The Extended Essay: individual student interest and talent meet academic inquiry - GSO

The Extended Essay: individual student interest and talent meet academic inquiry

The extended essay was one of the milestones in my education, as it was the closest piece I wrote to a thesis before university.

Hande Güzel, 2007 Diploma Programme graduate of Eyüboglu Schools, Istanbul, Turkey

One of the key elements in successful education today lies in the opportunity for students to determine how and what they are learning. The choice of topic for engaging in research (similar to undergraduate level at university) for the IB Diploma requirement of completing an Extended Essay is entirely up to the student in Grade 11. It provides an opportunity for students to investigate a topic of special interest to them, which is generally also related to one of the student’s six DP subjects.

Imagine two students: one has a deep interest in football, the other often thinks about food and nutrition. The following examples are taken from actual IB Extended Essay topics currently chosen by high school students:

Our nutrition expert could have been drawn to investigate “The effects of sugar-free chewing gum on the pH of saliva in the mouth after a meal” (Chemistry) or conduct “A study of malnourished children in Indonesia and the extent of their recovery after a period of supervised improved nutrition” for Biology.

Still within a scientific focus, one could look into “The impact of the time of tea-brewing on the amount of caffeine in the drink.”  For lovers of spicy food, it might be interesting to check the results of the “Investigation on the Effect of Specified Drying Techniques to the Colour Stability of Capsicum Annum.”

Food could of course offer a tremendous range of research in other subject areas, with specific examples from literature and the arts, historical developments, economic factors, ethical and philosophical questions…there is no end to intriguing investigations!


Now to our football expert: one student this year is conducting an historical investigation: “The early development of football in San José, Costa Rica as a reflection of the on-going social and political disputes.” Even if he does not focus on football, a student with talent in mathematics might be asking questions similar to: “How can mathematics be used to work out the optimal distance from the try line to position the ball for a conversion kick in rugby union?” Stars such as Beckham and Messi may know this intuitively, but a Physics student could look at “The Effects of Spin on the Trajectory of an Object.” Once again, the beautiful sport of football or any other sport could be looked at through the lenses of many academic subjects.

Students can follow their own interests to create a 4000 word research essay, which prepares them superbly for such work in the first years of university.

The following advice from a former IB Diploma student is also worth considering: “With regard to the extended essay, I would suggest that students not limit themselves to the subject they are planning to study after the IB diploma. I learned a lot from my essay in Turkish literature, although I’m now studying sociology. You never know where life will take you, so it’s best to be open to new ideas, especially to ones that you enjoy.”

To find out more about the IBDP Extended Essays, you can start here.


Walther Hetzer

Senior Education Consultant