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Extended Essay

A guide for the extended essay in the DP.

World studies: Sample A

Extended Essay: Exemplar Commentary

Subject

World Studies

If applicable, theme for WSEE

 

 

If applicable, category for language essays

 

If applicable, subjects used for WSEE

History, Economics, Politics

 

Title of essay

Factors contributing to the support of separatist movements

Essay number

A

Examination session

 

 

Assessment of extended essay

Criteria

Mark awarded

Commentary

A: Focus and method

[6]

5

The research question is “Which factors, with a special focus on the 2014 referendum for independence in Scotland, have contributed most to the increase in popularity of separatist movements in Europe?”

The topic is communicated clearly. The topic implies a rather wider field of study than the direct focus on Scotland which is in the research question. The research question is intriguing as it implies that the author will rank the factors mentioned. An appropriate range of sources of different types has been chosen, with a nice mix of academic and current media. All that is missing is the setting of the issue of separatism in a broader context, as an issue of global importance.

The appropriate markband is 5-6.

B: Knowledge and understanding

[6]

5

The IB academic subjects claimed on the cover sheet are history, economics and politics. There is evidence of familiarity with all three in the course of the essay, and terminology from the social sciences is used with understanding and skill. The author’s understanding of separatism in Scotland is good, but more time should have been taken to “launch” the issue of separatism, which is evident in many parts of the world. Also, the conclusion could have done more to apply the knowledge and understanding gained on a wider scale. Some brief comparisons are made. Sources are generally used well and with understanding.

The appropriate markband appears to be 5-6.

C: Critical thinking

[12]

9

The author’s judgement in selecting four topics to analyse Scottish separatism is good, especially in the use of history and culture in creating a believable myth of national identity. In some sense it is a shame that the distinctive legal and educational systems are not considered (though this is acknowledged in the introduction), as they are different from England’s and are a part of institutional distinctiveness.

A mature analytical style is used, with evaluative content (usually substantiated) woven into the text. There is frequent reference back to the main theme of the essay and so a clear, coherent, reasoned argument develops. A summative conclusion is offered, which ranks the factors in order of importance in determining the local characteristics of separatism in Scotland.

The section on economic factors is interesting and the attempt to correlate SNP votes against income (not wealth, as stated) levels is an original attempt at primary research which could have been developed further.

The most appropriate markband is 7-9.

D: Presentation

[4]

4

The essay is clearly a stewed down version of a much bigger work and the author is guilty of compressing extra material into footnotes, which are expansions of the text rather than references. This is a way of expanding the word limit and should be discouraged.

The structure of the essay aligns with the expectations of a research essay. Referencing is clear and fairly comprehensive and consistent. The layout allows the reader to access the essay easily. The author has a good academic style which communicates clearly and allows understanding readily. The bibliography is nicely organized and accessible.

The most appropriate markband is 3-4.

E: Engagement

[6]

(not included)

 

The assessment of an accompanying RPPF will affect the overall mark awarded and the grade achieved.

Total marks awarded

23/28

It must be emphasised that this essay was written well before the referendum on Scottish independence of September 2014 (which resulted in a narrow majority against independence) and the UK general election of May 2015 in which the Scottish Nationalist Party (separatist) won 56 of the 59 seats in Scotland. It therefore lacks the benefit of hindsight that comes from a substantial victory for separatist politics. At the same time, it shows a degree of prescience in that the issue has become more important since the time of writing.

The main limitation of the essay is that it confines consideration of separatism to Europe and focuses too heavily on Scotland, though comparisons are drawn with Catalonia and mention is made of other countries. In other words, it does not establish an issue of global concern. The skills exercised are very much those of the historian, even though the subject matter includes the last 10 years. These skills relate to causation, weighting of factors, interpretation of information, etc. A better introduction and conclusion could have made the essay outstanding, but nevertheless it represents a considerable achievement by the author.

Please note: as a result of modifying existing extended essays for illustrative purposes, not all exemplars have an accompanying RPPF for assessment under criterion E (this is a mandatory element for all essays as of 2018). As a result, this essay has been marked out of 28 rather than 34.

