EE Criterion B. Knowledge

Image credit: RexCriterion B in the new Extended Essay curriculum focuses on two strands: knowledge and understanding - which includes both conceptual understanding and understanding of research - and subject-specific terminology

A good part of this criterion is how the research and theories are described, as well as how terminology is used in the essay.  This criterion does not look at the holistic use of the sources to form an argument - that is criterion C. The relevance and understanding of each study and theory that is used are assessed under this criterion.

This criterion is worth 6 marks.

Assessment strands

Under criterion B, students are assessed on the following two strands:

  • Knowledge and understanding are demonstrated.
  • The sources used are relevant to the question.
  • Use of psychological terminology and concepts is good.

In the next sections, these two strands will be explained in more detail.

Knowledge and understanding

The performance indicators for a top mark for this strand are:

  • The selection of source materials is clearly relevant and appropriate to the research question.
  • Knowledge of the topic/discipline/issue is clear and coherent.  Sources are used effectively and with understanding.

It is important that when using a theory or study that it be clearly outlined in enough detail to demonstrate understanding. Students need to be careful not to put in too many details that are not relevant to the argument.  Some examples would be that informed consent was obtained, where the study took place, or various versions of the same study. That being said, in some cases this type of information may be relevant.  For example, if a study of conformity is done in rural Ghana, the actual location of the study may be highly relevant to a discussion of culture or class.

The studies also have to be relevant to the argument.  If the research question is on the effect of anger on one's physical health, a study that shows that people who are more narcissistic have higher rates of anger is not an appropriately chosen piece of research to make an argument.  It is also important that studies chosen develop an argument and are not simply examples of the same findings.  An essay that outlines five studies of hippocampal impairment that are all pretty much the same does not really address the research question in sufficient depth.

Finally, although the essay is not assessed for its general use of language, it is important that the argument be coherent.  That is, it should be well planned so that there is a clear line of reasoning that can be followed by the reader.  Good use of topic sentences and focused paragraphs that only address a single facet of the argument help to achieve this goal.

Use of terminology

The performance indicators for a top mark for this strand are: The use of subject-specific terminology and concepts are accurate and consistent, demonstrating effective knowledge and understanding.

This indicator is looking at how psychological vocabulary is used.  Some of the words that are commonly misused are:

  • Experiment.  If research is being discussed but the research method is unclear, it is better to call it a "study" rather than an "experiment."
  • Reliability and validity are two terms that are often used interchangeably - but they have very different meanings.
  • The word "prove" should not be used in essays.  A basic principle of psychology is that we don't prove anything, we disprove (or refute) a hypothesis.
  • Ecological validity is often used when the student means "artificiality." The Hawthorne effect is an outdated concept and should be avoided.

In addition, this indicator assesses the quality of definitions that are set in the introduction or in the paper. It is best if students use cited definitions rather than writing an imprecise definition themselves.  It is also important that the paper adheres to the definitions that are made in the introduction.  If aggression is defined as "physical violence against another person", then an example of aggression as a motivation in sports would be outside the operationalization of the variable as defined in the introduction.

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