A Sunday night where IBDP 1 Zeynep is near to a breakdown because her EE topic got rejected three times and she couldn’t find something that interests her which is also eligible for the categories. That was the moment when she thought ‘To hell with it!’’, got in front of her bookshelf and chose a book which she read in 9th grade.
Like the scenario above, starting your EE process might be quite stressful. In this article, I’ll guide you through the steps I followed while writing a guided investigation about a book of my choice. Let’s get started!
(Disclaimer: These tips are for English B Category 3 EE but I’m sure you can convert them into every literary analysis.)
Step 1: Choosing the Book
My first advice about choosing the right book is to pick one that you’re familiar with. Familiarity doesn’t necessarily mean you have to read this book beforehand but it should be one in which you have a clear idea about the content. This knowledge about the book before rereading will help you determine your scope. Since you’re able to form a question with this knowledge, you’ll have a clear idea what to look for when you reread. Also you probably would not be able to find the time to read a bunch of books and choose one that catches your interest before you have to hand your supervisor the final topic. This method is safe because it draws a clear path for you from the beginning.
Another option could be choosing the book first and specifying the question second. In that case, you would have to reread the book multiple times because in the first time you didn’t read the book with an aim on what to look for, but to understand the context. Choosing a book you know would save you a lot of time in that matter. This method would also save you from wandering around in pages trying to decide which aspect you’ll base your writing on.
The second advice on this topic is to not choose a book that is overdone. 1984 or Animal Farm by George Orvelle might be examples for this, I’m not saying they’re bad topics but they are highly common. Plagiarism is a sensitive topic for IB and academic honesty is checked almost for every writing. Books that are overdone usually tend to have an one strong angle that everyone can examine when writing, so avoiding choosing those books would help separate your EE from others. IB prefers writings that are original and unique, try to find something that works for you and not usually written about.
Step 2: Rereading
After the breakdown, I chose the Outsiders by S.E Hinton for my EE. It is a book that focuses on class differences and gang rivalry, but I decided that I wasn’t going to work on these topics, instead psychoanalyze the reason characters decided to build a gang. When I got confirmation from my supervisor, my first action was to (obviously) reread the book. What helped me here was that I knew what to look for. I knew that I had to look for dysfunctional families in the book and that’s why when a character mentioned their parents I was full on alert mode. Familiar book helps with this, it makes you sort out useful information by limiting your focus.
After that I created a quote sheet which has helped me a lot in the writing process. It is quite simple: I wrote all of the quotations and moments I found important in a document and categorized them.
The picture above is an extract from my own quote sheet. I sorted quotes through their context or what they represented categorically and noted who said this quote or who it was about. When you seperate quotes you begin to realize some themes or clashes happen frequently and you can use them to determine arguments and support your body paragraphs.
Step 3: Writing
Most of us take our mother language as an IB class, if you also take that as a literature version I’m sure you are pretty familiar with analyzing a book. At first, what the book really explains underneath the story needs to be determined. This can be passive resistance through not working (like “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street”) or capitalism criticism through a problematic family (like in Death of Salesman). Then we would combine this with the question ‘‘How?’’. How did the author manage to give this message throughout the book? Then you would look into the author’s choices: symbols, literary devices, tone, atmosphere… When you combine these two together you get your thesis and the writing follows.
In my opinion the most important point while writing is the sources. Students tend to think that just because they chose the topic and found the angle they want to proceed with, just throwing claims and explaining them by subjective examples are enough. But what is expected of you is quite different. You might be in charge of what the paper is about but your claims should be supported by others. In the case of book analysis, sources are needed to define the angle you take and support this angle other than the examples from the book.
For example you are claiming that book X contains prejudice’s negative effects on children by Y school towards them (might be a good EE theme, think about it) When you write ‘‘There is prejudice here, because the teacher called the child stupid and the child is described as having ‘a sad face’, so they got negatively effected.’’ it is not an A-material sentence. Before writing this, if you research experiments about the effects of name calling on children, you can support your idea with ‘‘W made an experiment about the issue and results show that name calling reduces the children’s self esteem by %90’’ , then your extended essay turns into a real academic research paper.
Supporting your ideas with other research papers, experiments, news, speeches or even blog posts increases your claim’s credibility and gives the message ‘I’m not saying this because I just feel like it, I say this because there are solid proofs and X and Y’s works also back it up. ’’ These resources also need to be referenced, in this article you can find guidance about the MLA formatting.
Step 4: Feedback & Editing
When you receive your supervisor’s feedback, the first thing I advise you to do is to not feel defeated. Supervisors are there to revise your EE into its best version. Even though you are certain that there is nothing wrong with your writing, they will check it according to the criteria (which is something most of us don’t pay attention to) and find parts that need more.
In this part, I advise you to create an EE Progress Tracker. It can look like this:
During the adjustments phase, I edited every part individually and word by word. On the left side I wrote the date and on the right which part I worked on and what I did. It made the whole reading, rewriting, deleting process easier.
This is all from me now! I didn’t receive any points about my EE yet, so I can’t guarantee you success but I’m pretty sure these tips will make the whole process more bearable.