World studies: Sample B

Extended Essay: Exemplar Commentary

Subject

World Studies

If applicable, theme for WSEE

Equality and Inequality

If applicable, category for language essays

 

If applicable, subjects used for WSEE

Geography, Economics

Title of essay

Geography and Economic Inequality in Sub Saharan Africa

Essay number

B

Examination session

 

Assessment of extended essay

Criteria

Mark awarded

Commentary

A: Focus and method

[6]

4

The title communicates the general area of the research, hints at the two IB subjects to be used, and is a global issue with a local manifestation. Infant mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa is an extremely broad topic and requires a narrower focus to make the essay manageable within 4,000 words. The research question makes it clear that economics and geography will be used to look at inequality, and thus provide perspectives on infant malnutrition and the ways it might be interpreted. There is a clear attempt so far to match the configuration of the world studies extended essay (WSEE), ie global issue, local manifestation, and two IB diploma subjects. However, little or no information is provided on research methodology, only the structure of the essay. We are left to discover the sources as we read the essay, and they are not introduced or evaluated. Using the best fit approach to conflate the three strands in criterion A, the most appropriate markband is 3-4.

B: Knowledge and understanding

[6]

3

The internal structure of the essay reflects a good understanding of the needs of the WSEE. The four chapters that follow the introduction—global scope, local scope, economic scope and geography scope—are very much the way a WSEE should be configured, though the execution is less impressive. The author does not define or develop infant malnutrition as an issue of global concern, and then considers the local manifestation in Vancouver rather than in Sub-Saharan Africa as the title would have us expect, and diverts into an association of educational attainment with infant malnutrition in Vancouver. Evidence is provided for the former but not the latter. So knowledge and understanding are applied in a context but not the one expected. The chapter on economic scope leans heavily on a personal account of a visit to Kenya, data from Gapminder to show low levels of income, some factors in development and the importance of the education of women. No evidence is given on infant malnutrition, only background factors. None of the conceptual background to the economic analysis of development is brought in. The chapter on geographic scope deals with food security, drought, climate and especially urbanization, which are relevant considerations from the geography syllabus and are all relevant background factors, but their impact on infant mortality is not made clear.

Some appropriate sources are consulted and some knowledge is demonstrated, but links to the research question and the topic of infant malnutrition seem weak. There is a general lack of academic context to the essay, even though a lively interest is conveyed. Sources are quite well-chosen, but not explained or evaluated. Subject-specific terminology is used quite well in a descriptive context. No concepts or theories are explained. The appropriate markband is again 3-4.

C: Critical thinking

[12]

6

No primary data is generated: the essay relies on a survey of secondary sources, though there are anecdotes from personal experience in Vancouver and a visit to Kenya. Some sources seem a little tangential to the research question: evidence is provided of educational attainment in Canada, Gapminder tables on income per person over time, child mortality (not malnutrition) plotted against poverty, and urban migration. However, no data on infant malnutrition is offered, even though it is readily available with a little research. Evaluative content is left largely to the conclusion, which, while conveying some sense of emerging global consciousness, refers only to “a culmination of factors” and the complexity behind global issues.

Findings are communicated but are largely left without evaluation in the main body of the essay. There is a slight feeling that they are presented gratuitously, as though their significance is obvious. There is some disconnection between the research question and the (unexplained) path taken by the essay. There is some attempt at evaluation in the conclusion, but it is relatively superficial. The appropriate markband is 4-6, as it best fits the descriptors.

D: Presentation

[4]

3

The formal presentation is generally good. A consistent, if rather vague, form of citation is used. The organization of chapters is acceptable, though greater emphasis on methodology and evaluation would have been good. There is nothing which hinders understanding of the process, findings and conclusion. The appropriate markband is 3-4.

E: Engagement

[6]

(not included)

 

The assessment of an accompanying RPPF will affect the overall mark awarded and the grade achieved.

Total marks awarded

16/28

This essay is well-configured to meet the needs of the WSEE, but rather fails to deliver. Its focus seems to be entirely on background factors rather than infant malnutrition itself. While the factors chosen are generally of importance to economics and geography, they are not put together to create an interdisciplinary or distinctive outcome. Perhaps there is insufficient “distance” between the subjects. The essay is something of a lost opportunity. There is plenty in economics and geography on resource allocation, failures of distribution and development that could have allowed a greater demonstration of skills and the opportunity to engage in contestable topics and areas of debate.

Please note: as a result of modifying existing extended essays for illustrative purposes, not all exemplars have an accompanying RPPF for assessment under criterion E (this is a mandatory element for all essays as of 2018). As a result, this essay has been marked out of 28 rather than 34.

