The natural sciences (biology, chemistry, and physics) of Group 4 have the same IA format. Students are required to conduct an individual investigation based upon a research question. These investigations can be of three types: a hands-on practical, simulation/modelling, or from a database. The IB understands that many students don’t have access to a lab. Hence, no type of investigation method is more advantageous over another; choose the method that fits your research question and methodology best.
Overall, the IA makes up about 20 percent of your grade; regardless of the natural science subject being SL or HL. The IA must be between 6-12 pages long and is graded out of 24 marks. The criteria which you will be marked on is as follows:
A: Personal Engagement (2 marks)
This is demonstrated in how you engage with the topic chosen. Justify why/how this particular topic is of interest to you. In addition, personal engagement can be demonstrated from strong initiative, rational, and originality throughout the scientific investigation.
B: Exploration (6 marks)
This examines how the experiment is designed. Give sufficient background research to the topic, and then produce a highly specific research question. Include a hypothesis (both alternate and null). In the case of methodology, this differs according to the type of investigation. All three types of investigations require you to pinpoint your variables. In addition, a hands-on practical includes the materials, apparatus, and procedure used in the experiment. On the contrary, database investigations would also need to mention what database you will use (and why). Simulations are a mix of the two and ask for a justification towards the simulation used as well as the procedure in obtaining data. If necessary, include any safety, environmental, or ethical concerns of the investigation.
C: Analysis (6 marks)
This judges the way data has been collected and analysed from the investigation. All experiments must gather enough data in the attempt of reaching a logical conclusion by taking multiple trials and various values of the independent variables. The raw data should be processed as per the demands of the research question and presented appropriately. Uncertainties in measurements are to be mentioned and analysed. It’s important to note that the analysis is done in an attempt to solve the research question so, the analysis must be connected back to the research question.
D: Evaluation (6 marks)
Looking back at the research question initially made, a conclusion should be made and justified utilising the data obtained in the investigation. Additionally, this conclusion must be compared to other scientific sources. Any strengths and weaknesses to your investigation should be mentioned afterwards, while subsequently proposing improvements that could be made to the investigation. Finally, realistic extensions towards the specific topic chosen for the investigation should be considered.
E: Communication (4 marks)
This judges your report as a whole rather than a particular section. Ensure that there is a plentiful usage of subject-specific terms. For example, in chemistry use the word ‘anion’ instead of saying an atom with a negative charge. Here are a few general tips to improve communication for a ‘Sciences’ IA:
- The investigation should be written in a legible font with a references page at the end of the report.
- Cite the sources throughout the IA with either footnotes or in-text citations.
- Avoid making errors in regards to graphs, tables, and units; make sure significant figures are maintained!
- Make the IA as concise as possible so that the examiner can easily understand it.
Although the internal assessment in the natural sciences can seem extremely daunting, half of the battle is drafting a suitable research question. This research question single-handedly determines what your entire IA is based on, so ensure that the research question being chosen can be researched, analysed, and evaluated thoroughly. Do note that while the natural sciences have the same assessed criteria, there are a few differences in content-specific research investigations. Check out the biology, chemistry, and physics subject guides from IB for more information regarding each subject.
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- Nikki’s overview of Physics HL.
- Francine’s tips for Biology HL.