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"/ had several ideas about possible

topics for my essay. After discussing

Finding an interesting topic

these with my supervisor' was able to

Deciding what to write about is a crucial step in the extended essay process. It is a

decide which one might be most likely

with your supervisor. There are many topics that for one reason or another are not

to be successful." (Sophie)

suitable and the choice that you arrive at needs to have the potential to lead to a

decision that should be taken after a period of consideration and only after consulting

successful extended essay. You are most likely to make the right choice by presenting
your ideas and considering alternatives in an open-minded and objective discussion with
your supervisor.
A number of factors can contribute to the success of an extended essay. These include
relevance, availability of resources, accessibility to treatment within the word limit and
so on. Most important is your own level of interest and enthusiasm for the topic. If you
are not interested it will be very difficult to sustain your motivation when you encounter
difficulties. You may find it hard to keep going. The best way to ensure that this does not
happen to you is to choose a topic in which you have a genuine interest. So how do you
find a topic that will fuel your enthusiasm and have the potential to keep you motivated
and engaged throughout the process?

These are just a few examples of where inspiration and interest can arise. Most of us do not
spend our days constantly thinking about the things we would like to research if we had
the time. So do not despair if none of these sources of inspiration seem to apply to you.

Becoming aware of what it is that particularly interests you may


well involve a longer process of thought and preparation. One
thing is certain: the research topic and question will not present
themselves to you "out of nowhere" and you will need to do some
searching and thinking before you decide. It is a good idea to
be open-minded and willing to consider some alternatives at this
stage. It may be a good idea to explore some of the alternatives
by considering whether they are likely to be successful and by
doing some preliminary research. This is not wasted time. On
the contrary, by taking this approach you will be better able to
address issues such as the justification for your research question
and methodology and its academic context and significance. The
decision you make at this stage is critical to the success of the
entire process and should be made after careful consideration
only.

~ ........ ...............
,

topic and a research question then you need to go through this


process. Finding a suitable topic is often a process of compromise
between your original interesting idea and what is possible based
on the information or sources of data available to you.

How can 1tell if the topic 1 am interested in is likely to be

successful?

There are actually endless possibilities for finding suitable


topics but there are a number of points to be considered
along the way and certain types of topic are more likely to
be successful than others. From the outset make sure that:

your topic falls within a recognized IB subject


a supervisor is available for this topic
you will be able to find information
safety and ethical considerations can be addressed.

It is very important that your topic falls within a recognized IB


subject and that you make the right decision in this regard. Many
students begin the extended essay with a clear idea of a topic but
with no idea about what subject it might "fit" into. If this is the
situation you find yourself in then it is a good idea to consult the
subject guidelines in the Extended essay guide for the subject you
think might be appropriate before making a final decision. If you
find that your topic does not fit easily within an IB subject then
it may need to be modified or you may need to look at entering
it in a different subject. Very often the most appropriate and
potentially successful approach is to write the essay in one of the
six diploma subjects that you have chosen to study. The reason
for this is that your level of knowledge, both of the subject matter
and the methodologies employed in the subject will most likely
already be high. Many successful essays grow from an enthusiasm
for one particular subject in the diploma which then leads to a
search for a topic and finally a research question. In addition
students often choose the subject that they intend to pursue in
higher education.

If you already know what it is you would like to investigate and


write about then you probably have already gone through a
period of thou ght and consideration in which you focused your
ideas and eli minated alternatives. If you do not already have a

12

It is rarely a good idea to write the essay in a subject that is not


taught at the school or is interdisciplinary or in a subject that you
have not studied. All of these limit your chances in undertaking
the research process; it may be difficult to find out what the
required level of knowledge is (based on the syllabus) and it
may be very difficult to find a suitably qualified supervisor at the
school. If you decide to present an essay in a subject you are
not studying for your diploma you must find a suitably qualified
supervisor and you should study the appropriate IB subject guide
before embarking on th e essay.

Establishing the research


question

Decide on

a subject in

which to write

the essay.

How can the supervisor help me?


Decide on a

The supervisor can help you to find a research question

topic within

within the topic that interests you, to narrow down a

th is su bject.

research question that is too broad or to decide whether


the kind of information you will need might be accessible.