World studies: Sample C

Extended Essay: Exemplar Commentary

Subject

World Studies

If applicable, theme for WSEE

Not given

If applicable, category for language essays

 

If applicable, subjects used for WSEE

Not given but presumed to be Economics and Geography

Title of essay

Foreign aid: the curse of Africa

Essay number

C

Examination session

 

Assessment of extended essay

Criteria

Mark awarded

Commentary

A: Focus and method

[6]

2

The focus is not entirely appropriate for a world studies extended essay. The topic is neither global nor local and nothing is done to establish a global issue. A better focus would have been to look at debates over aid and development as a global issue, then look at a local example or examples in Africa.

The research question “How is foreign aid affecting the economic development of Africa” is very broad. It might have been possible to identify two academic subjects to investigate it, but this is not done. Some focus on the nature of economic development might have been expected but this is not present.

The research method seems to have been a survey of internet sources, often published news media, and only one printed source. Quotations are included but seem to be presented more gratuitously than in support of an argument. The author does not comment on the validity or partiality of any of the sources. An element of subjectivity is present: the author refers to personal visits as the inspiration of the essay.

The most appropriate markband is 1-2.

B: Knowledge and understanding

[6]

2

The source materials identified in the bibliography are partly appropriate, but lack an academic focus. They point to a narrative approach, which leads towards judgement rather than academic evaluation. Since the essay is almost entirely unreferenced, it is impossible to see which sources have been used where in the writing of the essay. Knowledge of the topic is sometimes unstructured and anecdotal.

Some subject-specific terminology relating to aid is present and is generally used accurately. However, references to economic development are infrequent and undeveloped. Some of the subject matter included makes the reader doubt the understanding of aid to Africa: there is a lengthy comparison with Marshall Aid, which was not only nearly 70 years ago but was in a different context of post-war reconstruction. Knowledge and understanding is limited, so the most appropriate markband is 1-2.

C: Critical thinking

[12]

3

The author does engage with an issue of importance, namely development aid, but chooses the entire continent of Africa as the local manifestation. A typology of aid is offered but there are few definitions and concepts are not set in any academic context or debate. Most of the essay is a narrative, with subjective inferences drawn.

The author has clearly undertaken research, but the lack of referencing means it is hard to see its direct application in the text. The research is limited in that it does not dovetail with the conceptual framework of the (unidentified) academic disciplines. Conclusions are not always substantiated by evidence, and evidence is not sourced, so analysis is limited.

Evaluation is even more limited because of the dominance of a narrative approach. Conclusions and inferences are sometimes judgemental rather than being the products of arguments. It is simply not possible to see this essay as a product of mature academic judgement.

The most appropriate markband is 1-3.

D: Presentation

[4]

1

Presentation is weak. The essay is unreferenced, but does contain a bibliography. It is difficult to trace the sources of many of the claims made. There is a contents page, but this is not matched in headings in the main body of the essay—rather, it seems to be an attempt to label paragraphs. There is no clear identification of the introduction and conclusion. For these reasons, the formal presentation of the essay is less clear than might be expected, and it somewhat undermines the reading and understanding. The appropriate markband is 1-2.

Under the new requirements this essay must be referred as a possible case of academic misconduct due to incorrect and inconsistent citing and referencing.

E: Engagement

[6]

(not included)

 

The assessment of an accompanying RPPF will affect the overall mark awarded and the grade achieved.

Total marks awarded

8/28

This essay is weak. The choice of topic is very broad and is not configured as a global issue with a local manifestation. Rather, it is an opinion piece written very much as a report rather than a research essay. It is almost entirely unreferenced, yet makes many factual statements, presumptions and subjective claims. It does not claim a relationship with any IB academic subjects (though international aid features in the economics and geography guides), so is not interdisciplinary in any noticeable way. Some typology of aid has been used but its source is not clear. A major weakness is the failure to substantiate claims with evidence. Although widespread corruption is alleged, very little evidence for it is provided, leaving the impression of opinion rather than argument.

Please note: as a result of modifying existing extended essays for illustrative purposes, not all exemplars have an accompanying RPPF for assessment under criterion E (this is a mandatory element for all essays as of 2018). As a result, this essay has been marked out of 28 rather than 34.


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