Extended Essay: Choosing the Right Topic

Before we begin, let’s answer a few key questions.

What is the IB Extended Essay?

The Extended Essay (or EE) is a 4000 word piece of analysis based on a topic agreed upon with your supervisor. It can be on any of your subjects and incorporates a research question that needs to be approved by the IBO. The Extended Essay includes a cover page, abstract, table of contents, an up to 4000 word essay which will range from 10-30 pages based on your topic and subject and references.

Stuck with your Extended Essay? Take a look at the orders page for available options!

When does the Extended Essay get sent to the IB? When does it begin?

The Extended Essays get sent off at the end of March/start of April about one month before your May exams. They usually have a slow start at the beginning of your first year of DP, but start becoming serious towards the summer between DP1 and DP2.

How to choose the right topic?

Regardless of what subject you do your extended essay in (the list includes - English, Second Language, History, Global Politics, Geography, Economics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Computer Science, or many others) you will need to select a good topic. While there is no ‘secret formula’ to finding the right topic, there are a number of steps that ensure success choice.

  1. Speak with your potential supervisors early on - around September to December of DP1. You might be unsure on which one of your subjects to do it on. The first piece of advice is to do it on one of your HL subjects, as you will be most familiar with these subjects.
  2. The second step is to brainstorm possible ideas - see our IA blog for potential titles. List a 3 broad areas for each subject that you may be interested. For example, if you’re thinking of doing your Extended Essay in Physics, you may consider Projectile Motion, Thermal Physics and Pendulums as your 3 broad areas
  3. Discuss these 3 broad areas with your teacher, and find a narrower area for each of them. As an example, for Physics, for projectile motion, you could look at modeling projectile motion with air resistance, or for thermal physics you could look pendulums you could look at modeling a specific type of pendulum such as a bifilar pendulum.
  4. Once you have a narrow area, you can choose the sub-area with the most potential and which interests you most. Ways to evaluate potential is to search for your topic on Google Scholar, if there are a lot of papers you know that there is further potential to your topic.
  5. Once you have chosen the area and sub-area, you need to decide on a research question (RQ). Ways to do this is to rephrase your sub-area as a question or choose an even narrower field with your sub-area as your title

When should I start?

As said, the Extended Essay gets announced at the start of DP1. The best time to start immediately, as supervisors will be more willing to help at the beginning. It will also give you spare time to make adjustments and corrections to your RQ.

Still stuck with your EE? Take a look at the orders page for available options!