Extended essay

Introduction to the extended essay in economics

The following page is designed for students as a guide to writing the extended essay in economics.

Many of you will be aware of the extended essay and what it includes. The extended essay consists of a 4000 (maximum) word essay on a topic of your choosing and concludes with a viva voce or short interview to confirm the candidates level of competence in the topic area chosen.  You are also required to provide two additional reflections during the process.

The extended essay provides you with the opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge on a particular topic or area of study and is chosen from a list of approved subjects.

Before starting work on the essay you are advised to complete the following tasks:

  1. Read the assessment criteria carefully.
  2. Where possible ask your teacher or IB coordinator to let you read previously completed essays in economics.  Many school libraries keep an archive of extended essays previously written by students.
  3. Work on a research question and discuss this with your supervisor.  This is a very important part of the process.  A good research question will go a long way to helping you towards a good finished essay.  A bad research question; one that is too broad in scope or where original data is difficult to obtain will make it significantly more difficult to achieve a high score in your finished essay.
  4. Decide how you will collect the research that you need for your essay and check the validity of this research with your supervisor.
  5. Write down a brief structure for your essay and discuss this with your supervisor before sitting down to write your essay.

How to choose a subject and research question to study?

The first piece of advice must be to pick a subject and a research question that is something you will enjoy researching and writing about. The EE involves a considerable amount of work - approximately 40 hours as an average.

In terms of selecting a research topic, why not ask the following question: ‘What is it that I am interested in?  What research question am I genuinely interested in finding out?’.  What topic(s) do I enjoy? 

What to do next?

Having completed all the preparation that you need, having written your research question and essay plan and had all of this approved by your supervisor you are ready to begin.

The essay should be no more than 4000 words in length but this does not include the following:

Contents page, acknowledgements, formulas, calculations, diagrams, tables, the bibliography, citations and references.

Essays can actually achieve a reasonable score just by following these simple rules:

  • state the research question
  • analyse your results
  • discuss your results
  • have a conclusion
  • keep to about 4000 words
  • present it well
  • cite all sources appropriately.
What makes a good title in economics?

This is a hugely important part of the extended essay writing process and the title should provide a clear focus of what the essay is about.  The essay may include a combination of primary and secondary research, but should be primarily based on the latter.  As a general rule an effective extended essay should be possible were you to lock yourself in your school library for the duration.  Which ever subject and title that you select must also not be historical.  The new IB guide specifically applies the 5 year rule, meaning that you should not pick a title more than five years old.  This is because essays based on historical events are difficult to write without becoming very descriptive.  When choosing the title of the essay you must select a research question which can be answered using conventional economic tools. 

Opportunities for analysis

The topic that you chose should provide an opportunity for you to demonstrates some critical analysis of the information that is gathered. You should avoid any topic that depend entirely on summarizing secondary data, because this leads to an essay that is overly descriptive in nature.  A good way of making your essay more unique is to restrict the scope of the essay, so that it focuses on, for example, a specific business, area or demographic.

Suitable areas of economics

Macroeconomics topics can be chosen, but any research question must be narrowed to a particular part of the economy and is not on the economy as a whole.  An extended essay on economic development would be recommended but the research question would need to relate to a particular aspect of development or a limited area.  It would not be suitable, for example, to examine the effect of some government policy on the development of the whole economy.

The following are some examples of extended essay titles which are suitable for use an economics extended essay.  You will notice that each of these are locally based on an area in which the student is familiar and allow the candidate to investigate their own primary research, applying it to conventional economic theory.  You will also be expected to complete secondary research as part of their essay.  You should also formulate your own critical arguments as well as construct a conclusion, consistent with the findings displayed during the main body of the essay.

  1. What is the relationship between the volume of livestock and the wholesale price of meat in Erzurum county?
  2. The impact of the 2018 rise in minimum wage on employment levels in London’s catering and restaurant industry?
  3. What is the MPC (marginal propensity to consume) of guest workers working on a construction site in Singapore?
  4. To what extent do the ski lodge hotels in Palandoken practise John Nash’s game theory when setting prices during the tourist season?
  5. How has the declining value of the £ affected the Airbnb market in Leeds?
  6. What is the PED for tobacco products amongst different age groups in Istanbul, Turkey.  How might this influence government policy aimed at reducing consumption of tobacco products?

Final questions to ask yourself before deciding on your RQ

Is this research question actually viable?

Before answering this question, consider how you might collect information to answer your question. For example, how confident are you that you can actually access the information? Remember that any information gained from businesses might be confidential. Some economic questions are also difficult to research because isolating the particular variable is difficult.

When conducting primary research you need to very clear about who your sample frame is going to be and can you get access to those people?  For instance when completing research on the viability of solar panels, your sample frame must be those potential purchasers e.g. those who own their own home with a roof large enough to accommodate it and not just your friends and family.

Can this topic be completed in 4000 words?

4,000 words may seem like a dauntingly large amount but you will be surprised how quickly the words go.  Some topics are far too broad in their scope to tackle in 4,000 words and some economic theory maybe too complex to cover adequately within the word limit.  Try to stay clear of topics more suited to essays in Business Management or Psychology and you will be disadvantaged, unless you also take those subjects as part of your Diploma. Some of these topics would be more suited to a multi-disciplinary approach of World Studies and combining Economics and Psychology.

You also need to be cognisant that this is a project where you should spend around 40 hours. For some topic it would be impossible to survey enough interested people, without giving up your entire summer vacation.

Is your topic academically rigorous enough?

One of the skills of writing the essay is connecting to an area of the syllabus with sufficient complexity so you can demonstrate your ability to critically evaluate and analyse like an economist. Remember that essays which are too descriptive are unlikely to score well.

For more information about completing an extended essay in economics including a sampler essay read the remainder of the pages in this section.

Candidates should expect to spend approximately 40 hours completing their essay.

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