Ib extended essay what makes a good rq? The extended essay

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  • What makes a good RQ?



THE EXTENDED ESSAY “A study in depth of a limited topic”

  • Independent research supervised by a teacher
  • In a topic YOU choose from one of the IB subject areas
  • On a question YOU develop
  • Presented in 4000 words
  • In accordance with IB requirements


  • Prepares you for independent research expected by universities
  • Format is a formal research paper – scholarly journal
  • Written in a scholarly voice
  • Essay is an analytical answer to a question YOU develop


  • It is NOT a review of the literature
  • It is NOT a book report or plot summary
  • It is NOT everything you ever learned about your subject
  • It is NOT your opinion, your thoughts, or your beliefs


  • A carefully constructed analytical answer to a very precise question
  • Based on DATA and EVIDENCE from your research
  • Data cited as to source

The EE Advisor WILL NOT

  • Tell you what to do
  • Give you a RQ
  • Give you research resources
  • Edit your work
  • Remind you of the deadlines
  • Chase you down

Getting to the Research Question

  • S-T-Q
  • Subject….
  • Topic….
  • Question….

Getting to the Research Question

Choosing a Topic

  • Limited in scope and sufficiently narrow to allow you to examine an issue in depth
  • But big enough so you may collect and/or generate data for analysis
  • Science topics are most successful when you conduct an experiment
  • Consult your advisor and Librarian

Choosing a Topic

  • If you’re not confused, you haven’t spent enough time on it yet.
  • Keep reading.
  • If you haven’t changed your mind, you haven’t spent enough time on it yet.
  • Read some more.

The Research Question

  • The MOST important part of the essay. There are NO good essays with BAD research questions.
  • Think of the RQ as the map for the essay – don’t create a map to nowhere.
  • Questions have “question marks”
  • No ??, no research question.

Good Research Questions

  • Should relate two things (Like variables in a grade 10 science fair)
  • These factors should be
  • “cause and effect” related

Good research questions

  • Is it too easy? Is an answer easily found?
  • Is it “unanswerable”? Ghosts do not exist. Cannot look everywhere!
  • Is there a clear cut answer?
  • Is there no real answer?
  • Does enough evidence exist to argue this?

Good research questions

  • Can an argument be developed for or against an aspect of this?
  • Is the question speculative? What if?
  • Could a reasonable person disagree with the argument?

Good research questions

  • Is it narrow enough?
  • Can it be done in 4000 words?
  • How can it be narrowed?
    • Geographically
    • By era
    • By example
    • With real world example
    • To one work

Good research questions

  • Are ones for which information is available
  • Relate to the real world or have practical applications
  • Deepen the question
    • Has the “So what?” factor
    • Includes a possible solution
    • The issue is not trivial

Good research questions

  • Avoid
    • vague words (interesting, best, difficult)
    • inflammatory words (evil, all, every, best)
    • using too many words of others –needs to be your own words

Research Question Analysis

  • Does globalization affect Turkey?
  • ENGLISH, Group 1:
  • What symbols are employed by
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald?

BAD Research Questions

  • What causes cancer?
  • What was the impact of the civil rights movement?
  • The History of _______________

GOOD Research Questions

  • How does the portrayal of Joan of Arc by Shaw, Anouilh, and Schiller differ?
  • BIOLOGY: An experimental study to determine if Vitamin C levels in orange juice differ in supermarket vs. restaurants

GOOD Research Questions

  • What is the impact of international coffee prices on the standard of living in Guatemala?

IB Prohibitions

  • Cannot recycle topics/papers you have written for IB classes.
  • Ethical considerations in design of experiments – no experiments that cause pain or stress to living organisms.

IB Prohibitions

  • The RQ MUST be yours. Beware of off-campus interning projects.
  • One student per Research Question – this YOUR question

Know the Criteria!

  • A. Research Question (0-2)
  • B. Introduction (0-2)
  • C. Investigation (0-4)
  • D. Knowledge of topic (0-4)
  • E. Reason argument (0-4)
  • F. Application of Analytical skills (0-4)
  • G. Use of appropriate language (0-4)

Know the Criteria (con’t)!

  • H. Conclusion (0-2)
  • I. Formal presentation (0-4)
  • J. Abstract (0-2)
  • K Holistic Judgment (0-4)
  • TOTAL possible points: 36

Mark Bands

  • 29 – 36 Excellent A
  • 23-28 Good B
  • 16-22 Satisfactory C
  • 8-15 Mediocre D
  • 0-7 Elementary E

It’s all about analysis

  • Use EVIDENCE, DATA not description, chronological lists.
  • This is not a ‘report.”
  • It’s an argument with supporting information.
  • This is NOT a review of the literature—your voice must come through loud and clear.

