Cathy A.
Cathy A.

A Step-by-Step Guide For Writing an Extended Essay

13 min read

Published on: May 3, 2023

Last updated on: Jan 30, 2024

extended essay

Struggling to write a successful extended essay that meets all the criteria and impresses your IB teachers?

An extended essay requires in-depth research, critical thinking, and excellent writing skills. It can be overwhelming, and the stakes are high - your final grade depends on it.

With our comprehensive extended essay guide, you'll have everything you need to succeed. We'll walk you through each step of the process with expert advice and insider tips.

Let us help you achieve academic excellence with the extended essay, whether you're a seasoned student or a first-timer feeling the pressure.

So without further ado, let’s begin!

On This Page

What is an Extended Essay?

The Extended Essay (EE) is a research-based academic paper that is a core component of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program. 

It is an independent, self-directed piece of research. The maximum extended essay word count is 4,000 words. In simple terms, you can think of an extended essay as a "mini-thesis." Both involve in-depth research and a detailed exploration of a specific topic.

Purpose of an Extended Essay

The purpose of the extended essay is to provide students with an opportunity to:

  • Engage in independent research
  • Develop advanced research and writing skills
  • Deepen their understanding of a chosen topic
  • Demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of a specific subject area
  • Prepare for university-level research

Importance of Extended Essay

The extended essay is an essential component of the IB Diploma Programme and for a good reason. 
Here are some of the reasons why the extended essay is so important:

  • Develop research and writing skills: The extended essay IB requires students to engage in independent research and develop advanced research skills.
  • Fosters critical thinking: The extended essay encourages students to think critically and analyze information independently, which is a valuable skill for both academic and personal success.
  • Deepens subject knowledge: The extended essay allows students to deepen their understanding of a specific subject area and pursue their academic interests in greater depth.
  • Prepares for university-level research: The skills and knowledge developed through the extended essay are invaluable for university-level research and academic success.
  • Impacts university admissions: The extended essay is an opportunity for students to demonstrate their academic potential and passion for a subject area, which can impact university admissions decisions.

Choosing a Topic

The first step is choosing a topic for your extended essay. Here are some tips to help you choose a topic that's right for you:

Understanding the Criteria

Before you choose a topic, it's important to understand the criteria that your essay will be assessed against. Make sure you have a clear understanding of the research question, the subject area, and the assessment criteria. 

Brainstorming Techniques

Brainstorming is a great way to generate ideas and narrow down your topic options. Here are some brainstorming techniques to help you get started:

  • Mind maps: Draw a circle in the middle of a piece of paper with your main topic idea, then draw lines out from the circle with related subtopics and ideas.
  • Freewriting: Write down everything that comes to mind about your topic for a set amount of time, without worrying about grammar or structure.
  • Listing: Make a list of all the topics that interest you or that you have knowledge in, then narrow down the list by eliminating topics that are too broad or too narrow. Check out our extended essay topics blog for detailed ideas.

Choosing a Topic That You Enjoy

Choosing a topic that you enjoy is crucial for your success in the Extended Essay. Here are some tips to help you choose a topic that you'll enjoy researching and writing about:

Consider your passions: Choose a topic that you're passionate about, whether it's a particular subject area or a specific research question.
Look for inspiration: Read books, articles, and other sources to find inspiration and ideas for your topic.
Talk to your teachers: Your teachers can offer guidance and support in choosing a topic that's appropriate for the subject area and meets the assessment criteria.

Choose a Topic that Falls into 6 Approved DP Categories  

You must ensure that your research topic fits into one of the six designated IB subject groups, also known as DP categories. These categories include the following:

Group 1: Studies in Language and Literature
Group 2: Language Acquisition
Group 3: Individuals and Societies
Group 4: Sciences
Group 5: Mathematics
Group 6: The Arts

So when selecting your research topic, it's important to make sure it aligns with one of these groups to ensure it meets the requirements of the IB program.

Research and Writing Process

Once you've chosen your topic for the extended essay, it's time to begin the research and writing process. 

Here are some tips to help you navigate this stage:

Conducting Research

Here are a few steps to conduct appropriate research for your next essay!

1. Choosing Sources
Choosing credible and reliable sources is crucial for the success of your extended essay. To choose sources, consider the following:

  • Appropriate sources: Make sure to choose sources that are appropriate for the subject area and research question.
  • Reputable sources: Ensure that the sources you use are up-to-date, relevant, and reputable. Some common sources include academic journals, books, and reputable websites.
  • Balance: Strive to include a variety of sources to ensure a balanced approach to your research.

