Interdisciplinary essays

There are three kinds of interdisciplinary essays that you can write and submit: World studies, Literature and Performance and Environmental Systems and Societies. Click on the links below to reveal more information, model research questions and tips for each kind of interdisciplinary essay. 

Essays on literature and performance should offer a critical analysis of an adaption or performance of a written text. 'Written texts' may include novels, poems, stories, essays, articles or play scripts (to name a few). 'Performances' may include film, theatrical performances, televised series, or even computer games. It is recommended that literature and performance essays explore the contexts in which written works are conceived and performances are received. It is also recommended that you explore the author's purpose in commenting on a particular topic or theme. 

Model research questions for Literature and Performance:

  • To what extent does John Boorman's feature film, In My Country, explore Antje Krog's depiction of reconciliation in post-Apartheid South Africa from her memoir, Country of My Skull?
  • To what degree has Jonathan Saffron Foer's use of diction in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close successfully been adapted for film by Stephen Daldry, so as to express the thoughts and feeling of the main character, Oskar?


  • Are you a Language and Literature student or Literature student? It's OK for you to write a Literature and Performance essay, even if you are not taking this course.
  • Every good Literature and Performance essay seems to ask: 'How is the author's intention in Text X realised through Performance Y using Technique Z?'

Essays on ESS explore the effect of human societies on the natural world. For this type of essay, it is not enough to describe environmental problems and phenomena. Rather, you are expected to critically analyse and evaluate the relationship between nature and humans by exploring case studies or conducting experiments.

Model research questions for ESS:

  • To what degree has the reintroduction of wolves in Colorado been successful for both its economy and ecosystems?
  • To what extent could a golf course be built on the island of Crete to benefit its fauna and flora?
  • To what degree does the silvopastoral system in Southern Colombia, as implemented by NestlĂ©, promote sustainable development?


  • Notice that each sample question focuses on a place or region. 
  • Most ESS essays explore the notion of sustainability.
  • Many ESS essays explore biology and geography as disciplines for acquiring knowledge.
  • Good ESS questions are evaluative and not descriptive.

A world studies extended essays (WSEE) is based on two or more IBDP subjects and explores a local manifestation of a global issue. Like all essays, WSEEs are expected to be analytical and critical rather than descriptive and reductive. A WSEE must be registered under one of the following areas of study:

  • conflict, peace and security
  • culture, language and identity
  • environmental and/or economic sustainability
  • equality and inequality
  • health and development
  • science, technology and society. 

While the WSEE is often used as as way to circumnavigate the 5-year rule for economics and the 10-year rule for History, be careful when applying concepts from history to events that are younger than 10 years old or exploring Economics and phenomena that are older than 5 years old. If you are not taking Global Politics as a subject, be careful when using it as a WSEE subject.

Sample research questions: 

  1. How has the arrival of 200 Syrian refugees in Zaandam impacted the local economy, and what lessons could other countries learn from this developing situation?
    • IBDP Subjects: Economics, Global Politics
    • WSEE subject area: conflict, pease and security

  2. Why has there never been a 'Kurdistan' and could it ever become a possibility? 
    • IBDP Subjects: History, Global Politics
    • WSEE subject area: conflict, pease and security

  3. Is there a causal relationship between chlorophyll-a concentrations and Acanthaster planci densities in populated areas of Australia? 
    • IBDP Subjects: ESS, Biology
    • WSEE: environmental and/or economic sustainability

  4. To what degree is The Quiet American an accurate representation of America's involvement in Indochina?  
    • IBDP Subjects: Literature, History
    • WSEE: Culture, language and identity


  • Notice that good WSEE research questions have a 'local' and 'global' element.
  • Notice that question 3 could be submitted as an ESS essay as well. 
  • Group 3 subjects are popular as WSEEs subjects. Many involve Global Politics, a subject that few students actually take.


One of the IB's Approaches to Teaching is 'informed by assessment'. Before writing an interdisciplinary essay, it is recommended that you study several model essays. These can be found on the Programme Resource Centre (PRC) for the EE.

Last modified: Tuesday, 9 June 2020, 8:40 AM