Extended Essay

The new curriculum for the extended essay will be assessed as of May 2018.  The following section of the site includes guidance for the writing and assessment of this component of the diploma program.

It is the advice of the IB that only students who are studying psychology write their EEs in the subject.  You will see that psychology has a high failure rate compared to other subjects - and one of the reasons is the high number of students who write papers in the subject although they have never studied it.

This section is divided into "getting started", "writing the EE", "reflection on the EE" and "sample marking."

Selected Pages


Getting started with EE 17 June 2018

For most teachers and students, getting started with a major research project is the hardest part. Choosing a good topic,...


Reflecting on the EE 9 January 2018

The final assessment criterion of the extended essay is "engagement." It is important that the reflections do not just...


Writing the Extended Essay 15 October 2017

After sources have been read and notes have been taken, the next step is the actual writing of the paper. For many students,...


EE sample marking 15 October 2017

The following section of the site has samples of extended essays. As we are not allowed to actually share students' work...

Assessing the EE 17 June 2018

The following presentation is a tutorial for teachers on how the Extended Essay is assessed. It is particularly important...

Sample 1: Durability of relationships 14 January 2018

The following sample extended essay does not have an official grade. It is an essay that was submitted for the former curriculum...

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Comments 51

Martin John Poomthrasseril 9 March 2018 - 13:34

Dear John,
Would be of great help if you can give some feedback on the below.
One of my students would like to do her EE on “Ideal parenthood” Do you know any specific study on this title? On another note, student’s research question is: “To what extend ideal parenting would help the child’s cognitive development?” Do you have any advice on this research question?
Thank you

John Crane 10 March 2018 - 07:22

Dear Martin

I am not sure what it meant by "ideal parenthood." I would advise the student to leave it out of the question. Simply looking at the role of parenting on cognitive development would be sufficient.

Martin John 10 March 2018 - 11:01

Dear John,
Thank you for the feedback. Any specific study you would suggest on the role of parenting? Will the following study is correct? kon.org
Thank you

Monali Sharma 12 March 2018 - 17:41

Hi John,
Thank you for responding to the query on cognitive unit. I am guiding a student who is studying the effects of personality on burnout among healthcare professionals. The RQ is -
What is the relationship between Burnout and the Big Five personality factors among healthcare professionals?

Does it fit well as per the new marking scheme?

Thank you

John Crane 13 March 2018 - 05:11

Dear Martin,

I am not sure what you are referring to. The role of parenting is not part of the curriculum.

John Crane 13 March 2018 - 05:12

Dear Monali

That question is a bit too broad. The student should choose one of the five factors - e.g. neuroticism. That would make the paper appropriately focused.

Monali Sharma 13 March 2018 - 16:17

Dear John
When studying the relationship between burnout and neuroticism, one can use the research results of studies which study the big five factors and pick neuroticism in that? Most of the research on neuroticism and burnout is available as a whole( with other factors also included) Will it then be necessary to include the results obtained on other factors in the same study?

John Crane 13 March 2018 - 20:35

Dear Monali,

No. The student could mention this as part of the critical analysis - that it is difficult to separate out the other personality factors and/or that the researchers found that they also played a role, but they should focus on a single personality factor.

Monali Sharma 14 March 2018 - 10:21

Dear John
Sorry for bothering you with the same question. This is a bit confusing. What I need clarity on is that when we are talking about neuroticism and burnout, studies which use NEO-PI R can be used (focus shall only be on neuroticism within those results.) Yes, the other factors can be discussed in critical analysis. There is very little literature that focusses exclusively on neuroticism and burnout using measures other than the NEO-PI R

Thank you

John Crane 15 March 2018 - 05:23

Dear Monali

The student does not have to use neuroticism. That was only an example I gave. The student should try to focus on a single factor if possible. If not, then the paper could be on all five, but I fear that this will be perceived as being too large in scope.

