Topic, subject, question and title

All Extended Essays must have four things: a topic, a subject, a research question (RQ) and a title. It is recommended to think about them in that order (though may people reverse topic and subject). The IB site has many examples of these per subject. Here is an example from physics. 



When thinking about your Extended Essay, start with a topic that interests you. After all, you're going to spend months on the topic. Topics should be inspired from real-world problems or interesting primary sources, such as works of art or literature. You may be following an interesting topic in the news. You may have covered a topic in class that captured your interest. Your topic may or may not fit neatly into an IBDP subject. It may fall under two subjects! If it does not fit into an IBDP subject at all, you may have to find a new topic. 


Extended Essays are registered by subject, as they are marked by a subject-specific examiner. Your subject must be taken from the list of Diploma Programme subjects on offer (see list below). Your essay does not have to be in one of the six subjects you are studying for the diploma at school. However, you may penalise yourself if your essay is not in a subject you are studying, because you lack background knowledge in this subject area. If you are not taking Psychology, it is not recommended that you write your essay in this subject. Language and Literature students, however, may easily submit an essay in Literature and Performance, if they are exploring a play. It is best to work with a supervisor who teaches the subject. He or she can also help you 'fit' your topic into the subject. Be sure to write your subject on the cover page of your essay. If you are writing an essay in Groups 1 or 2 (Studies in Language and Literature and Language Acquisition), be sure to include the category on the cover page as well. 

  • Studies in Languge and Literature (Group 1)*: Afrikaans, Albanian, Amharic, Arabic, Belarusian, Bengali, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English Estonian, Filipino, Finnish, French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Malay, Modern Greek, Nepali, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Sesotho, Sinhalese, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, Swahili, SiSwati, Swedish, Thai,Turkish Ukrainian, Urdu, Vietnamese, Welsh
  • Language Acquisition (Group 2)*: Arabic, Chinese – Cantonese or Mandarin, Classical Greek, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Malay, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Tamil
  • Biology
  • Business management
  • Chemistry
  • Computer science
  • Dance
  • Design technology
  • Economics
  • Environmental systems and societies**
  • Film
  • Geography
  • Global politics
  • History
  • Information technology in a global society
  • Literature and performance**
  • Mathematics
  • Music
  • Philosophy
  • Physics
  • Psychology
  • Social and cultural anthropology
  • Sports, exercise and health science
  • Theatre
  • Visual arts
  • World religions
  • World studies**

* For Groups 1 and 2, candidates must select a 'category'. There are 3 categories to choose from. See the page on Goups 1-2 Cat 1-3
**There are 3 kinds of interdisciplinary essays: ESS, Literature and Performance and World Studies. World Studies is not an IBDP subject, but a kind of Extended Essay. See the World Studies page for more information

Research question

Writing a good research question (RQ) is an art form, which is why this Support Site dedicates several pages to the art of writing a good RQ. In brief, the RQ is your line of inquiry or your thin red line which runs through everything you research and argue. What's more, it offers 'scope'. Most students start with a research question that is too broad, such as 'How has advertising evolved?' and narrow it down to something more focused, such as 'How do the Heinz Ketchup ads from the 1960s in the US reflect a backlash to cultural conservatism from the 1950s?' The process of narrowing the RQ takes time. You may change your RQ several times while researching and even writing your EE. That's OK. Make your learning curve visible on your RPPF. Include your research question on the cover page of your essay. 


Every Extended Essay, regardless of the subject, must have a title. Your title does not have to be elaborate or overly sophisticated. It should include many of the same words from the research question and topic. Be sure to include your title on your cover page.   


Under which Area of Knowledge (AOK) does your essay's subject fall? Consider the 'knowledge framework' from this AOK. How is knowledge traditionally acquired in this subject? What is the history of this subject? Talk to your TOK teacher about your EE as well!


Are you thinking of making a stratigic subject choice for your EE? You're not the first. Google 'IB Statistical Bulletin' to find the latest report. You will see which subjects tend to award higher and lower marks. Are you going to choose your subject based on your interests? Good! You're more likely to maintain focus on this project.

Learner profile

An IB learner is knowledgeable, and 'knowledge' is part of Criterion B. But do not be fooled. The EE is not about how much you know. It's about what you do with what you know. When writing your EE focus more on 'thinker', 'inquirer and 'communicator'.

Last modified: Tuesday, 2 April 2024, 10:13 AM