Writing an Extended Essay may seem like a daunting task. It is 4000 words, which is probably the longest paper you will have written up to this point, and you need to carry out your research yourself. Although it is not easy, writing the extended essay can actually be interesting and go smoothly if you go about it the right way.
How do I pick a research question?
To pick a research question, the most common advice is to pick something you’re passionate about. This advice is very vague, and often, as a high schooler, you have no idea about what your passions are. As such, I have another way of going about this, with two options.
Option 1: the easy way
Pick a subject that you’re good at and that you can write 4000 words about.
Often, this is English Literature, History or Business as writing an Extended Essay in these subjects does not vary much from the skills you learn in the course.
Then, choose a topic you actually like. Within these subjects, all topics have (around) the same difficulty, so pick a subject you wouldn’t mind researching.
Remember: it does not need to be a lifelong passion. Just choose something that you vaguely like or that’s interesting → as you put in the work, trust me, you’ll begin to fall in love with your topic regardless.
Option 2: the strategic way
This applies mainly if you want to apply to a UK university or if you need additional proof of your passion for your intended major.
Think about what you intend to apply for in university, and then write a list of subjects which correlate with that major. You want to apply for Economics? Your list would probably be: Economics, Mathematics, Physics and Business.
Now you can think about your skills. Does an EE in Maths terrify you? Are you currently failing Physics? From these, pick the one that you’re best at and that you like the most.
Within these subjects, I would advise discussing deeply with your advisor before settling into a research question because the topic you choose could be more complicated than anticipated.
In these subjects, make sure to pick something feasible. Do not overestimate your capabilities (even though you should definitely push yourself and challenge yourself), and do not make the EE impossible for you.
How do I continue after I have a research question?
Once you have your research question, the real work begins. I suggest carrying out the plan listed below, however, I do have a disclaimer: I am writing my EE in English Literature, and as such this plan may not hold for other subjects. It should in theory work but you might need to slightly adapt it.
Pick your main sources. Make sure these directly relate to your EE and will help you in writing.
Highlight the information in the main sources that you want to use.
Begin to write a broad plan: what are the main points you want to get across? what would your EE be incomplete without? what elements do you need to get the best grade for your EE? Make sure all these elements are present.
Once you have your broad plan, do further research into each of the main points. Get new sources for the main points, and highlight the important information again.
Write a plan for each of the main points. This means there will be plans within the main plan, which will help you immensely when you try to actually write your EE.
Check with your supervisor that your plan and your sub-plans are feasible. Make sure that each point relates directly to your research question and that you have enough sources.
Allot a word count for the introduction, conclusion, and each part of your plan.
Start writing! Don’t fret, don’t stall, don’t wait -- just do it.
Write each ‘section’ and then edit it. Each section must be edited and pretty much finished before you start the next, so that you don’t repeat yourself and you have clear links. Make sure that each of your sections fits the predicted word count -- if it varies by a lot, adapt the rest of your word counts to make sure you won’t go over the word limit.
Finish all of the sections before writing your introduction and conclusion.
Try to write your introduction and conclusion -- these will be the parts that will probably be most changed after editing, but just try your best on the first go.
Give the first draft of your EE to anyone who will read it before you give it to your supervisor. Your parents, siblings, friends… make everyone read it and give you advice. Remember, you have a very limited time with your supervisor so only ask them for advice when you’ve fixed everything possible yourself.
Using the advice of your supervisor, edit, edit and edit.
Good luck! This is just a very broad outline of what you can do. We’ll be sure to post more articles with tips regarding the EE. However, if you have a specific question or a specific article you’d like to see, make sure to put it on the forum and we’ll get back to you!