When it comes to writing an essay there is no one approach that all students should follow in terms of both style and structure. This is even more the case when considering the myriad of subjects one can write an Extended Essay in, each with its own agreed upon approaches. For example, an essay in a natural science may benefit from more subheadings or chapters while a literature essay may be suited to a free flowing approach.
Having said that, however, when writing a formal essay a minimum expectation exists that generally adheres to the following core model:
For the purposes of the Extended Essay, there are slightly different expectations to those that students are generally accustomed to when writing these three sections. The following sections will help students navigate these expectations while also providing some exemplar models that can be used to help structure their work.
Planning your essay is an essential step towards writing a successful EE. It will enable you to
- Structure the essay according to EE criteria
- Ensure a clear and reasoned argument
- Identify gaps in supporting evidence
- Identify possible further lines of inquiry
A detailed Essay plan also allows for much smoother drafting and editing stages.
A 4000 word essay is quite substantial and to ensure that you meet all the requirements a word count/allocation is a good way to begin.
All subject area essays will naturally differ in their requirements. However, the following suggested structure is a very good guide. The structure below is based on 200 word paragraphs.
Introduction – 800 words
- Must include the RQ in bold – preferably in the first paragraph
- Context: What key aspects can you discuss to ensure you’ve provided some academic context underpinning your research question?
- For locally based investigations ensure you clearly identify and locate the local context
- Outline of argument: What features, aspects, factors, theories and so forth will your essay utilize in order to arrive at a conclusion?
- Give an overview of methodology and scope – how do you plan to answer the question? What authors, scientists, case studies, theories and so on have been consulted to answer your research question?
- What is the significance of your research? Why is this topic worthy of consideration?
Body – 2400 words
The EE is focused on presenting an argument and the body of the essay needs to clearly build this argument arc.
- Divide the essay body into four sections of approximately 600 words
- Each section focuses on one main point with supporting information
- Each section includes approximately three paragraphs
- In the essay plan clearly identify your intended supporting information/ideas/evidence in point form
- Ensure that you use the strongest points in the argument first and last with the weaker points in the middle
- Ensure that your argument is not descriptive – it must be analytical
Conclusion – 600 words
- Paragraph one: Answer the Research Question! Clearly tie all the main points of your argument together to address the exact wording of your RQ
- Paragraph two: Include an implicit link to TOK. Once you have become very familiar with your investigation you will find it easy to identify the knowledge questions that arise
- Paragraph three: Any construction of new knowledge – which is what your investigation has achieved! – leads to further questions to be answered in future investigations. Suggest future lines of inquiry
Those mathematicians amongst you will notice that the above structure is 3800 words. This gives you an extra 200 words to include wherever you feel may be necessary.
To address all the criteria you must stick to the word limit as closely as possible! Do not exceed the word limit at all – this is a very easy way to lose marks.
Writing the Introduction
An introduction for an Extended Essay requires students to include the following aspects:
Aside from giving the essay a structural outline that any reader can follow, these aspects also help ensure that expectations for Criterion A (Focus and Method) are met.
Context: Explicitly stating your research question and providing some context that situated your question within existing knowledge is the key to a strong introduction. This does not mean providing detailed background information but rather indicating to an examiner what existing theories, critical approaches , methods or factors have already been suggested or exist to answer your research question.
Outline of the argument: Including the research question in your introduction is a quick way of ensuring you've made clear what you will be focusing on. In addition to this, it allows you to specify which aspects, factors or key features you will be investigating that will help you answer your overall question. Doing this in the order they appear in the main body is advised.
Scope: It is vital that you indicate in your introduction how you've gone about answering your research question. This means indicating to the examiner what source material has been used, or scientific methodologies followed or critical interpretations challenged and so on.
Stating that your essay utilised websites, books and journals is not as good as indicating exactly which authors, theories or methods have been used.
Worthiness: Finally, it is important, to indicate why your research question is worthy of investigation. Using the phrase "this research question is worthy of investigation because..." forces you to consider worthiness by default.