It sometimes helps with finding a topic


if you have a look at the syllabus for the
subject. You may find ideas for possible
. . topics within the core or options part of
the syllabus. It is important to be sure
that the topic fits within the scope of the
subject.

During the process of arriving at a suitable topic (yes, it is a


process!) you need to consult with your supervisor. One of the
most important jobs of the supervisor is to help you with this.
Most supervisors are subject specialists, with expertise in one or

Explore some

a small number of subjects, so it will probably be useful if you

possible

have already some idea of the subject in which you would like to

research

submit the essay. There are a number of possible starting points

questions

for finding a suitable research question. For example, you might:

relati ng to th is

If you are not sure about this, get


advice about what subjects are available
in your school. You can only write in
nrc a particular subject if a supervisor is
available in that subject.

topic.

already know exactly what it is you would like to write about


have an idea but are not sure what subject it belongs to
would like to do something in a particular subject but are not
sure what you could do

Tell your supervisor about the process


you have gone through in arriving
at some possible research questions.
Explain your motivation and the source
of your interest. Look for advice about
the suitability of the questions you are
considering.

Discuss these
with your
supervisor.

have no idea.
The last of these is not necessarily the worst starting point. In any
case you will need to consult with your supervisor and discuss
the likely path to success from wherever it is that you are starting
out. Even if you have a clear idea of what it is you would like to
write about it is still a good idea to consider and discuss other
alternatives with your supervisor; not only will this help you to

Decide on the

focus your ideas but your supervisor will provide extra motivation.

most suitable
research
question.

_
The research question must be about a topic that interests
you, it must be possible to get your hands on the kind of
information that you need to answer it and it must be
possible to answer it within the word limit.

Give careful consideration to the advice


given by your supervisor. Weigh up
the advantages and disadvantages of
pursuing each question. It sometimes
helps at this point to do some more
preliminary research before making a
final decision. The decision is yours,
it should be a well informed decision
and should be made after considering
advice. Be sure that your chosen
research question can be answered
within the constraints (word count,
available resources, time).

A possible approach to finding a suitable research topic could


look something like this:

Be aware that you can always come up with your own

approaches.

13

-- - - - - -- - - - - -- - - -- -

Once you have identified a possible research question you need


to decide whether it can be add ressed adequately and answered
within the word limit. There are two extremes that you should try
to avoid here.
On the one hand there are what can be called "trivial" or
"superficial" extended essays where the research question can
be answered in one word or in a sentence, or simply by looking
up the relevant information in a book or other source. Examples
appear below.

History
The History of films
When an examiner sees this, their heart will sink. The student
will probably have written a "history" (an account) of how the
film industry developed and although a lot of research may
have gone into writing the essay, it will be descriptive and not
analytical. Think of it this way, what kind of conclusion could
there be to an essay with this title? Instead, the student could
have, for example, investigated Sergei Eisenstein's work in the
USSR and asked about his ideological links to the regime and
how this influenced his film-making. In this way, there could
be a link to films but also to a topic that it is historical.

English A1
A comparison of brother-to-brother relationships in

Sf Hinton's Rumble Fish and The Outsiders

This would appear to be a potentially interesting and


worthwhile topic. However, as the examiner delves into the
main body, it becomes apparent that there is a blurring of
the definition of "brotherhood": the essay discusses both
"blood brothers" (family) and gang relationships without
properly outlining the differences or relative importance of
each. More seriously, the approach to the topic barely rises
above the descriptive- and both these problems could have
been addressed by the student revisiting the title and refining
or adapting it before submitting the essay.

14

Biology
Does classical music, rock music or silence in any way
influence memory?
This is a trivial question for a number of reasons. Because of
the way it is posed it can be answered with a single word or a
short statement ("yes", "no", "perhaps"). More importantly the
question is not based on a biological theory or idea and falls
more easily within the realm of psychology. The number of
variables involved will be huge and it will be nearly impossible
to identify, let alone control, all of them. The result will be that
it will be possible to interpret whatever data are collected in
any way you like. This is trivial science.
Instead the student could identify one or two specific types
of music or better, well-defined sounds, and look at trying to
investigate their effect on a clearly biological process such as
the germination or growth of a specific plant. Even this may
well prove to be difficult.

