Interpreting IA comments: Discussion

Thursday 11 August 2016

Courtesy of stockimages at David Castillo DominiciThis is the final of four blog postings on the meaning of IA comments.  These comments focus on the "discussion" section of the report. 

The discussion section is very similar for the HL and SL - with the exception that HL must compare their results to all studies in the introduction.  The SL candidates only have one study - the original - to which they need to compare their results.

In addition, in the current curriculum students do not earn any marks for discussing the strengths of their research. Once again, this is a way that students may use up a lot of their word count for naught.  It is important that they took full advantage of the word count and not include information that is not assessed - regardless of how you or I may feel about the importance of that information.

Comments about discussions

The following comments are about the discussion sections.  There are different comments appropriate for HL and for SL.

Comment 1: In the discussion, the candidates' results must be directly compared to the results of the original study.

This is a comment for both SL and HL students. It is best in the discussion to begin with a direct comparison of these results. What may account for the higher averages?  The lower standard deviation?  The fact that your results are insignificant?  A higher standard deviation in the Loftus & Palmer study, for example, could be attributed to a younger sample with less experience in driving.

Comment 2: In the discussion, the candidates' results must be directly compared to the results of the background theories/studies and the original study.

This is a comment only for HL candidates.  In addition to comparing their results to the original study, they also need to make reference to the other two studies outlined in the introduction - as well as linking the results to the theory which is being explored.

Comment 3: The focus of the discussion was too much on the behaviour of the participants and not on the design and procedure of the experiment.

This is when students write:  The participants were not paying attention.  They seemed not to care about the experiment and therefore their responses were not very accurate.

Although this may have some merit, this is still how the participants behaved. Studying human behaviour is not easy!  The assessment rubric only credits discussion of the design, sampling technique, materials and the procedure.  Writing about the behaviour of the participants is not a valid limitation for this assessment.

Comment 4: The discussions should be more developed -­‐ focusing on limitations and how future modifications could address those limitations.

Students need to indicate limitations of their study.  As mentioned before, discussing strengths earns no credit. In addition, for each limitation, there should be a specific modification suggested for a future replication.  It is recommended that students have 2 - 3 limitations in their discussion.

Comment 5: Limitations should be directly linked to the study and not simply generic limitations of experimental research.

Simply using generic answers that are "always true" is not going to earn more than the low markbands.  For example, "This study lacked ecological validity." "This study had a small sample size." "This study is difficult to generalize."  The limitations should be specific to the study that was undertaken.

Comment 6: Mistakes made by the candidates are not valid limitations of the study.

Sometime students write something like this:  "One of the problems was that in the first condition we forgot to read the standardized instructions.  In a future replication, we would make sure that this is not the case." or "We didn't test the recording device before and the sound quality was too poor for many of the participants to understand.  In the future, we would use a better sound system." These are not limitations; they are mistakes.  When students make mistakes, they need to redo the experiment.  This will be much more emphatically stated in the new curriculum.  Please make sure that students understand the difference between a mistake and a limitation.....

Comment 7: The report must end with a clearly stated conclusion with regard to the aim of the study.

The report should end with a short paragraph that recaps the findings of the study.

Tags: IA, internal assessment, discussion, feedback