the research question. This means that you need to give consideration to the value and/or limitations of the selected research material. It is perfectly permissible for the evaluation of the sources or methods used to be negative or contradictory in nature. Similarly, it is quite permissible to find a negative conclusion to your research question. The point being, that you acknowledge any limitations that may occur

For example, if I chose to conduct a survey to ascertain whether student learning was enhanced by the use of a specific learning app, I should consider mentioning in my evaluation something along the lines of:

The survey results clearly indicate that student learning has indeed benefited from the use of App X, however, it is acknowledged that the survey’s pre-coded and closed question structure did not fully allow for qualitative statements to emerge that could be used to ascertain the specific degree to which learning was improved.

What this evaluation does is showcase my understanding of the issues associated with my chosen research approach while still enabling me to use the data/findings for the purpose of my analysis.

Click on the Values and Limitations tabs to identify those relevant to your sources of information and methodology.


Insert table from page 48.

What makes a resource valuable (or useful?)

  • Its degree of objectivity – how factual it is in its degree of structure or approach
  • It provides insights into thoughts and behaviours
  • Reveals weaknesses (for example of a method, approach or historical figure
  • Provides accurate statistics or figures
  • Relies on a variety of other sources
  • Contains quotes from key figures
  • Written during the period in question
  • First hand account of a party official or politician who had access to relevant information
  • Was not written under a censorship regime
  • Covers a wide period placing events in a wider context
  • Offers insights into views and opinions
  • Suggests motives for public actions and opinions
  • Indicates effects of an event or era on an individual
  • May indicate how an author (in the case of memoirs) wishes to be seen in public
  • May offer an experts view
  • May offer insight into emotional responses
  • May suggest correlations between indicators (for example unemployment and voting patters
  • Can give a sense of a scene (images)
  • Adheres to agreed methodological standards
  •  Considers variables or anomalies
  • Was peer reviewed or validated by multiple external agents
  • Is free of bias
  • Produced a wide array of qualitative statements
  • Contained closed or open questions
  • Could be applied to a multitude of cultures
  • Results in the source were standardized
  • Results were gathered insitu and carry ecological value

What problems or weaknesses does the source indicate?

  • It contains bias (important to identify the nature of the bias and comment on its implications
  • Purpose of source is to sway opinion
  • It’s degree of subjectivity
  • Contains hyperbole (exaggeration)
  • Not written in the time in question (age of source is important in terms of new information, translation etc)
  • Not written in place where events took place so access to information could be limited
  • Lack of peer review
  • Proximity of author to figure in question
  • Political interference may mean author was not willing to express true sentiments
  • Non-specialist (for example, economist writing about Politics
  • Intention: Was it created for a specific audience?
  • Is it a hagiographical (saintly) account of a key figure?
  • Could be a dissenting voice – thus offering an alternative interpretation
  • Can’t see beyond the lens or perspective intended by image maker
  • May wish to highlight strengths of his/her actions
  • Offers only a partial understanding of topic
  • Approach followed may be limited in scope
  • Based on leading questions
  • Omitted variables or anomalies
  • Produced a wide array of qualitative statements
  • Contained closed or open questions
  • Is ethnocentric and can’t be used to generalize across cultures
  • Results lack sufficient standardization
  • Results obtained in lab and thus lacks ecological value

Argument Structure

Why do you Believe your Thesis?

One way to think about how to develop an argument is to remember what made you believe or consider your research question in the first place. Since you thought it was a sufficiently reasonable or interesting claim to consider, you probably had a reason for thinking so. If that reason was compelling enough for you, it might also be compelling enough for your reader.

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