Psychology
The number of teens in America that is considered to be
obese has tripled in the last 30 years! What has changed
in America in the past 30 years that has caused this big an
increase in the total number of teens who are obese? How
do these changes cause numerous psychological issues in
teens in America? Is there a solution to this deadly crisis?
Although some areas of interest are outlined within the title
there is not a single focused research question here but rather
a number of questions; if all questions were to be answered
the paper would exceed the word limit.

Economics
How effective has the Monetary Policy Committee been in
controlling UK inflation?
This question is essentially too superficial, and is likely to result
in a descriptive summary of secondary sources. Essentially, the
answer to the question will be either that the MPC has been
effective at controlling inflation, or it hasn't, almost like a yes/
no question. The scope of the essay is really too large, and
does not lend itself to a 4,OOO-word analysis.

The other extreme is where the research question is hopelessly

Visual arts

broad or complex and would require a much longer piece of work

The art of type

appear below.

in order to address the research question properly. Examples

There is an abstract nature to this research question. First, it


is not a clear question or hypothesis. Second, it is like a riddle
as it is unclear as to what the student is investigating. The

History

topic is along the same vein as "What is art?" where the scope
lacks a specific focus. The title does not allow for a concise
or specific exploration into typography, calligraphy or even

Why did women's rights in the United States flourish in the


1960s as a result of World War II?

graffiti. This research question requires far more refinement

This is structured as a research question but it is too

and focus. An example of a clear and defined approach may

broad. Instead of trying to link the women's movement to

have been "Is the use of typography in the calligrams of

the Second World War, the student could have chosen to

Apollinaire a valid art form?"

investigate feminist links to the civil rights movement; to the


1968 election; or what impact feminism had on advertising

Physics

and the media at this time.

How did the theory of wove-particle duality begin and


where will it toke us?

English A1

The research question seems to anticipate a description of


context rather than the development of an analytical

The Melancholy and the Macabre: does Oscar Wilde's and


Roald Dahl's work shore similarities in themes and writing
styles?

investigation of a focused area. It also seems to produce

This too broad a topic is compounded by the fact that it

information and experimentation leading to an historical

personal opinions not necessarily based on scientific data,

involves texts for both an adult and child readership, the

more appropriate to other areas than experimental science.

attempt to compare a play (The Importance of Being Earnest)

The choice of the question falls within a series of topics that

with a novella (The Picture of Dorian Gray) and short stories

tend to stimulate students but present serious difficulties


in terms of choosing a suitable question to carry out an

from both writers, and a mix of sub-genres (comedy, fairy


tale)-all of which mean that there is little opportunity to

investigation of the nature required for the extended essay.

compare "like with like" and so the all-important detail of the


investigation which follows is missing.

English B
Biology
Is Harry Potter on effective way to get children to read?
This research question does not lend itself to a systematic

The evolution of reptiles

investigation and can be answered with yes/no or can easily

This is an issue that has concerned biologists for more than

be influenced (without the student knowing) by personal

one century. It is reasonable to expect that there will be lots

opinion .

of material available and that it will be fairly easy to access. A


quick search on Google for "evolution of reptiles" reveals over

Mathematics

3,000 entries. So this might seem like an attractive and easy


option to choose for an extended essay. The big problem will

An investigation of the Fibonacci Sequence in nature.


Typically these trivial essays do not pose a question; they
are descriptive rather than analytical and involve only
elementary mathematics.

be the sheer mountain of material that would have to be read


and analysed (not counting books and journal articles). This
is clearly a topic that is far too broad and cannot be treated
in 4,000 words. The other danger here is that the essay will
become simply a report rather than an investigation.

There are lots of ways in which this topic could be refined.


The student could select a particular species, fossil(s) or fossil
location and investigate the specific issues relating to that. The
student could examine a controversy that has arisen in the
literature and re-examine the evidence.

The control of sound in rooms


A typical area of investigation that seems to be suitable if a
reasonable focus were narrowed down from it. As presented,
the topic is too broad to be analysed successfully, as the

Psychology

number of variables affecting the issue is long and cannot


be dealt with within the word limit. There are also numerous

Does diet have an effect on children's performance in an


educational setting?

difficulties to control not just the sound but the variables


present that affect it.

