FAQs for Internal Assessment

What is meant by a simple experiment?

The psychology course defines a simple experimental study as requiring the manipulation of one independent variable and measurement of one dependent variable, while other variables are kept constant. Consequently, correlational studies, quasi-experiments and natural experiments (that is, any research undertaken without control over the independent variable and without a controlled sampling procedure) are not acceptable for the simple experimental study.

May students do a comparison of gender differences?

Variables that are based upon pre-existing characteristics of the participants are not suitable for the IB Internal Assessment. Variables that are not acceptable independent variables include, but are not limited to:

  • gender (e.g., comparing the results of female and male participants)
  • age (e.g., the performance of 10 year old participants as compared to 18 year old participants)
  • native language (e.g., native French speakers versus native Mandarin speakers)
  • culture (e.g., Afro-Caribbean participant results as compared to Swedish participants)
  • education level (e.g., students in grade 5 as compared to students in grade 11)
  • socio-economic status (e.g., poor participants versus rich participants)
  • handedness (e.g., left-handed and right-handed participants)

While these variables might be of interest to students, they cannot be manipulated within the framework of the IA. Studies submitted for internal assessment that does not meet the requirements for experimental work will be awarded zero marks.

What is the difference between the SL and HL IA?

SL candidates must replicate a study - they may not do their own design. HL may do a modification of a study. The differences for each section of the assessment are as follows:

  • The Introduction. SL candidates will only have one study described in their introduction - the study that is being replicated. HL must have three relevant studies in their review of literature.

  • Design. SL candidates do have to identify the target population. This is required for HL.

  • Section F of the report for HL candidates is an extension of section E. In this section they must discuss the application of inferential statistics and make a statement of significance. SL candidates should not include this in their papers.

  • The discussion sections are primarily the same except that the HL must compare their results to all three studies in the review of literature, whereas the SL candidates only have to compare their results to the one study. Both levels must discuss their statistical findings, but the HL must also address conclusions based on inferential statistical analysis.

  • The word count for SL is 1000 - 1500 words; The word count for HL is 1500 - 2000 words.

Sections C, D, and E of the IA are exactly the same for both levels.

How large a sample must students have?

Students should strive for between 15 and 20 participants in their study. Fewer than 15 can cause problems due to outliers. Large sample sizes are strongly discouraged.

May students work in groups?

Group work may be undertaken by groups of up to four students. Each group must collect its own data and this may be pooled with data collected by other groups. More than one group is allowed to research the same hypotheses (HL) or aims (SL), but each student must write up his or her own individual report. It is accepted that considerable similarities will exist in the procedures reported by members of a group working together on a study.

Are there any other limitations on what they may do?

Examples of experiments that are unacceptable for HL or SL internal assessment include:

conformity studies
obedience studies
animal research
placebo experiments
experiments involving ingestion (e.g., food, drink, smoking, drugs)
experiments involving deprivation (e.g. sleep, food)

Do students need to cite the original study?

No. Students may find the study to be replicated in any text, as long as they cite the text in which they find it. Students are not awarded more credit for using the original study. Often, the original study is very difficult for young psychology students to understand, so a more learner-friendly version may be more appropriate.

My students found a program online which will simulate the study for them. May they use it?

The purpose of the Internal Assessment project is for candidates to get experience planning, designing, conducting and reporting on an experimental study. While candidates are encouraged to adapt previously used materials for their own research, they should still have some hand in development, implementation and interpretation. There are now many commercial, free or public domain tools available for use in research. The use of software, simulations or assessment packages must be carefully monitored. If the use of such resources does not allow the candidate to experience planning, designing, conducting or reporting their own study, then they should not be used.

May the SL include inferential statistics in their results section?

No. The SL candidates should use appropriate descriptive statistics. They should not, for example, simply list percentages. They are not given credit for inferential statistics, and they should be avoided so that they fit in the word-count.

May the classroom teachers give consent for their students?

No. Participants 16 and older must each fill in their own consent form. Experimental studies involving children under age 16 need the written consent of parent(s) or guardian(s). Candidates must ensure that parents are fully informed about the implications for children who take part in such research. Where an experimental study is conducted with children in a school, the written consent of the teachers concerned must also be obtained.

Is it allowed to use deception?

Any experimental study that involves unjustified deception must be avoided.

What is included in the word count? How strictly should the student follow the guidelines?

The word-count is to be strictly adhered to. Students should not assume that it is acceptable to go over the wordcount. Remember that the abstract, appendices, graphs, tables, section headings, works cited page, title page and footnotes are not included in the final word-count.

Do we need to send all materials used, including DVDs & powerpoint presentations?

Students should cite all DVD's in their works cited page; in addition, they should describe any materials used in the procedure section. They should keep all materials until grades are awarded in case there is some question about the nature of the material, but please do not send CD's or other physical (ie. non-paper) materials to your moderator.

May students manipulate more than one independent variable?

No. The goal of this assessment is the replication of a simple experiment. They should not manipulate more than one IV.

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