Monali Sharma 15 March 2018 - 06:38

Dear John
Thank you for the clarification. Yes the scope would become too large. We will focus on one factor alone.
Thank you

Michael Westfall 8 April 2018 - 14:58

Dear John,

I have a student that is interested in looking into how psychological strategies could be beneficial in increasing motivation in the workplace. The RQ will likely be stated as, "...To what extent can strategy X and Y have on the motivation at a workplace?." Any books come to mind? Is it sufficient to reference any of the scores of university level class textbooks on this topic? Is it possible to use sports psychology studies as support? Thanks.

John Crane 8 April 2018 - 16:07

Dear Michael - sorry, no books come to mind. I would probably have the student limit it to one strategy. If they are going to write about the workplace, then sports psychology would not be appropriate. Even though there may be some transfer, it is always best if the research is a direct response to the question. As for university textbooks, yes, that's fine. Better, though, is to find actual research on the topic.

Maria Fotinopoulou 12 April 2018 - 17:52

Hi John!
I just want to make sure that it is appropriate for the student to address topics covered in the psych course in an EE. For example doing something like to what extent can attraction be explained by biological factors?
Is this okay?
Thank you!!

John Crane 13 April 2018 - 04:50

Dear Maria

yes, that is totally allowed. However, the research should go beyond what is in the average textbook.

John Dereu 4 May 2018 - 14:13

I have a student who is interested in a topic that adresses music therapy and Parkinson's disease. Is Parkinson's an acceptable psychology topic or would IB consider that to be biology? Thanks again for your time.

Maria Fotinopoulou 4 May 2018 - 21:24

Hi John!
Hope you are doing well! I have yet another EE question.
One of my students is very interested in religious behavior. I suggested a topic around religiosity and prosocial behavior but she did not find it intresting and after researching she wanted to do something on evolutionary explanations of religious behavior. After discussing it with her we sort of concluded on a question like : to what extent does attachment theory explain religious behavior?
that way she can use a psychological theory as her main argument and counter it with evolutionary explanations. Does this seem okay to you? I m a bit worried as the topic touches on religion..Any advice would be helpful!
also another student decided on : To what extent is empathy genetic? - I assume this is alright right?
Thank you again!

John Crane 5 May 2018 - 06:08

Dear John

You are correct that there is a fine line between bio and psychology. Looking online, most of the journals I find are relevant to psychological study. That topic would be fine.

John Crane 5 May 2018 - 06:11

Dear Maria

The genetics of empathy is fine. I must admit, though, that I don't understand "does attachment theory explain religious behaviour." Is the student finding research that specifically addresses that question? Students should not apply theory to answer a question on their own. So, she must find research that shows that a specific attachment style is more prone to religiosity than another. In addition, I do not see how attachment theory would then mean that religion is somehow an evolution based trait. I think that this is overly complex and not really clear. She should first find studies on something in psychology that is related to religion. When she find those articles, then she can develop a question. Trying to develop a question before doing any reading often leads to unanswerable questions.

Maria Fotinopoulou 7 May 2018 - 18:28

Hi John..I agree it is rather complex. However, she did present me with different articles and some studies discussing whether attachement to God is a compensation for insecure attachement. So she has done some reading and this is what she came up with. I read a little a bit on the topic and did find that there are several hypotheses on how attachement styles may impact on how attached someone is to god and why. There are also a lot of journal articles on evolutionary explanations of religiosity - but Im not sure how she wants to use them as a counter claim for attachement..If she decided to focus on evolutionary explanations of religiosity is this not too psychology related? I m completely lost with this topic, but I m trying to help her as she seems very interested in this..
Thank you again!

John Crane 7 May 2018 - 19:02

Dear Maria

If she is finding such studies in psychological journals, then she should go ahead and pursue it. Regards - John

RWA Psychology1 8 May 2018 - 08:23

Dear John,
My student wants to write an EE on the question 'To what extent do t cognitive factors affect the development of anorexia nervosa?'.
She has research studies that demonstrate the case in point, as well as some research that support counter arguments.
Is this fine?
Thank you very much. Have a lovely day!