2. Taking Effective Notes
Effective note-taking will help you organize your ideas and write your essay. Here are some tips for taking effective notes:

  • Use a system: Choose a note-taking system that works for you, whether it's outlining, summarizing, or highlighting.
  • Keep track of sources: Record the sources you use, including author, title, and publication information, to make referencing easier.
  • Analyze information: Analyze the information you gather and make connections between different sources to develop your own ideas. 

Developing a Research Question

A clear and focused research question is essential for the success of your Extended Essay. To develop your research question, consider the following:

  • Specificity: Ensure your question is specific and relevant to the subject area.
  • Manageability: Your question should be manageable in scope and allow for in-depth analysis and exploration.
  • Significance: Your question should be significant and meaningful, addressing a gap or issue in the field.

Outlining the Essay

Outlining your essay is a helpful way to organize your ideas and ensure that your essay is structured and coherent. 

Your extended essay outline should include the following:

I. Introduction

A. Research Question: Clearly state the central question your Extended Essay aims to address.
B. Context: Provide background information to set the stage for your research.
C. Rationale: Explain why your chosen topic is significant and deserving of exploration.

II. Literature Review

A. Survey of Existing Knowledge: Summarize relevant literature related to your topic. Identify gaps or areas where your research contributes.
B. Key Concepts: Define key terms and concepts crucial for understanding your research.

III. Methodology

A. Research Design: Detail the methods and procedures you'll employ in your investigation.
B. Data Collection: Specify how you'll gather and analyze data.
C. Ethical Considerations: Discuss any ethical concerns and how you plan to address them.

IV. Analysis

A. Presentation of Findings: Share your research findings systematically if you have conducted an experiment.
B. Interpretation: Analyze your results and draw connections to your research question.

V. Discussion

A. Implications: Discuss the broader significance of your findings.
B. Limitations: Acknowledge any constraints or challenges in your research.
C. Future Research: Suggest potential areas for future exploration.

VI. Conclusion

A. Summary: Recap your main findings.
B. Thesis Restatement: Reaffirm your thesis statement in light of your research.
C. Final Thoughts: Offer any concluding remarks or reflections.

VII. References

A. Citation Style: Ensure consistent and accurate citation style throughout your Extended Essay.
B. Comprehensive List: Include all sources consulted during your research.

VIII. Appendices

A. Supplementary Materials: Attach any additional materials supporting your research (charts, graphs, surveys, etc.)

Writing the Essay

Once you have your outline, it's time to begin writing your essay. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Stay focused: Keep your research question in mind and ensure that each paragraph and section supports your argument.
  • Use evidence: Use evidence and analysis to support your claims and ensure that your essay is well-supported.
  • Edit and revise: After writing a draft, edit and revise your essay to ensure clarity, coherence, and accuracy.

Overall, the research and writing process for the extended essay requires careful planning and organization. 

By choosing credible sources, developing a clear research question, outlining your essay, and following a structured writing process, you'll be on your way to success. With time and dedication, you can produce a high-quality essay that showcases your research and writing skills.

Formatting and Citations

Ensure to complete the following steps while you are formatting your extended essay.

Formatting Requirements

Formatting is an essential aspect of any academic essay, including an extended essay. It ensures that the essay is well-organized, readable, and professional-looking. 
Your extended essay format requirements may differ depending on the institution or department. So, it's essential to check the guidelines carefully before submitting your essay. 

Here are some general formatting requirements that you should consider when writing your extended essay:

  • Font and Size: Most academic essays require a standard font, such as Times New Roman or Arial, in size 12.
  • Margins: The margins should be set to one inch (2.54 cm) on all sides of the paper.
  • Page Numbering: Page numbers should be placed in the header or footer of the essay, with the title page being page 1.
  • Title Page: The title page should include the title of the essay, the candidate's name, the candidate's ID number, the subject area of the essay, and the date.
  • Table of Contents: The table of contents should include all the headings and subheadings in the essay, along with the corresponding page numbers.

Citation Styles (APA, MLA, Chicago)

When conducting research for your extended essay, it's essential to give credit to the sources you use. 
Citing sources not only acknowledges the work of others but also demonstrates the credibility and validity of your own research. 
There are different citation styles that you can use, and the most common ones are:

  • APA (American Psychological Association): This citation style is commonly used in the social sciences, such as psychology, sociology, and education.
  • MLA (Modern Language Association): This citation style is commonly used in the humanities, such as in English literature, history, and philosophy.
  • Chicago: This citation style is commonly used in history, social sciences, and some humanities.

