reflections on the extended essay

Writer: Rachel Cohn

The Extended Essay! I’m sure the only things that come to mind when thinking about the EE is suffering and pain. Yes, the extended essay is a long and tedious process, but The Wood and the amazing seniors who finally finished their essays are here to help out all the first year IB Diploma candidates who are currently finding their research questions, or anyone else who is curious about the extended essay. 

To make the extended essay seem a little less intimidating, I sent out a survey to the IB Diploma seniors and asked them a couple questions including what their research question was, what the coolest thing they learned from their research was, and if they have any advice. 

I’ll start. I did a world studies paper, which means that I was able to choose two disciplines to write my paper about. World studies also has subcategories and I chose health and development. The two disciplines I used were biology and economics to answer the question, What are the barriers to HIV therapy adherence in Soweto, South Africa and how do these barriers limit effective control of the ongoing HIV epidemic in this resource-poor setting? I learned all about the super cool antiretroviral therapy adherence being conducted in Soweto to limit the transmission rates of HIV and lessen the symptoms. I also studied the many barriers that this therapy presents, including the cultural stigmatization surrounding HIV in South Africa that prevents adolescents from maintaining their treatment regimens. My advice for anyone scared to begin their extended essays is to choose a topic that you are super interested in because if you don’t like your question, the process will be miserable. Also, if you are passionate about your topic, you can use it in college applications to demonstrate your intellectual curiosity. 

Raina Grosswald:

What was your subject: Literature 

What was your research question: In Fahrenheit 451, to what extent does Ray Bradbury’s use of symbolism and futuristic ideas of the mid-Twentieth century exhibit the dependence of humans on technological innovations?

What is the coolest thing you learned from your research: The uncanny resemblance between Bradbury’s innovations and the technology that exists today. 

What was the worst part of the extended essay: The drawn out process, like the fact it was over a year. 

Any advice for people preparing to do the EE: Don’t stress too much, keep up with the assignments/checkpoints, write a great detailed outline.

Aubrey Charron: 

What was your subject: Language and Literature 

What was your research question: How Does Edgar Allan Poe’s use of unreliable male narrators in “Annabel Lee” and “Morella” draw attention to the unobtainable societal expectations placed on women in the mid-1800s?

What is the coolest thing you learned from your research: I learned a lot about Poe’s Theory of Composition and why the development of women in poetry and prose was so different (and how that impacted my argument)!

What was the worst part of the extended essay: My essay didn’t exactly fit with the standard format of the essay (intro, body, counterclaims, reflective conclusion) so it was frustrating to figure out how to get all of those ideas in a way that worked for me. 

Any advice for people preparing to do the EE: Pick a topic you like! This is not going to be pleasant if you don’t… or as pleasant as the EE can be!

Any extra comments: You got this! It’s not as bad as you think if you stay on top of the deadlines. And write your rough draft over the summer! Don’t try to fit it in the first week of school!

Halli Friedman 

What was your subject: World Studies 

What was your research question: How do polygamy and the agricultural economy in Uganda affect HIV rates? 

What is the coolest thing you learned from your research: It exposed me to an area of interest of mine that I didn’t realize I would enjoy learning about so much! World health and gender equality for healthcare is now super important to me. 

What was the worst part of the extended essay: Knowing how to start and find the question. 

Any advice for people preparing to do the EE: Make sure you are really interested in your topic, because you will be spending LOTS of time with it! 

Lauren Cohn 

What was your subject: History 

What was your research question: To what extent were the requirements to become an astronaut in NASA’s early space program intentionally discriminatory towards women as opposed to being rooted in technical and physical limiting factors?

What is the coolest thing you learned from your research: NASA was super sexist in their early space program. Some people considered the training of women a distraction from important goals of the space race while others thought that a woman’s only suitable role on a ship would be to fulfill the sexual needs of the men on board. 

What was the worst part of the extended essay: Finding research was a little hard because I wanted to write about something that hadn’t really been done before, but with that, there’s not going to be a ton of research. I had to broaden my scope a lot in order to find anything helpful.

Any advice for people preparing to do the EE: Write about something you find super cool. If you pick something you aren’t passionate about, the process is going to be difficult. Write about something you care about because that will energize you to find research and share it with readers. 

Allie Abbot 

What was your subject: History

What was your research question: To what extent was western fashion during the Cold War an example of Nikita Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization focus on culture driven consumerism and how was that consumerism and expression of the downfall of Khrushchev? 

What is the coolest thing you learned from your research: The coolest thing I learned was how the growth of Soviet industry (as seen in the fashion industry) meant the growth of some capitalistic autonomy in satellite states which was a major contributing factor to the eventual downfall of the entire Soviet Union.

What was the worst part of the extended essay: The worst part of the EE was organizing all of my information into clear arguments that worked toward answering my question.

Any advice for people preparing to do the EE: My advice would be to find a topic that you really like, find as many initial sources as you can, and when writing, make sure your sections only contain information that actually argues some part of your question.

Hana Ozaki 

What was your subject: Business Management 

What was your research question: What are the business implications regarding the inability of MARTA to expand into suburban neighborhoods? 

What is the coolest thing you learned from your research: I learned how the lack of an efficient public transportation system in Atlanta was one of the main reasons that Amazon chose to not go with Atlanta as their second headquarter location and the potential jobs and revenue that was lost. 

What was the worst part of the extended essay: Coming up with a topic you’re genuinely interested in and that has a lot of research available  

Any advice for people preparing to do the EE: Choose something you really care about because you’re going to have to work with it for a whole year! 

Dani Barnard 

What was your subject: World Studies 

What was your research question: How can technological advancements in water purification help alleviate the problems that occur as a result of non-potable water in developing sectors of the world such as Mogadishu, Somalia? 

What is the coolest thing you learned from your research: I got to learn about different technologies that purify water. The most interesting one I researched was called Watergen, an air-to-water generator, that creates and purifies water from humid air.

Hannah Suggs 

What was your subject: Psychology 

What was your research question: To what extent can artificial intelligence teach empathy to those with Autism Spectrum Disorder? 

What is the coolest thing you learned from your research: There’s a term called the theory-theory that says that individuals can infer the mental states of others (beliefs, desires, emotions, etc.) on a very basic – almost naive level. I just thought it was interesting because something named theory theory is funny. 

What was the worst part of the extended essay: Turning the outline into a complete rough draft! The worst!! 

Any advice for people preparing to do the EE: Pick a topic you’re genuinely interested in or else you’re going to hate writing your EE– and if you’re going to hate writing you’re EE then it’s going to be a long year and a half. 

Any extra comments: Pick a strong mentor!

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