John Crane 8 May 2018 - 13:54

Yes, that is fine.

Scott Nelson 1 June 2018 - 19:34

Are EEs in sports psychology still allowed? Would this be an acceptable topic? How injuries affect athletes psychologically.

John Crane 2 June 2018 - 08:31

Dear Scott

Absolutely! Sports psychology is a rich area for student inquiry. As for the question, it should be a bit more precise. "How" leads to a descriptive essay- and students must present an argument. Think of a "Why" or a "to what extent" question. That will be more successful.

Bhawna Egbert 24 June 2018 - 08:39

Dear John,
One of my EE student has proposed to explore evil-mindedness as a personality trait. She would like to either discuss or see to what extent socio-cultural factors effect evil mindedness among adults. Do you think its a good psychological context as she would like to make Milgram and Zimbardo's Lucifer effect as her basis?? What do you think??

John Crane 25 June 2018 - 06:12

Dear Bhawna

I would steer her away from this as "evil-mindedness" is not a psychological term. She should not try to apply Milgram and Zimbardo to answer a question, but instead find a question and then look for research specifically on that topic. Maybe she could start with something like this: guardianlv.com /

Natasha Chan 27 June 2018 - 18:19

Dear John,

One of my students would like to look into Sports Psych and proposed the research question: 'to what extent does motivation affect the performance level of athletes in sports?' May I ask what you think of this question?

The student actually wants to look at the differences in performance of athletes and 'elite' athletes in terms of motivation but I'm not too confident with sports psych myself. I suggested theories such as achievement goal theory... and there are a few others mentioned in the old curriculum. Would those be adequate to use? Could he look at, let's say, three motivation theories for his argument for a specific sport?

Appreciate your help! Thank you!

John Crane 27 June 2018 - 18:36

Dear Natasha

I would have him look at two theories and see which one best explains motivation in elite athletes (for example). Three would be too much and would most likely lead to a highly descriptive paper. It is a popular topic and many students do well with it.

Natasha Chan 27 June 2018 - 19:57

Dear John, thank you!

Natasha Chan 9 July 2018 - 10:18

Hi John,

I've got one more question. Another student wants to explore 'to what extent do hormones influence homosexuality in males.' However, she wants to look at the influence of environmental and biological factors on sexual orientation. Her thesis statement is that hormones affect homosexuality but are not the only factors. This sounds like her counterargument is environmental factors but I'm wondering is she allowed to look at both bio and environment? I was thinking her counterargument had to reflect studies that show that hormones do not affect homosexuality rather than using the environmental influences as a counterargument. Please help clarify if both factors can be discussed for the EE. Thanks a lot!

John Crane 13 July 2018 - 16:06


You are correct. She has to be careful not to write a nature vs nurture paper

Ranjani Ravi 17 July 2018 - 11:02

Hi John,
My student wants to do her EE on "The effect of media on romantic expectations in couples". Is this too broad?

John Crane 18 July 2018 - 05:54

Difficult ro know. Has the student shown you research on the topic? If so, narrow it down based on what he has already found. The question could be fine

Ranjani Ravi 18 July 2018 - 05:57

Thank you.

Sneha Bhatt 27 July 2018 - 14:24

Dear John,
I have students who are planning the following EE
TWE locus of control influences successful leadership?
TWE social media influenced forming of real world relationships/secondary socialization?
How is social development influenced by home schooling?
I would really appreciate some advice.
As For the third topic she did try to compare normal schooling versus home schooling initially, Would this be advisable?

John Crane 28 July 2018 - 20:35

Dear Sneha

1. This seems fine.
2. I don't understand the question. It is too general and too ill defined. the "real world relationships/secondary socialization" does not make sense.
3. I would change "how" to "to what extent." I would not compare home school to public schooling. The question as written is better defined.

