Ah, the Extended Essay.
There are many things IB students gripe about. Internal Assessments (IA), Theory of Knowledge (ToK), a lack of sleep… the list goes on and on. Even with all that stress, the Extended Essay (EE) seems to inspire an especially large sense of dread in most students. A 4000-word behemoth, the EE is part of the core component (which contributes 3 points to the total 45 of the IBDP) that some just write off as ‘something to just get a pass in and be done with’.
It is arguably easier to get an extra point from your 3 core component points than to get from a ‘6’ to a ‘7’ in subjects like Chemistry, so even while you’re working hard on MeeOpp to push your Chinese grade towards that coveted ‘7’ this summer, don’t forget to work on your EE!
If you’ve been studying under the IBDP, your teachers might have been stuffing cliche pieces of advice through your ears ad nauseam, so here are a few less conventional tips to make your EE more ‘fun’:
Find a topic that truly interests you (even if it’s weird)
People tell you to find something you’re interested in, but their examples are often pretty bland and conservative (‘What’s your favourite sport? You should do your EE on it.’). However, the weirdest ideas could sometimes make the best EEs, so don’t dismiss your unconventional passions right off the bat. Have a fondness for weirdly-named minerals? Try looking at the economics of strip mining. A hatred for slow Wi-Fi connections? Think about the degradation patterns of Wi-Fi over distance. True story: I just wanted an excuse to re-read the Harry Potter books last year and in the end, I only missed out on getting an ‘A’ for my EE on Harry Potter by a whisker.
Think of your plan as a springboard, not a rigid plan
I would bet almost anything that your teacher told you to make a roadmap, outline or some other document before you start writing. It makes sense to have a plan, but 9 times out of 10, you’ll find that you end up changing the plan as you’re writing. As you’re thinking and writing, you’ll probably stumble on new and potentially better ideas. This is why you should think of your plan as a springboard rather than a rigid pathway; even if they might not be the best points (yet), they can lead you to the better ideas.
Leave the formatting for last
It can be tempting to set up the double-line spacing, size 12 font size and other formatting quirks that the IB or the school requires when you finally get around to opening a new document on Microsoft Word. After all, you’re just following simple instructions and it makes you feel like you’ve already accomplished a lot by making this start and ‘getting everything ready for the start of writing’. Even if you’re about to reward yourself with another hour of procrastination, you’ll realize later on that double-spacing is a nightmare for editing.
What used to take up a page or two can now go on for five or six. Imagine scrolling through trying to edit a few words in section A on page 4, looking for and copying something from section C on page 13 and pasting it in section D on page 24. It’s not a pretty sight. Even the bibliography is a dozen pages long! This paragraph in double-line spacing used to barely take any space when I was editing it in single-line spacing but look at it now. Maybe you’ll find it easier to read because the text isn’t all crammed together, but since the default setting for most word processors is single-line spacing, you’re more likely to find the changed layout weird to work with and read. Just leave formatting for the end.
Do your bibliography as you write
There’s no twist for this tip. Doing the bibliography while you’re writing is actually pretty important. By the time you’re done with writing your EE, you might be looking at 30 different sources. Do you really want to type in information into your bibliography source by source hours before the deadline, desperately hoping to finish in time? You’ll have plenty to worry about once you get into the second year of the IBDP, so don’t stress yourself out before the first day of school. Microsoft Word has an in-built bibliography manager which you can use (there are guides all over the Internet). There are also citation-making sites such as BibMe which can search for your source and try to make the appropriate citation for you, but remember to check that the citation is correctly made!
Bonus: Try not to leave everything to be completed for the day before the deadline
Notwithstanding the cliche of ‘your work will be of higher quality if it isn’t rushed’, it’s just the most amazing feeling of accomplishment. Watching everyone else stress out over potentially missing the deadline while you’re all done is worth missing a few social events. You might get punched if you tell people about it while they’re waiting in a long line at the school printer to print their EEs out, but you managed to get it done early, so good for you! 🙂