Each citation style has its own set of rules and guidelines. So, it's essential to familiarize yourself with the one required by your institution or department. 

When citing sources, you should include the author's name, the title of the work, the publication date, and other relevant information, depending on the type of source. 

Failing to properly cite sources can lead to plagiarism, which can result in severe academic consequences.

Extended Essay Examples 

One of the best ways to understand what an extended essay entails is by examining examples of successful essays. 
These examples can provide insight into the extended essay structure and writing style. 

Here are some examples of extended essays that can help you get a better understanding of what to expect:

You can find more examples in our 'extended essay examples' blog. Give it a read to find more examples. 

Grading the IB Extended Essay

When it comes to the IB Extended Essay, examiners appointed by the IB assess your work and grade it on a scale of 0 to 34. To determine your final grade, they evaluate your essay on five different criteria, each with its own point value. 

Here is an overview of the extended essay grade boundaries:

Criterion A: Focus and Method (6 points maximum)
Criterion B: Knowledge and Understanding (6 points maximum)
Criterion C: Critical Thinking (12 points maximum)
Criterion D: Presentation (4 points maximum)
Criterion E: Engagement (6 points maximum)

You must score at least a D to be eligible for your IB Diploma. While each criterion has a maximum number of points, the IB emphasizes that graders are not simply converting point totals into letter grades. 

Instead, they use qualitative grade descriptors found on page 103 of the IB guide to extended essays to determine the final grade.

To give you an idea of how these different point values translate to letter grades, based on previous scoring methods for the EE, here is a rough estimate:

A: 25-34 points
B: 19-24 points
C: 13-18 points
D: 7-12 points
E: 0-6 points

Rubric for Grading the IB Extended Essay

Here is an extended essay rubric to help you better understand how your IB Extended Essay will be assessed:


Point ValueDescription

Focus and Method

6 points maximum

The research question is clearly stated and focused - The research approach is appropriate and effective - The essay demonstrates an understanding of the topic and research question

Knowledge and Understanding

6 points maximumThe essay demonstrates a knowledge and understanding of the subject and the research question - The essay effectively incorporates relevant theories, concepts, and/or facts

Critical Thinking

6 points maximumThe essay demonstrates an understanding of the research question and the methodologies used - The essay effectively analyzes and evaluates sources and information - The essay demonstrates independent and creative thinking


6 points maximumThe essay is well-organized and clearly presented - The essay follows appropriate academic conventions, including referencing and formatting


6 points maximumThe essay demonstrates a personal engagement with the research question and the subject - The essay effectively communicates the significance of the research - The essay demonstrates a clear and insightful conclusion

In conclusion, writing an extended essay can be a challenging yet rewarding experience that develops critical thinking and research skills. 

By planning ahead and staying organized, students can produce a high-quality essay that showcases their knowledge and understanding of the subject. 

If you're feeling overwhelmed with your extended essay, consider seeking assistance from an essay writing service like

Our extended essay writing service can help you with every step of the process. Visit our website today to learn more and get started.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do extended essays and descriptive essays share any similarities?

Extended essays and descriptive essays share some similarities in their approach to detail and depth. Both require a thorough exploration of the subject matter, but an extended essay typically involves a more extensive investigation, analysis, and argumentation. In contrast, a descriptive essay primarily focuses on vividly portraying a scene, person, or experience with rich sensory details.

Are there limitations on the topics that can be chosen for an extended essay?

No, there are no specific limitations on the topics for an extended essay. Students can choose from a wide range of subjects within the framework of the IB program.

Can I include personal experiences or anecdotes in my extended essay?

Yes, you can include personal experiences or anecdotes in your extended essay. However, it's important to ensure that they contribute to the overall understanding of the topic and are relevant to your research question.

Cathy A.


Cathy A. (Marketing, Law)

For more than five years now, Cathy has been one of our most hardworking authors on the platform. With a Masters degree in mass communication, she knows the ins and outs of professional writing. Clients often leave her glowing reviews for being an amazing writer who takes her work very seriously.

For more than five years now, Cathy has been one of our most hardworking authors on the platform. With a Masters degree in mass communication, she knows the ins and outs of professional writing. Clients often leave her glowing reviews for being an amazing writer who takes her work very seriously.

Paper Due? Why Suffer? That’s our Job!

Get Help Top-class writers are here! Get Help!

Keep reading