Writing an Extended Essay
Some sections of this website are strictly teacher only however this part is for students. I have tried to use both my experience writing an essay and as a supervisor to give some advice to students thinking of writing a physics EE.
For the student the early days of the EE are full of choices, firstly which subject to choose, secondly which topic and thirdly what research question. There are many reasons that students choose to write their EE in physics:
- Physics is their best/favourite subject.
- They want to study physics at university.
- They want me to write a teacher recommendation.
- They find physics difficult and think this might improve their chances.
These are all valid reasons, in fact I often say to students that if they want me to write a teacher recommendation for them then they might consider doing an EE in physics, it means that I can really add some meat to the reference. It makes a big difference when you can write about the independent research that the student is involved with and all the challenges they have faced, universities are often more impressed than the IB examiners.
Students don't have to be good at physics to write a good essay as long as they stick to what they know, its probably easier to score well for a student who is a good essay writer and poor at physics than someone who is good at physics but can't write an essay. From the beginning it must be stressed that this is an essay not a university research paper so doesn't have to be cutting edge, as you will find out most of the marks of for how the essay is structured not the physics. This is a problem for some of our student who maybe like physics because they don't like writing essays, if that is the case then I am afraid that they will not get a good grade writing an essay in any subject so they might as well do it in physics and add their weight to the dreadful statistics.
If you are new to the IB then you might not know this yet but to get an A with a physics extended essay is almost impossible, the statistics are certainly not encouraging.
Since this is about writing an extended essay I should quote the source of these numbers
These are the IB Diploma Statistical Bulletins for the relevant years, they contain a lot of other interesting statistics if you are interested in that sort of thing.
What these figures show is that less students get grade A's in group 4 subjects than the others. It does not say that it is more difficult to get an A in a group 4 subject but that's how a lot of people interpret it.
Type of Essay
There are 5 types of essay
- Experimental: design and implementation of an experiment, then personal collection and analysis of the data.
- Data-based: location and extraction of raw or processed data, not collected directly by the student, which is then further refined and analysed.
- Theoretical: development of a quantitative or semi-quantitative description of some physical phenomenon, exercise of the model, predictions about its behaviour and limitations.
- Survey: formulation of a cohesive, ordered, analytical and supported (qualitative and quantitative) discussion of the topic.
- Combination: some combination of the approaches listed above.
Whichever one of these is chosen it is important that the student has the possibility to put some of their own ideas into the essay, these don't have to be correct but if not they must have enough understanding to realise why they are not. It's far easier to have personal input when doing an experimental type essay so these are the type that i promote with my students and what this website will focus on.