Extended Essay

The new curriculum for the extended essay will be assessed as of May 2018.  The following section of the site includes guidance for the writing and assessment of this component of the diploma program.

It is the advice of the IB that only students who are studying psychology write their EEs in the subject.  You will see that psychology has a high failure rate compared to other subjects - and one of the reasons is the high number of students who write papers in the subject although they have never studied it.

This section is divided into "getting started", "writing the EE", "reflection on the EE" and "sample marking."

Selected Pages


Getting started with EE 17 June 2018

For most teachers and students, getting started with a major research project is the hardest part. Choosing a good topic,...


Writing the Extended Essay 15 October 2017

After sources have been read and notes have been taken, the next step is the actual writing of the paper. For many students,...

Assessing the EE 17 June 2018

The following presentation is a tutorial for teachers on how the Extended Essay is assessed. It is particularly important...

Sample 1: Durability of relationships 14 January 2018

The following sample extended essay does not have an official grade. It is an essay that was submitted for the former curriculum...

Reflecting on the EE 9 January 2018

The final assessment criterion of the extended essay is "engagement." It is important that the reflections do not just...

EE sample marking 15 October 2017

The following section of the site has samples of extended essays. As we are not allowed to actually share students' work...

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Comments 54

Hana Majzoub 2 November 2017 - 12:05

Hi John,
Please Can you tell me whether the following research question is considered good?Question: An evaluation of SSRI drug therapy in the treatment of major depression.If it's good, do you think the counterclaim should address the side effects of SSRI drug or should
go for a different therapy and perspective as well such as CBT.
Thanks in advance!

John Crane 2 November 2017 - 16:49

Dear Hana, in the new curriculum, all research questions must be stated as questions, or they receive 0 marks. So, "Is SSRI therapy an effective treatment of Major Depressive Disorder" would be better.

The counter-claim would be the research that shows that SSRIs are not effective. And there is a lot of that research. Side effects are not super relevant. And simply writing about other therapies, unless they are comparing the effectiveness with SSRIs is not a counterclaim. There has to be a direct comparison in the research in order for it to really address the question.

Hana Majzoub 2 November 2017 - 17:17

First of all thank you for your reply and clarification about the new curriculum measures.Second, what i understand from you is that the claim would be the effectiveness of SSRI therapy and the counterclaim has to do with the ineffectiveness of SSRI therapy?so in this case, no need to present a different perspective of treating depression! Right?

John Crane 3 November 2017 - 04:39

Hana - yes, that is correct.

Hana Majzoub 5 November 2017 - 17:39

thanks again!

Sneha Bhatt 17 November 2017 - 08:37

Dear John, this year I have 6 students attempting Extended Essay in the subject and I was wondering if I could get guidance with regards to the choice of topics made by my students. The topics of research are as under :
1. Incompetent superiority.
2. Alternative treatment of phobias ( I suggested my student a comparison between conventional treatment methodology against against alternative treatment for phobia)
3. The effect of sexual objectification of women in media on woman's mental health
4. TWE the choice of sports influences a person's social skill?(children born with personality types which gets enhanced by the social circle. and this influences the choice of sport and sports influencing the personality as well )
5. TWE does mindfulness meditation training help in coping with stress.
6. Does the availability of dating apps hinder the cycle of relationships.

Thanks in advance for any guidance that you can provide.

John Crane 19 November 2017 - 07:09

Dear Sheha

All EEs must have an official question, not a topic. The first three in their current form are not acceptable questions. Question 4 should show you research for this question - personally, it does not look like a viable research question. Q5 is good; Q6 - I don't understand what it meant by "the cycle of relationships." It needs rewording for clarity.

Hana Majzoub 20 November 2017 - 13:06

Hi John,
Once i asked you about the following RQ: To what extent SSRI drug therapy is effective in the treatment of major depression? and i realized that there it does not require /demand a holistic approach to evaluating depression,since the counterclaim has to do with the ineffectiveness of the mentioned drug. doesn't this mean that the EE paper would score a low grade because did not discuss other approaches?
Thank you in advance!