The research question here could at first sight seem clear.


However, the question does not specify what could be

English B

understood as "children's performance" or "educational


setting". So it is vague and at the same time too broad
because the variables under investigation have not been
specified; the major problem is that the variables under
investigation are not operationalized so the reader will
not know what to expect. Does "children's performance"
refer to IQ testing or mathematics? Or another issue, does
"educational setting" refer to children in pre-school , primary
school or secondary school? And what exactly is understood
by the term "diet"? The student should focus on what exactly

How and to what extent do British tabloids influence their


readers?
This idea appears to come from a media study perspective,
but will it focus on language? The difficult key word here
is

influence.

Will this be a linguistic study of persuasive

language? Is this meant to be an approach to culture and


society? It is not a study of a cultural artifact as it is stated,
though this may be the approach that has the most potential.

is investigated.

Mathematics
Economics
How is the changing role of women being reflected in
advertising and how does this affect demand?
This is a double-barrelled question which does not clearly
focus on a topic to which economic theory may be applied. The

What exactly is the Riemann Hypothesis and how does it


relate to other properties of mathematics?
The topic is far too broad and challenging for an extended
essay, it would require a much larger written response than
the 4,000-word limit allows.

first part of the question may well be something that could be


investigated in business and management. The second part of

Having a good research question will also help you to reach the

the question hints at economic theory, but does not specify a

higher assessment levels in other criteria. For example, you will

particular market, which makes it too broad.

be able to construct a good argument if your research question


is well focused and can be addressed within the word limit.

Visual arts

You will also find it easier to show a good knowledge and clear
understanding of a limited topic. The following outlines well
focused research questions that will allow you to illustrate fully

Virgin Mary-changing depictions from the 14th century


to the early 16th century
In order to be able to cover and explore this very broad topic
effectively, the student would need to explore the 14th to

your extended essay skills.

History

16th centuries of art. This in itself is quite a feat-especially


of the Virgin Mary and the associated influences and artists

What was the influence of frnesto "Che" Guevara on the


Cuban Revolutionary War 1956-59?

would have been more appropriate, or perhaps a study into

Rather than attempting to investigate the whole revolution,

in a 4,000 word limit! A comparison of two different images

the image or symbology of the Virgin Mary in the work of a

it specifies the influence of Che up to 1959. It could be a little

particular artist. Think about the theme that you are interested

tricky to measure the "influence" of Che but it is implied that

in and make a list of possible approaches.

what will be investigated is the role of Che in influencing


Castro.

16

English A1

Economics

The use of natural imagery in Tess of the d'Urbervilies by


Thomas Hardy and The Awakening by Kate Chopin

To what extent have the South Tyrolean government's


policies been effective in reducing vehicle carbon
emissions?

This title is firmly focused on literary technique and this tends


to be a common factor in many of the best essays in English Al
Students have the potential to achieve top marks for criteria C,
D, and especially Eand F-simply because the investigation
has been framed in such a way as to keep the analysis away
from lapsing into mere "storytelling".

The question is clearly stated and focused. There is good scope


for applying market failure theory to a real-world example.
"To what extent" is a good starting point as it lends itself to
evaluation. There is clearly the opportunity for both primary
and secondary research.

Biology

Visual arts

The impact of sulphur dioxide pollution on the frequency


and range of the lichen Lecanora muralis

Antonio Gaudi and Santiago Calatrara: How does


Calatrara's work evoke the work of Gaudi?

This research question clearly identifies a biological issue


relating to the impact of pollution on living organisms. The
target organism is identified exactly and the type of pollution
is limited to sulphur dioxide. The question also identifies the
kind of data that will be collected and analysed (frequency
and distribution) and as such it is clear and precise. The data
collection phase of the work will require the student to employ
a number of ecological techniques. Data on air pollution can
often be obtained from local authorities and will require
some research. This essay should result in an analysis of data
collected by the student and data obtained from published
sources and a conclusion on the ecology of Lecanoro muro/is
drawn from this.

