Cat.2 clarified


The Coordinators Notes of September 2013 contained a clear statement defining what is, and what is not, acceptable as a 'cultural artifact' - the term which is the basis of Category 2 B for acceptable Extended Essays in Group 2.

You may not be aware of this ruling, since it is possible (dare I say, 'likely'?) that some coordinators have not passed on this information ... or, to be fair, they might have passed it on, but buried amidst other tedious-if-necessary bureaucratic instructions. Whatever reasons there might be for not being aware, all English B teachers dealing with Group 2 Extended essays should take careful note of the Sept.2013 declaration. And here it is...

Clarification of category 2 'cultural artifacts'

The following qualify as 'cultural artifacts'

Written documents

Newspapers

Magazines

News headlines

Articles

Books (other than literary)

Cartoons

Adverts

Leaflets, brochures or manifestos

Laws or policies

Historical documents or records

Spoken Documents

Screenplays

Radio or television programmes

Song lyrics

Interviews

Visual documents

Works of fine art

Architecture (buildings, monuments, etc.)

Films

Stamps

Cultural icons

Fashion items and accessories (as a manifestation of culture)

Food items, dishes (as a manifestation of culture)

Brands (as a manifestation of culture)

The following do not qualify as 'cultural artifacts'

Political events (elections, referendums)

Historical events

Social movements (e.g. riots)

Social issues (unemployment, immigration, racism, school violence, the role of women in X country, etc)

Towns or regions (“travel guide” extended essays)

(Minority) ethnic groups

Media trends

Styles of music

Sports

Traditions

Institutions (school systems, political parties, etc)

The underlying principles

It may help, in order to explain these distinctions to students, to recognise the reasons why some elements of culture are considered acceptable and others not. I believe that there are two principal reasons :

'Artifact' versus 'activity' ... you will notice that all those cultural elements deemed to qualify as 'artifacts' are things; whereas those which do not qualify are activities: social organisations or patterns of behaviour. In other words, 'artifacts' are things you can touch and look at and study, here and now - whereas 'activities' are patterns of behaviour that need to be observed in action, over a period of time, and probably with much help from secondary sources. 'Artifacts', then, are simply more immediate, more restricted and thus more focused - 'activities' are liable to involve topics which are really too large and complicated for a feasible Extended Essay of 4000 words.

Primary versus secondary sources ... as I've just suggested, 'activities' will largely be accessible only through much reading of secondary sources, whereas 'artifacts' are directly accessible, concrete, specific primary sources. The point of the Extended Essay is that students do their own research and develop their own theories and arguments - and this personal development of ideas is less likely if most of the EE consists of second-hand ideas from background reading.

It might be useful to consider that the emphasis on artifacts indicates that the desired approach to the EE is that it should be, at a basic level, inductive rather than deductive - i.e. that the argument should start from some particular detail and then proceed to general ideas, rather than focus on general ideas and proceed to particular details as mere examples.

The general principle may be illustrated by the approach shown in the page TEA . I don't suggest that this analysis of a packet of tea is necessarily, in itself, a good topic for an EE - but it does demonstrate the kind of wide-ranging argument based on relevant background research that can be extracted from an 'artifact' as basic as a packet of tea !

All materials on this website are for the exclusive use of teachers and students at subscribing schools for the period of their subscription. Any unauthorised copying or posting of materials on other websites is an infringement of our copyright and could result in your account being blocked and legal action being taken against you.