A History IA is a historical investigation with a word-limit of 2,200 words (exclusive of the bibliography), that consists of exploring a historical topic of your interest and executing a complete and concise historical research around it. With this article, we aim to provide an overview of the structure it follows, the marking criteria, and some recommendations to choose a topic and a question.
Although the internal assessment comprises 20% of the final grade for HL students and 25% for SL students, the following requirements apply to both SL and HL History IAs.
1. Choosing a topic
In order to choose a topic, you need to know that the most important requirement is that you cannot make your IA about events that have happened in the last 10 years, because they are not considered as history yet. Also, you need to keep in mind that, usually, an IA requires a lot of research to make a well-rounded analysis since you are expected to argue your interpretation after evaluating multiple perspectives. My recommendation is to choose a topic that you have reviewed in class or that you are going to see soon. This way, your teacher may help you with some sources that they already know of. Finally, make sure to narrow it down enough so that you are able to deliver a more detailed analysis rather than a general one. For example, you may want to specify the year, region, decade, or movement in which you are studying the historic phenomenon.
2. Formulating the research question
The IB has provided six key concepts from which you can assess a historical event (causation, consequence, continuity, change, significance, and perspectives). These are extremely helpful in giving direction to your research, and as earlier mentioned, specificity is particularly important, since you do not have that many words. I recommend starting with a general question on a topic that you are interested in, then doing a quick scan on sources that may be helpful and depending on how much information you can find for a particular perspective or angle, you can start adding the details to the research question that will dictate the course in which you are going to tackle it.
3. Marking Criteria
Criterion A: Identification and evaluation of sources (6 marks)
The suggested word range for this section is approximately 500 words. It is required that you analyze in detail two of the sources that you will use, they can be either primary or secondary, and they should be evaluated with respect to the origin, purpose, and content. You should also analyze the value and limitations that they may have in relation to your investigation.
- a properly formulated research question,
- selection of valuable and relevant sources, and
- a clear discussion and analysis of the origin, purpose, content, value, and limitations to present arguments that prove their relevance.
Criterion B: Investigation (15 marks)
The recommended number of words is 1,300, so make sure to be concise and above all, make sure that the evaluator can appreciate and understand your interpretation of the historic event so that they can award you the marks for critical thinking, one of the most important elements that the IB takes under consideration.
- clearness, coherency, and effective organization in the investigation
- use of sources as evidence for the points that are being argued
- evaluation of different perspectives, and
- a conclusion that is congruent with the argumentation that was carried throughout the paper.
Criterion C: Reflection (4 marks)
The suggested number of words is 400. It focuses on the methods employed by the student in the process of their investigation. You should include the highlights of your IA and the challenges you faced while making it. This will help the evaluator to see the learning process you had and the personal engagement in the assessment.
- reflection focused on the methods that were employed by the historian and
- awareness of the challenges and/or limitations that were encountered.
Even though the History IA, in particular, may seem somewhat laborious, from my personal experience, it is one of the most interesting to make, it is just a matter of picking a subject that you enjoy learning about and find really interesting, this way you can commit to it more easily and overall be more efficient when trying to get your point across.