The comparison of artists is an effective and logical way to


investigate ideas and gather evidence and opposing views in a
clear context. It also allows the opportunity for research and
analysis to be formed in a systematic manner. The research
question is further refined with a focus question exploring
Calatrara's work as compared to Gaudi.

Psychology
Psychology: Can romantic love be explained by biological
factors alone?
This research question is sharply focused and the variables
under investigation are clear. The research question is
focused on the variable "romantic love" and whether this
phenomenon can be explained by biological factors alone.
This theoretical proposition has been put forward by
evolutionary psychologists and this research question clearly
shows that this theory is going to be investigated in the essay.

Physics
Modeling seiches: Investigating the relationship between
the length of a rectangular enclosed body of water and the
period of the standing wave produced
The question successfully anticipates the clear focus of the
essay. The variables are clearly prescribed and allow for a
simple but rich investigation. The topic will allow for some
background research and then to focus on the experiment to
carry out.

English B
How was Affirmative Action an effective tool in the battle
against racism toward AfrO-Americans in the US?
This research question treats a policy or law as a cultural
object or artifact. The potential for argument is clear and
this should allow the student to show evidence of the policy's
effectiveness in achieving its goal of reducing prejudice in
the workplace. The essay should refer to specific documents
or legislation that defines the policy as its "effectiveness" is
determined.

17

Mathematics
An examination of the role of prime numbers and

factorization in RSA encryption

This research question has a sharply focused topic. The scope


of investigation clear and the mathematical theory discussed

.:mn

is also clear.

Support for my research question


Let's say that after consulting with your supervisor you decide on
a provisional research question and begin to try to find relevant
resources. You search for books, journal articles, web pages and
other resources that may relate to your topic and allow you to

see

how it fits in to what you intend to research.

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Answering the research question


It is probably easier now than at any other time in history to

Well there are a number of possibilities. You could:


expand your search-look at a wide range of different

find and distribute information. There are more sources of


information and more ways of communicating information than

sources (books, journal articles, websites, newspapers

ever before. This applies not just to text but also to audio and

and magazines, etc)

visual information. In many ways we live in what may rightly be

get help from your supervisor or from the librarian

called "the age of information".

modify the research question, make it broader, include


some new aspects that you had not considered
abandon your original idea and search for a new
research question.

As somebody engaged in academic research you must always


be aware of the risk that the information you are accessing may
be incorrect, inaccurate, only partly true, biased, deliberately or
unintentionally misleading or in some other way flawed. Your work
could contribute to misinformation if you use the information in
the sources that you access uncritically. The task in writing an

Clearly then, it is important to look on your original idea as being


provisional until you have established that you can find enough

extended essay is not only to generate and/or report information


but also to subject that information to critical evaluation. Always

supporting information in published form. Be prepared to listen

apply high standards when selecting and evaluating the resources

to advice and follow the guidance of your supervisor. If your topic

that you intend to use.

is so obscure that you cannot find relevant published material


then it is probably not a good idea to pursue it as an extended
essay. One way to avoid reaching a dead end at this early stage
of the process is to begin with a (small) number of possible topics
and do some simultaneous preliminary research on these while
discussing them with your supervisor.

There are some key individuals (and establishments) that


may be able to help you with your research. These include:
your supervisor, who may be able to help you access
materials and/or give you advice on where to look

18

the school librarian, who will be able to help you to use


the school collection and may be able to give you advice
on whether certain items are available or not
schools running sessions on research and study skills.

These can be particularly helpful; take advantage of

them

family and friends who may be able to advise you about


sources of information in your area.
Do not be shy about approaching other people for help.
Their advice and guidance may allow you to find short cuts
for some of the more tedious and time-consuming aspects
of trying to find relevant information.

