1. Choose an interesting, unique topic
The first step to any successful Extended Essay (EE) is choosing a good topic. This can actually be one of the most challenging parts of the process! I recommend choosing a topic that, first and foremost, interests you. You’ll be exploring this topic for over a year, so the best way to remain motivated is to research something you actually want to research.
Also choose a topic that isn’t overdone. Your examiner is human, so it’s best to keep them engaged and excited about your topic by writing about an area of history that, perhaps, is a little more obscure. At the same time, make sure it isn’t so obscure that you can’t find many good sources about it. It’s a balancing act.
Personally, I wrote my History EE about how the March First independence uprisings of 1919 impacted Japanese colonial policies in Korea until 1941. This topic interested me, was unique, and had ample resources, checking off all of the recommendations!
2. Use a broad range of sources
Now that you’ve chosen a topic, it’s time to start researching. When you compile resources, try to get a diverse mixture of primary and secondary sources.
Primary sources are “immediate, first-hand accounts of a topic, from people who had a direct connection with it”; they may include newspaper articles, interviews, photographs, and more.
Secondary sources are usually produced later on, and talk about a historical event retrospectively and with a layer of “interpretation and analysis”. A prominent historian’s book, for example, is a good secondary source. (Pro tip: if you struggle to find primary sources, many secondary sources will reference or excerpt primary sources, so you can find a lot of them from there!)
Don’t use textbooks or Wikipedia, as these are considered tertiary sources. Dig a little deeper!
It’s also important to have a diverse range of sources. In my case, since I was looking at Japan’s colonial policies in Korea, I consulted both Japanese and Korean sources to look at “both sides” of history. By using many different sources, you will show a deeper understanding of your chosen topic.
3. Have a thesis
Okay, this one seems pretty obvious, but it’s actually easy to forget to have a thesis after so much researching and planning. Remember: you aren’t writing a history report, you’re writing a history essay. A good IB History teacher will
constantly wisely remind you: don’t write a narrative. Don’t simply recount the events that happened; instead, say something about the events. After doing all your research and preparation, think about what argument you’ll be developing throughout your essay.
4. Focus on structure
The EE is 4000 words long, so organization is key if you want to get your points across effectively. I recommend choosing a few key areas within your topic that you want to address. Turn these areas into your “chapters” to give your essay a coherent structure. Here’s an example from my History EE’s table of contents:
As you can see, I divided up my essay into 4 main chapters with certain subsections. By structuring my EE in this way, my goal was to make it easier for the reader to follow the essay. I recommend creating a table of contents page before you even start your EE, as this will allow you to follow a set structure as you write, improving your organization.
5. Address multiple perspectives
If you’re aiming to achieve a high mark on your History EE, try to integrate multiple different perspectives into your essay. This shows that your arguments are nuanced and you’ve taken into account contrasting viewpoints before arriving at your conclusion. For example, if you’re arguing that economics was the primary cause of World War I, you should also consider the political and social situation in Europe at the time. But don’t leave it at that! After addressing the counterarguments, you should then discuss why your main thesis statement still stands and is the strongest argument. This will actually make your essay more persuasive.
These are just some of the tips you should keep in mind as you approach your History EE. While the EE may feel daunting and stressful at times (trust me, I’ve been there), if you think of it as an opportunity to study and write about anything you want to, it can actually become a fun and engaging process. Good luck with your EE!
Read Tiffany’s overview of the Extended Essay here.
Read Bryan, Nikki, Bianca, and Victoria’s experiences of the EE here.