Do's and Don'ts for EE
Below you will find a list of "do's" and "don't's" for to better understand the demands of the EE.
You will see that much of the advice focuses on how to set the question.
The following advice is essential for doing well on the EE.
1. The question needs to be specific. Don't write about "therapies" - choose a therapy. Do not write about "strategies" - choose a strategy.
However, when you are specific, make sure that the limiter that is being used has a purpose - and that research that is directly linked to that limiter can be found. For example, a question like "Is CBT effective in the treatment of Major Depressive Disorder in 14-year-old Americans," is rather problematic, unless the research that has been found is limited to this sample group. Narrowing your question down to a specific population and then not having research that specifically studies that group, leads to low marks.
2. There should be a counter-argument. A counter-argument should challenge your thesis. If your thesis is that there are biological roots of aggression, the counter-argument is research that shows that biological arguments are not valid. Discussing alternative theories is not a true counter-argument. The goal of the essay is not to "report" alternative positions, but to present them and then discuss why the argument that you are making - that is, your thesis statement - is the more appropriate conclusion.
3. Each paragraph of your paper should respond directly to the research question. When developing your outline for the paper, ask yourself if each section that you are planning to write is a direct response to the question. If not, consider leaving those sections out of the paper. For example, if the question is "To what extent does childhood trauma play a role in the onset of schizophrenia", a section of your paper devoted to the treatment of schizophrenia is not a response to the question and should not be included as part of your essay.
4. Use research that is from the last 20 years whenever possible. Avoid research that is before the 1960s. Also, avoid using only the research that is in all of the IB textbooks and online revision sites. You need to be able to demonstrate that you have actually carried out research.
5. Draw a conclusion that responds directly to the research question in light of the research that you have discussed. Do not conclude that "so, we don't really know." This is a poor conclusion. Also, the examiner should be able to read your conclusion and see that it reflects the argument that you have made in the body of your essay.
Don't's: what may lower the quality of your extended essay
The following advice focuses on common mistakes that result in lower EE scores.
1. Do not write about all three approaches. If your question is "To what extent do biological, cognitive and sociocultural factors play a role in aggression?", you do not have a focused question and your essay will lack depth. A "to what extent" question should at the most focus on one approach. "To what extent do biological factors play a role in aggression?" Ideally, you would limit it even more. "To what extent does testosterone play a role in aggressive behaviour?"
2. Do not write a history of the issue. Many students write an introduction and then write a history of the issue. For example - a history of therapy or a history of sports psychology. This is not highly relevant and lowers marks for reasoned argument. It is important for you to focus on your question from start to finish. If the first time you actually address the question directly is on page 9 or 10 of your EE, you have not focused adequately on your question.
3. The IB recommends that you not use footnotes. This is not how most scientific papers are written.
4. When citing sources, you are assessed in the new EE guide on how sources are used. It is very important that you do not include lists of sources. The following example will result in lower marks:
There are many examples where imagery has been successful including baseball (Gerry 2012; Marks and Spencer 2011; Taylor and Swift 2009), gymnastics (Rice and Pudding 2001; Tyler 2000; Friedman and Lain 1999; Curtis 2005) and football (Arsenal and Spark 2002; Fender and Bender 2001; Marx and Lennon 2005; Pryor 2001).
When examiners see this type of citation, it raises red flags about the academic honesty of the paper. This should be avoided at all costs as it is up to you to show how each source is actually being used.
5. Avoid using Wikipedia, the Huffington Post, WebMD, general blogs or other student's essay as sources of research. Also, do not use unpublished papers. You may use them if you are looking for statistics or general information, but they should not be used as a key piece of evidence in support of your argument.
6. Do not include appendices. Examiners are told that they should not read appendices.
7. You are not allowed to carry out interviews or surveys as part of your research. You may interview someone in order to get an understanding of your topic, but you are not allowed to cite the interview in your paper. Doing so means that your paper "does not meet the requirements" and your grade may be compromised.
8. You must use studies that directly support your question. Do not attempt to apply theory on your own to answer a question. For example, let's look at the question: "To what extent can sociocultural factors explain exercise habits?" A poor essay would look at Asch, Tajfel & Turner and Milgram in order to show that conformity, social identity and obedience (for example, to a doctor) all play a role in exercise habits. This type of essay would most likely earn a D. In order to answer the question well, you would have to find research that specifically looks at the role of sociocultural factors in exercise. For example, studies that have shown the effectiveness of compliance techniques on increasing regular exercise - or cultural variations in understanding the importance of exercise.
9. Finally, avoid using the word "prove". Psychologists cannot "prove" that anything is true, but they can provide evidence to support their theories. It is incorrect if your conclusion is that you have "proven that CBT is more effective than drugs in the treatment of anxiety disorders."
I know that I am doing it wrong if....
I am discussing all of the approaches in my essay.
I have limited my question to a specific population and I cannot find research that looks specifically at that group.
My "to what extent question" has more than one variable.
I am trying to apply a theory to answer a question, but I don't have research that specifically does that.
I am carrying out a survey or an interview as part of my EE research.