Structuring an argument

The purpose of the EE is to demonstrate that students can use psychological knowledge - including facts, psychological theories, empirical studies, and key concepts - to address the research question. After the research period, students should have an idea of what the research says so that they can formulate a research question and a thesis.

RQ: To what extent do psychological factors make it difficult for people to quit smoking?

Thesis: Although psychological factors play a role in one's ability to quit smoking, biological factors play a more significant role.

The research question must be clear and focused so that the reader knows exactly what the student is investigating. It must be present in the introduction of the EE. The student is required to justify the choice of the research question with reference to real problems and former research done in the area.

What follows is a brief overview of what is necessary to consider in the structure of the EE

The introduction

  1. The opening paragraph: Just a few lines to gain the readers interest. This could be an indication of why the chosen topic is interesting, important or worthy of study - for example, that many people try to quit smoking but often they are not successful and this can be a problem since smoking is dangerous to health. A quote or use of statistics may be a way of getting the reader's interest.
  2. Background: A brief introduction to relevant information so that the reader can understand the issues at hand. This is in order to place the topic in an appropriate context. It may be appropriate here to include one of the first studies in this field of research.  It is also in the section that the question to be researched should be justified - that is, why is this worth investigating?
  3. Definition of terms: This section must define important terminology and explain any limitations in the essay - for example, that only cigarette smoking will be researched.
  4. The research plan: The research question should be stated, the research to be discussed should be listed and then a thesis statement should be made which indicates the argument that will be made. 

Analysis of evidence

The body (or development) of the essay should be structured in relation to the thesis statement, using psychological knowledge in the argument. The only way one can convince the reader that the thesis is valid is to support it with relevant evidence and demonstrate critical thinking. It is also important that the argument is structured in a logical way.

Each piece of evidence must be explicitly linked to the question.  When you present a study, also be sure to explain how this helps to support or challenge the thesis that you have written in your introduction.

Each piece of research should also be evaluated. Do not use a formulaic approach to evaluating the research.  If, for example, you find that most of the studies you use are correlational, then discuss this in the "discussion" part of the part, rather than saying this in your evaluation of each study.  Remember, ethics is often not relevant to making an argument.  If, however, ethics is a key barrier to carrying out research on your question, this should also be discussed in the "discussion."


After you reviewed the research, the discussion is where you directly address your question.  What does the research show us?  What are the key issues with the research? You might include issues such as:

  • The use of animal research
  • Ethical considerations
  • Methodological considerations
  • Cultural and gender considerations
  • Difficulty in operationalizing and measuring variables
  • Biases that affect research


The conclusion should be directly linked to the research question so that everything presented in the body leads logically to the conclusion, which briefly summarises the main points found in relation to the research question.

The conclusion should be:

  1. clearly stated;
  2. relevant to the research question being investigated;
  3. substantiated by evidence presented in the body of the extended essay;
  4. aware of new questions that have emerged during the research

In this particular topic, one may conclude that biological dependence of nicotine is one of the main factors in continuation of smoking, but that it is much more difficult to quit all the habits related to smoking so the psychological factors are just as important to take into consideration in smoking cessation.

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