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The Extended Essay Explored

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The extended essay seems to be the stuff of nightmares for students beginning the IB. But, is it really that horrible? The extended essay is a research paper that allows students to conduct independent research or investigation on a topic of their choosing. This year’s junior class has now officially been introduced to the 4000-word core-component of the IB and it has quickly become a popular topic of discussion between students and teachers.

Most EE advisors agree that the best advice for students embarking on the extended essay journey is to see it as an opportunity to learn more about something that you are genuinely interested in. English Department EE leader Conor Duffy says “the EE can become one of the highlights of your Diploma experience” if you find a topic you are passionate about. Richard Harvey (EE leader) agrees that students should approach the EE as a chance to spend 8-9 months learning about a topic or idea they want to know more about and then find a way to connect it to a subject. In this way, it can be a positive experience.

Another reason to see the EE not as an overwhelming cloud of doom but rather as something to benefit from, is that it prepares students for what is coming ahead. According to Matthew Kelly (EE leader), it allows students to experience the process of not only coming up with a research question but also turning ideas and opinions into a structured essay after evaluating numerous sources. This is similar to other extended writing projects that students will likely have to complete in university.

The EE makes some students panic before they have begun. But is it necessarily such a stressful experience? Actually, it does not have to be. It will be stressful at times, but no more stressful than any other aspect of the IB. Mr. Kelly believes that stress, to an extent, can be a good thing because “it acts as a motivator to get the task complete and keep the performance high.”

Pursue a topic that motivates you. This is your chance to study exactly what you want.”

— Mr. Kelly

Mr. Duffy and Mr. Harvey agree that the best way to avoid becoming overstressed is to stick to deadlines. The EE becomes a source of great stress when deadlines are not followed and the work continues to pile up at the start of senior year, which is a very busy time itself. Mr. Duffy does acknowledge that it is in no way easy, but “things of true value rarely are.”

Overall, the EE is without a doubt a daunting experience for juniors who are new to the IB. But it is also about improving important skills like time-management, research, and perseverance. At its core, it is simply  an opportunity to learn about something interesting and that you enjoy.

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