Finding resources
When researching information for your topic you will probably try
to use as wide a range of resources as possible. There are three
mains sources of published information: books, journals and the
internet. When starting to research it is often a good idea to make
a list of key words from your topic (and closely related topics)
and to use these as the basis for performing library and internet
searches. If you find a piece of work (book, journal article or web
page) that you think is useful and relevant, make a note of the
author and look for other works by this same person (perform an
"author search"). This may reveal some other useful materials. It
can also be helpful to look at the bibliography of the sources you
have selected and examine the titles (and dates of pUblication) of
the works listed there. There may be other works listed that could
be useful for your own research.
Looking for journal articles can be a bit more challenging than
finding a book but the rewards are worth the extra effort. There
are two important reasons for using journal articles. Firstly,
because they are published regularly, they are up to date, in
other words they contain the most recent findings in the fi eld
of research. Secondly, because each article is relatively short
(compared to a book) they tend to be more specific. This has
the disadvantage that you need to search carefully in order to
find something that relates directly to your topic. A good way
to quickly assess the suitability of a journal article is to read the
abstract and scan the illustrations. You can then try and judge
whether the article will be worth reading or not. There are many
sources of journal articles on the internet. Many of these only give
you access to the title and abstract and require a subscription
in order for you to view the full article. One way around this is
to make note of any useful-looking articles that you find and
go to your school library to ask if they have the journal in their
collection. You might even be lucky enough to have access to a
local public or university library. Make use of these for getting the
full text of journal articles.

In other cases you may find that the website does not give you
access to the full-text version of the most recent issue of the
journal but that in fact you can read the back issl,les. So if you
find an article it is useful to go to the home page of the journal in
which it is published to check out access. Nowadays it is often the
case that journals specialize in particular types of information so
it is likely that the same journal will have published other related
articles to any you have already found.

Selecting resources
It is important to be selective and critical about th e resources
that you use. Don't just accept the first "search" that your browser
throws up when you do a web search, just as you would not use
the first book that you pick up at random from a library shelf.
You need to look critically and evaluate whether the information
contained in the source is useful, relevant and reliable. Remember,
your bibliography should only contain those items that are cited
in the text (that is, those that are given as in-text references) so
you need to avoid the temptation of putting down a long list of
every source you looked at including those that you did not use in
the end. Evaluating resources means not just selecting those that
you will use from an original list and rejecting others, but also
referring to th e reliability of the sources that you end up using
(citing) in your essay.
Ask yourself the following questions every time you consult a
resource.
Is this resource relevant?
In what way is the information in this resource related to my
research question?
How can I build this information into my argument?
Is this resource reliable and what evidence do I have for
believing that the contents are reliable?

Evaluating resources
How do 1 know whether a resource is reliable?

A good first step is to find out the source of the


information, effectively find out who (what person or
organization) is the author. If you cannot identify this then
you will have a difficult time convincing anyone else (your
supervisor or the examiner) that the information is reliable.

19

It is often helpful to find out when the information was published.


In some subjects the date of publication of the information is
important in deciding whether the information is reliable or not.
In the sciences in particular, knowledge about natural phenomena
changes rapidly and information in certain fields may become
out of date within a few years. If you cannot report the date of
publication then the reliability of the source is also called into
question. These first two steps are mostly easy to accomplish
for printed sources (author and date of publication are usually
printed prominently near the start of a book or journal article).

How do r know iF a we~site is reliable or not?


You need to look carefully at the information on the
website and take a number of factors into consideration.
On a reliable web page you should be able to identify an
author, it should be a page that is updated regularly and it
should not rely heavily on advertising.

Finding out about the author and date of publication for a web
based resource may involve a bit more work. It is often useful to
examine the information contained in the URL as this can give
some information about what kind of organization is behind the
document you are using. If you are using personal or commercial
websites you may need to be more critical regarding the reliability
and/or objectivity of the information they contain. It may also
be helpful to look at the home page of the site in order to find
out more about the organization. Check to see if the website is
updated regularly or at least has information about when and
how often it is updated. If you have doubts about the quality or
reliability of the information you have accessed, talk to a librarian
or to your supervisor and get some advice before incorporating it
into your essay.
Next try to find out whether the author or organization has
published other works and whether these might be of interest
to your own research. A person or organization who publishes
numerous related works is likely to be more informed and
therefore more reliable. It is also useful and informative to see
whether this person or organization has been cited by other
authors. This means that they are considered to be reliable. For
web-based resources, finding websites that link to the one you
are using suggests that this is a reliable source of information. If
you find an author or organization that has published widely on
a range of related topics and is cited by or linked to, other authors
or sites, then you have an additional argument for claiming that
this is a reliable resource.