John Crane 20 November 2017 - 17:17

Dear Hana

The EE does not have to mention other approaches as the question is not asking if it is more effective than another specific approach. Instead, the approach of looking at evidence that shows it is effective and that it is not is the best approach to a reasoned argument. No worries!

Sneha Bhatt 21 November 2017 - 10:09

Dear John,
Thank You for the prompt reply, My student who was interested in the topic of incompetence superiority, has come up with the RQ of "TWE Dunning and Kruger effect explain illusory superiority ? " Would this make sense? Thanks once again.

John Crane 21 November 2017 - 14:19

Dear Sneha, if the student has research to support such a question, then that is fine. But s/he will also need a counter-argument, so there should also be research that shows that it does not have a role in explaining illusory superiority. If your student has that kind of research, I think that the question is good to go.

Hana Majzoub 22 November 2017 - 10:57

Thank you once again for your clarification!

Ian Latham 24 November 2017 - 18:59

I have a student interested in the link between anxiety and depression. Their first idea was to investigate biological evidence. I'm not sure I could manage to supervise that, and suggested looking at some cognitive component that might be present in anxiety and in depression. They've come back to me with the idea of 'rumination'. Clearly accepted as playing a part in depression, it appears there are studies suggesting it interacts with locus of control, intolerance of uncertainty, etc, in anxiety.

My specific doubt is:- would a question be 'T.W.E. does rumination play a role in general anxiety disorder?' Or would that still be too broad? Would they need to add 'in teenagers' to be specific enough?

My general doubt is:- is this kind of topic always going to be a poor one because T.W.E. implies comparing with biological, social and (in this case) alternative cognitive etiologies? Could there be too much to explain in the intro (anxiety, GAD, rumination, control, intolerance, etc, etc)

Thanks in advance.

John Crane 25 November 2017 - 04:28

Dear Ian

It could be a good question if there is research out there. The student does not need to limit it to teens, unless she finds a lot of information / research related specifically to that population. As for to what extent, the student may also just look at contradictory evidence that does not show a link, or may look at one other argument, such as biological arguments, to serve as a counter-argument. It does not need to be (and should not be) the whole spectrum of counter-arguments.

Ian Latham 27 November 2017 - 12:43

Very helpful. Thanks.

Sania Begum 26 December 2017 - 08:55

Dear John,

I am about to mark a Psyc EE for a student who is in year 2. Can you direct me to what assessment criteria I should be using.

May thanks!

John Crane 26 December 2017 - 12:22

Dear Sania,

You should be using the new extended essay criteria. Under "Writing the extended essay" you will see the five criteria that are assessed.

Svetlana Gluvacevic 9 January 2018 - 11:21

Hello John,

one of my students has chosen the following research question: To what extent different parenting styles influence personality development?
Do you think that this is too broad question? Should she choose certain aspects of parenting styles only (attachment, dicipline etc.)?
Any advice is welcome!

Thank you for your support,

all the best,


John Crane 10 January 2018 - 18:43

Dear Svetlana, yes, it is pretty broad. She may want to look at a specific parenting style. Or she could look at attachment, discipline, etc. That would make for a tighter question.

Chandana Bhandari 24 January 2018 - 03:05

Dear John,
a student of mine for EE would like to explore "Examine gaming disorder and its should be included into ICD 11. " Can we explore this idea. Thank you

Alison Young 24 January 2018 - 14:29

Dear John,
I have a student with the question "To what extent does recovery from an opioid addition have a neurological influence on the brain's structure and processes?" I am concerned this is more biology than psychology. Do you have any suggestions on how she could focus it more on psychology? Should she look at a specific treatment? I am unsure how to advise. Thank you

Alison Young 25 January 2018 - 14:02

Hi John,
I now have two additional students.
1. How do businesses use psychology in marketing campaigns? (my opinion is that this is doable but should perhaps look at the one or two specific SC or C theories - please suggest otherwise if you disagree!)
2. To what extent did personality disorders contribute to the thinking of religious cult founders in the US during the 1960's and 1970's? I am not a fan of this question... too broad and any research is speculative, Perhaps redirect to SCT and cults???
This is my first year teaching Psychology and working with EE's.

