A. Getting started

The internal assessment (IA) in IB psychology is a replication of an experiment. The experiment must be carried out in a group, with no more than four students. The first step is to choose an experiment to replicate.

The success of your own experiment is to a large extent dependent on finding an appropriate study for your research. It is essential that your research be based on an experiment that has been published; you should not invent something of your own. Be aware that the assessment criteria for SL and HL are the same for internal assessment.

When choosing an experiment to replicate, you should consider the following questions:

  • Am I able to get a copy of the original study or at least a description of the study with a detailed description of both the procedure and the results?
  • What model or theory is the study investigating?
  • How much time will it take me to carry out the experiment?
  • To what extent will I have to modify the procedure for my experiment, for example, how will I operationalize the independent and the dependent variables compared to the original study?
  • Will I be able to get or create all the materials necessary to run the experiment?
  • Will I be able to use descriptive and inferential statistics for this replication?

What to do

The IB requirement for the internal assessment is to carry out an experiment in which there is one independent variable and one dependent variable.  You may have to simplify the study that you are replicating in order to meet this requirement. Here is a set of guidelines for getting started.

  • Choose an experiment based on a specific model or theory that is relatively simple to replicate. Most students choose cognitive experiments on memory, heuristics or perception.
  • You should manipulate only one independent variable.
  • You should measure only one dependent variable.
  • Make sure that the data you will obtain are appropriate for the application of the required statistics.
  • Experiments must meet ethical standards.
  • You may have to make some minor changes to the experiment – for example, having participants recall a list of US states may not be highly relevant for your participants, so you may have them recall a list of European capitals instead. Any changes that you make to the original experiment must be explicitly justified – that is, in your introduction, you must explain why those particular changes were made.

What to avoid

Be aware that there are certain things to avoid. Failure to do so means that your internal assessment may score zero marks. You must avoid:

  • Conformity and obedience studies;
  • Animal research;
  • Placebo experiments;
  • Experiments involving ingestion (i.e. food, drink, smoking, drugs);
  • Experiments involving deprivation (e.g. sleep, food);
  • Experiments involving young children;
  • Quasi-experiments – that is, studies where you do not manipulate the independent variable because it is naturally occurring. Examples of naturally occurring variables include gender, age, ethnicity, culture, socioeconomic status, left- or right-handedness, native language, education level, or time of the day.
  • Correlational research that describes a relationship between variables, surveys, and observational studies;
  • Using something that is “pre-packaged”, such as a computer program or a pre-designed test, is not allowed—you must design your own materials.
Ethical guidelines for internal assessment
  • Any experimental study that creates anxiety, stress, pain or discomfort for participants is not permitted.
  • Any experimental study that involves unjustified deception or invasion of privacy must be avoided.
  • Each participant must be informed of the aims and procedure of the study prior to participation.
  • All participants who are 16 years or older must sign an informed consent form.  For experiments with participants under the age of 16, parental consent must be obtained. A blank copy of the form must be included in the appendices of the report.
  • All data collected must remain confidential.
  • Participants must be debriefed and given the chance to withdraw their data.  They must be shown the results of the research when completed.

Making a proposal

Before beginning your internal assessment, it is important that you carefully plan out what you propose to do.  In addition, your plan should be approved by your teacher with regard to its ethics and procedure. It is strongly recommended that you include a copy of your formal proposal in the appendices of your report. Here is a sample of what it could look like.

Appendix i. Internal Assessment Proposal sample

Study to be replicated: Tversky & Kahnemann (1974) investigating the theory...

Materials required: A power point slide with the math problem.  One slide will show 8!  The second slide will show 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5 * 6 * 7 * 8.

Procedure:  There will be two groups.  Both groups will be read standardized directions before being shown the slide for their condition.  In one condition, the participants will be shown a slide with 8! in descending condition (8 * 7 * 6 …) and in the second condition, the participants will be shown a slide with 8! in ascending order (1 * 2 * 3 * 4…).  Participants will be given only 20 seconds to estimate the answer.  We will find the average response for each condition.

Ethical considerations:  Before the experiment, informed consent will be obtained from the parents of the participants as well as from the parents themselves.  The sample will be made up of 15- year-old students at our school.  There should be no undue stress during the experiment as all responses will be anonymous.  After the study, the participants will have to be debriefed.  There is no deception during the experiment, but the full aim of the experiment should be explained and the participants should have the right to withdraw their data.

Feedback on the proposal: We should consider having a few extra slides for the groups to estimate the value.  For example: 52 * 52 or 39 * 19.  This will make sure that they understand the procedure and that they get a sense of what 20 seconds feels like.  Some people felt that 20 seconds was too long, so we may change it to only 15 seconds.  The original study only used 10 seconds, but we feel that this may be too short.  Finally, there was a concern that the mean might give us distorted results.  We will also use the median and the semi-interquartile range to help with any outliers that we might receive.

What should be in the internal assessment report?

A full overview of the content of the report is on the last page in this chapter.  The remainder of this chapter looks at each of the four sections of the report – what needs to be in each section and then how you will be assessed.

Please remember that there is no difference between SL and HL internal assessment requirements.

Overview of assessment criteria for the Internal Assessment
CriterionMaximum Marks
I.  Introduction6 marks
II. Exploration4 marks
III. Analysis6 marks
IV. Evaluation6 marks
Total marks22 marks

For SL candidates, the Internal Assessment is worth 25% of your final grade. For HL candidate, the Internal Assessment is worth 20% of your final grade.

Next page: Writing the introduction

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