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Why should r be particularly careFul about using

inFormation that is web-based?

Making information available over the web is easy and in


many countries it is a process that is not strongly regulated.
So while web-based information may be easy to find and
use, in some cases the content may not have been carefully
checked or edited and may be seriously biased depending
on the target audience and the motivation of the author.

It is worth considering the intended audience of the source that


you are using, as this may also help you to judge whether the
information it contains is reliable or not. This may reveal a certain
bias to the information, for example, if the audience is people
of a particular political persuasion or social background the
information may be tailored to suit their sensibilities. Information
aimed at children may also not be at the level required for an
academic essay. Similarly, magazines aimed at enthusiasts for a
particular hobby may be limited in value.

Why is it important to put so much effort into evaluating

sources?

The essay you are writing is itself a source of information.


If you include inaccurate, unsubstantiated or even untrue
information then the quality of your research and the value
of your work as a source of information for others is greatly
reduced.

Evaluating your resources should be an ongoing process and


not something to be left to the end of the writing process. It is
not enough simply to claim that the sources used in the essay
are reliable; you must also provide some evidence to support
this claim. This may be more important in some subjects (the
sciences) than in others (group 1 languages) and can be achieved
by describing how you went about carrying out the evaluation.
What factors did you consider? How did you make the decision to
use or include a resource7

Other sources of information


There are numerous different ways that you can gather your
own primary information. Any or all of these may be relevant
depending on the type of work you are doing. Some ways of
gathering information include:

conducting interviews
carrying out surveys
administering questionnaires
performing experiments
doing fieldwork
reading books
listening to music
watching a performance
looking at pictures
studying maps
reading documents
performing calculations.

Just as you need to be critical of printed and online sources of


information, you should be equally if not more critical of data
or information that you collect yourself using your chosen
methodology. Critically evaluating your own work means pointing
out any weaknesses in the methodology you have used. In
critically evaluating information you have generated by any of the
methods listed above you are effectively answering the questions:
How do I know? How sure am I? Could I be wrong?

Acknowledging your sources


The success of your essay as a piece of academic writing
depends to a large extent on how well you have gone about
finding, evaluating and selecting information. A significant part
of your work then is made up of not just your own thoughts
and opinions, but of facts, information, quotations, data,
opinions and insights of other people, gleaned from the sources
you have read. Of course it is important to find a balance
between providing information and writing about your own
thoughts and insights. You must acknowledge these sources
conscientiously and accurately in your writing. This means
providing a bibliography of all of the works you have consulted
and providing in-text references to show where in the essay each
source has been used.

The bibliography for an extended essay must contain a list of all


published sources of information. In addition, all items in the
bibliography must be linked to an in-text reference.. Examiners
will check the correspondence between these two elements.
There is no prescribed style for presenting the bibliography and
in-text references. The requirement is that you should select a
style that is appropriate for your subject and you should apply
this consistently throughout the essay. Common styles include
MLA, APA, Chicago Manual and Turabian. You can find out the
details of these from printed guides and numerous websites
including so-called "Online Writing Labs" or OWLs.

How do 1 know which st~!e is most appropriate For m~

essay?

The bibliographic and in-text referencing style that you


use will depend on the subject you are writing in and
probably to some extent on what you are already familiar
with . It is important to be able to apply the style correctly
and consistently.

Be sure to acknowledge all web-based sources properly; simply


providing a list of URLs does not meet this requirement. Modern
style guides will help you with this but be sure to use a recent
edition. You may find, for example, that you have to search the
website you are using in order to find the relevant information
that needs to be included. Be sure to consult your school
librarian or your supervisor if you are unsure about any aspect
of how to acknowledge sources.

You should be able to:


understand the importance of finding a suitable

research question

understand the importance of discussing your


ideas with your supervisor
find, select and evaluate published resources

You do not have to acknowledge facts or information that


you have learned in class or that you can reasonably expect
to know at this stage of your education . A good guide is the
syllabus for the subject of your essay; if you are presenting
information from the syllabus you do not need to provide a
reference.

acknowledge your sources of information.

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