Using Evidence

  • Like in English…Point; Proof; Explanation!
  • State your claim. Include your evidence and relate it to your claim.
  • Comment on the evidence to show how it supports your claim.
  • Include counter-argument evidence.


  • Without a claim…
  • Evidence is not persuasive!
  • Without evidence…
  • A claim is not persuasive!


  • To support an RQ: “do teens who multi-task perform less well academically in high schools in Ontario?”

Evidence Example

  • Claim: students who listen to music while studying do less well on tests.
  • (this is my thought based on what I have read and it supports my thesis)
  • It is nothing without some evidence.


  • Find an expert or a researcher who has studied this.
  • Use databases…you know like Questiaschool or the Virtual Library
  • DAFR4553@hwdsb.on.ca
  • Pw: Ancaster (case sensitive)

Evidence to support

  • Although many students may believe they can switch back and forth between different tasks with no serious consequences to their academic performance, multitasking has been shown to dramatically increase the number of memory errors and the processing time required to "learn" topics that involve a significant cognitive load (Rubenstein, Meyer, and Evans, 2008). Found on Questiaschool
  • Critically evaluate:
  • Who are these people?
  • Have they written on it before?
  • Are they experts?
  • The study is older? Has research changed since?
  • Was this a peer-reviewed journal?
  • Can their findings be related to my topic? Is it externally valid?
  • Was the study well done?
  • If I get satisfactory answers to these questions, then I move on with this as a piece of evidence.

Evidence to support

  • The older, but still important study by Rubenstein et al. (2008) of university students and their abilities to focus while using laptops at the same time, clearly showed evidence that students are not effectively able to switch between tasks and still perform at their highest level. This study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, while looking at university-aged students, was performed under conditions currently found in Ontario high schools and therefore, is evidence that similar limitations exist in our high school students attempting to multi-task.

Scholarly Writing

  • Scholarly writing is hard…
  • You have to have the best evidence
  • You have to analyse it
  • You have to tie everything together to make a compelling argument around your thesis
  • Your voice has to shine through
  • It has to be supported by expert evidence

It’s about being a scholar

  • Use a scholarly, professional style
  • No “I” statements (“I think”)
  • Use the language and vocabulary of your field
  • Keep a Research Diary/Portfolio

It’s about the rules!

  • Read the Guidelines (“The Blue Book”)
  • Make sure your RQ is in the right Subject – your essay will be submitted to an examiner in YOUR subject
  • This is NOT the place for interdisciplinary topics
  • Did we mention? Read the EE Guide

It’s about the sources!

  • Do not rely uncritically on Internet sources
  • Analyze your sources IN your essay
  • Primary sources over secondary sources
  • No encyclopedia-like sources
  • No textbooks
  • No Wikipedia!!
  • Range and balance of sources

Let’s talk plagiarism

  • EACH fact, idea, quote, chart, graph, picture, number not your own must be sourced (with page number)
  • The direct or indirect use of the words of another person MUST be sourced. (paraphrasing doesn’t mean no citation)
  • Restating someone’s ideas EVEN IF not copied is plagiarism!
  • The solution: CITATIONS
  • Be consistent in citation style
  • Manage sources as you do your research: research notebook

Pitfalls: The Research

  • Plan for science experiments to go awry – they always do
  • Data may be unavailable for your topic
  • RQ may be too broad
  • You may not have enough background to complete the research
  • Be flexible and willing to change directions in the beginning

APPENDIX: The Presentation How to put it all together

  • Title page (Title is NOT the RQ)
  • Abstract of 300 words
  • Table of contents with subheads
  • Body of essay with subheads
  • Bibliography (ONLY works cited and in alphabetical order)
  • Page numbers
  • Candidate number on every page

Pitfalls: Word Count

  • Word count must be on title page
  • 4000 words max for paper
  • This does not include acknowledgements, table of contents charts and tables, annotated illustrations, bibliography or any appendices.

Pitfalls: Word Count

  • Word count must be on title page
  • 4000 words max for paper
  • This does not include acknowledgements, table of contents charts and tables, annotated illustrations, bibliography or any appendices.


          • The Impact of Bicycle Paths on
          • Land Use in Portland, Oregon
          • Susie Q. Student
          • Candidate 0517-123
          • Environmental Systems and Societies
          • Word Count: 3922
          • December 16, 2010


  • Abstract of 300 words. Abstract is NOT an introduction.
  • Write this LAST.
  • Abstract should state:
    • Research question being investigated
    • The scope of the investigation
    • The conclusion/s of the essay


  • Place AFTER the abstract
  • All pages must be numbered
  • Body of essay must have subheadings that are reflected in the TOC
  • Index is not required


  • Each work cited in the essay must be listed in the bibliography
  • Examiners match the citations to the bibliography
  • Over reliance on limited sources will lose points


  • Not viewed as essential and examiners are not required to read
  • Unless considered essential, complete lists of raw data should not be included

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