Sneha Bhatt 31 July 2018 - 03:47

Thank You John

Gayatri Ayyer 4 September 2018 - 06:06

Dear John,
One of my student wants to explore to what extent does mindfulness affect relationship satisfaction. Would appreciate your inputs on the topic.
Thanks in advance
Gayatri :)

John Crane 5 September 2018 - 06:14

Dear Gayatri

That should be fine.

Gayatri Ayyer 10 September 2018 - 05:11

Dear John,

Sorry to bother you with one more query. I wanted to check if Helicopter Parenting would be considered as a valid psychology term since one of my student wants to understand how it impacts the adulthood of those who have had it as children. Thank in advance. I really appreciate your help throughout.

John Crane 11 September 2018 - 04:45

Dear Gayatri

Yes, this should be fine. Just be sure to cite some definition of the term in the introduction.

John Dereu 17 September 2018 - 11:26

Dear John, I have a student who selected an EE topic of "To what extent does the effectiveness of biomedical treatments for depression justify the rate at which they are prescribed?" 2 questions: a) Do you find this to be an acceptable RQ in general? b) should she limit it to drug therapy instead of the broader biomedical? Thank you for your feedback.

Jamie Ferrario 17 September 2018 - 17:59

Hi John,
Quick question: I have a student who is looking at the effects of music on therapy after a stroke. One of her sections is on speech and language, which I know is fine. The other section is on therapy of motor skills, such as walking. Is that second part still in the realm of a psychology EE? I suspect it is, as she is talking about neurological improvement, but this week I have really been second guessing myself. I figured it wouldn't hurt to send you a note. Thank you for your time!

John Crane 18 September 2018 - 05:22

Dear Jamie

I am not sure I understand the layout of the essay. What is meant by a section on "speech and language?" Is this background material? If so, this really needs to be minimal. The bulk of the essay should focus specifically on effectiveness of music therapy on recovery from stroke. Many students have up to 8 pages of background information and these essays always score C or lower as it is not directly relevant to the question. I would probably tell her to eliminate the section on therapy of motor skills as it is not relevant to the question, and this will only cost her marks for criteria A, B and C.

Jamie Ferrario 18 September 2018 - 13:47

I just reread and worded that a bit funny. She is looking into how music helps to heal after a stroke. She is using research that shows that music has an effect on patients being able to regain language. That is the bulk of her first argument. I feel pretty good about this section. She then has a section on research that shows that music helps patients to regain motor skills. That was the section I was worried about. I was concerned that motor skills as a behavior would drift a bit outside of the psychology field and now we are dealing more with neurology instead of biopsychology. Neither section is background. Both have research supporting music as an appropriate therapy.
I agree with you that perhaps that section needs to be removed and her paper should only focus on the effects of music therapy on recovering speech after a stroke.

John Crane 18 September 2018 - 21:08

Dear Jamie,

Now I get it. I actually think that if she is looking at the role of music on neuroplasticity, that could be fine. But if she has enough research to only focus on speech, that would most likely be better - although the two surely must overlap, right?

Jamie Ferrario 20 September 2018 - 13:40

They definitely do have overlap! I just spoke to her and we talked about making the connection to neuroplasticity more explicit.
As always, thank you so much for your time and help! I appreciate it very much!

John Dereu 20 September 2018 - 14:54

Dear John, I think you might have missed this previous post in the process of answering Miss Ferrario query but, I have a student who selected an EE topic of "To what extent does the effectiveness of biomedical treatments for depression justify the rate at which they are prescribed?" 2 questions: a) Do you find this to be an acceptable RQ in general? b) should she limit it to drug therapy instead of the broader biomedical? Thank you for your feedback.

John Crane 21 September 2018 - 05:34

Dear John

Sorry for that. I think that the question is too awkward. I would simply look at the effectiveness of biomedical treatments. Then, in the conclusion, the student could discuss whether they are justified. I would limit to drug therapy.

John Dereu 1 October 2018 - 13:34

Thank you so much.