John Crane 25 January 2018 - 18:50

Dear Chandana

It needs to be worded as a question. So, "Should gaming disorder be included as a disorder in the ICD 11."

Chandana Bhandari 27 January 2018 - 16:34

thank you

John Crane 25 January 2018 - 18:51

Dear Alison

That first question sounds much too biological. It would be better for her to evaluate the effectiveness of a treatment for opioid addiction. Within that, she could discuss evidence of change to brain physiology if it is appropriate.

John Crane 25 January 2018 - 18:52

Dear Alison

1. I agree with your assessment. The question as worded is much too vague. The student needs to choose a theory to evaluate or two theories to compare.

2. I think that the question will be difficult to find actual research on. The cult leaders were not actually analyzed or treated. Maybe evidence for why people join cults?

Martin John Poomthrasseril 9 March 2018 - 13:34

Dear John,
Would be of great help if you can give some feedback on the below.
One of my students would like to do her EE on “Ideal parenthood” Do you know any specific study on this title? On another note, student’s research question is: “To what extend ideal parenting would help the child’s cognitive development?” Do you have any advice on this research question?
Thank you

John Crane 10 March 2018 - 07:22

Dear Martin

I am not sure what it meant by "ideal parenthood." I would advise the student to leave it out of the question. Simply looking at the role of parenting on cognitive development would be sufficient.

Martin John 10 March 2018 - 11:01

Dear John,
Thank you for the feedback. Any specific study you would suggest on the role of parenting? Will the following study is correct? kon.org
Thank you

Monali Sharma 12 March 2018 - 17:41

Hi John,
Thank you for responding to the query on cognitive unit. I am guiding a student who is studying the effects of personality on burnout among healthcare professionals. The RQ is -
What is the relationship between Burnout and the Big Five personality factors among healthcare professionals?

Does it fit well as per the new marking scheme?

Thank you

John Crane 13 March 2018 - 05:11

Dear Martin,

I am not sure what you are referring to. The role of parenting is not part of the curriculum.

John Crane 13 March 2018 - 05:12

Dear Monali

That question is a bit too broad. The student should choose one of the five factors - e.g. neuroticism. That would make the paper appropriately focused.

Monali Sharma 13 March 2018 - 11:56

Dear John
Thank you for the prompt response.


Monali Sharma 13 March 2018 - 16:17

Dear John
When studying the relationship between burnout and neuroticism, one can use the research results of studies which study the big five factors and pick neuroticism in that? Most of the research on neuroticism and burnout is available as a whole( with other factors also included) Will it then be necessary to include the results obtained on other factors in the same study?

John Crane 13 March 2018 - 20:35

Dear Monali,

No. The student could mention this as part of the critical analysis - that it is difficult to separate out the other personality factors and/or that the researchers found that they also played a role, but they should focus on a single personality factor.

Monali Sharma 14 March 2018 - 10:21

Dear John
Sorry for bothering you with the same question. This is a bit confusing. What I need clarity on is that when we are talking about neuroticism and burnout, studies which use NEO-PI R can be used (focus shall only be on neuroticism within those results.) Yes, the other factors can be discussed in critical analysis. There is very little literature that focusses exclusively on neuroticism and burnout using measures other than the NEO-PI R

Thank you

John Crane 15 March 2018 - 05:23

Dear Monali

The student does not have to use neuroticism. That was only an example I gave. The student should try to focus on a single factor if possible. If not, then the paper could be on all five, but I fear that this will be perceived as being too large in scope.

Monali Sharma 15 March 2018 - 06:38

Dear John
Thank you for the clarification. Yes the scope would become too large. We will focus on one factor alone.
Thank you

Michael Westfall 8 April 2018 - 14:58

Dear John,

I have a student that is interested in looking into how psychological strategies could be beneficial in increasing motivation in the workplace. The RQ will likely be stated as, "...To what extent can strategy X and Y have on the motivation at a workplace?." Any books come to mind? Is it sufficient to reference any of the scores of university level class textbooks on this topic? Is it possible to use sports psychology studies as support? Thanks.

John Crane 8 April 2018 - 16:07

Dear Michael - sorry, no books come to mind. I would probably have the student limit it to one strategy. If they are going to write about the workplace, then sports psychology would not be appropriate. Even though there may be some transfer, it is always best if the research is a direct response to the question. As for university textbooks, yes, that's fine. Better, though, is to find actual research on the topic.

Maria Fotinopoulou 12 April 2018 - 17:52

Hi John!
I just want to make sure that it is appropriate for the student to address topics covered in the psych course in an EE. For example doing something like to what extent can attraction be explained by biological factors?
Is this okay?
Thank you!!

John Crane 13 April 2018 - 04:50

Dear Maria

yes, that is totally allowed. However, the research should go beyond what is in the average textbook.

Maria Fotinopoulou 15 April 2018 - 09:12

okay! Thank you!!

John Dereu 4 May 2018 - 14:13

I have a student who is interested in a topic that adresses music therapy and Parkinson's disease. Is Parkinson's an acceptable psychology topic or would IB consider that to be biology? Thanks again for your time.

Maria Fotinopoulou 4 May 2018 - 21:24

Hi John!
Hope you are doing well! I have yet another EE question.
One of my students is very interested in religious behavior. I suggested a topic around religiosity and prosocial behavior but she did not find it intresting and after researching she wanted to do something on evolutionary explanations of religious behavior. After discussing it with her we sort of concluded on a question like : to what extent does attachment theory explain religious behavior?
that way she can use a psychological theory as her main argument and counter it with evolutionary explanations. Does this seem okay to you? I m a bit worried as the topic touches on religion..Any advice would be helpful!
also another student decided on : To what extent is empathy genetic? - I assume this is alright right?
Thank you again!

John Crane 5 May 2018 - 06:08

Dear John

You are correct that there is a fine line between bio and psychology. Looking online, most of the journals I find are relevant to psychological study. That topic would be fine.

John Crane 5 May 2018 - 06:11

Dear Maria

The genetics of empathy is fine. I must admit, though, that I don't understand "does attachment theory explain religious behaviour." Is the student finding research that specifically addresses that question? Students should not apply theory to answer a question on their own. So, she must find research that shows that a specific attachment style is more prone to religiosity than another. In addition, I do not see how attachment theory would then mean that religion is somehow an evolution based trait. I think that this is overly complex and not really clear. She should first find studies on something in psychology that is related to religion. When she find those articles, then she can develop a question. Trying to develop a question before doing any reading often leads to unanswerable questions.

Maria Fotinopoulou 7 May 2018 - 18:28

Hi John..I agree it is rather complex. However, she did present me with different articles and some studies discussing whether attachement to God is a compensation for insecure attachement. So she has done some reading and this is what she came up with. I read a little a bit on the topic and did find that there are several hypotheses on how attachement styles may impact on how attached someone is to god and why. There are also a lot of journal articles on evolutionary explanations of religiosity - but Im not sure how she wants to use them as a counter claim for attachement..If she decided to focus on evolutionary explanations of religiosity is this not too psychology related? I m completely lost with this topic, but I m trying to help her as she seems very interested in this..
Thank you again!

John Crane 7 May 2018 - 19:02

Dear Maria

If she is finding such studies in psychological journals, then she should go ahead and pursue it. Regards - John

RWA Psychology1 8 May 2018 - 08:23

Dear John,
My student wants to write an EE on the question 'To what extent do t cognitive factors affect the development of anorexia nervosa?'.
She has research studies that demonstrate the case in point, as well as some research that support counter arguments.
Is this fine?
Thank you very much. Have a lovely day!

John Crane 8 May 2018 - 13:54

Yes, that is fine.

RWA Psychology1 9 May 2018 - 06:20

Thanks John. Much appreciated!

Scott Nelson 1 June 2018 - 19:34

Are EEs in sports psychology still allowed? Would this be an acceptable topic? How injuries affect athletes psychologically.

John Crane 2 June 2018 - 08:31

Dear Scott

Absolutely! Sports psychology is a rich area for student inquiry. As for the question, it should be a bit more precise. "How" leads to a descriptive essay- and students must present an argument. Think of a "Why" or a "to what extent" question. That will be more successful.

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