The chemistry IA can seem daunting for most (myself included), but I found that understanding the rubric well and researching a topic you are genuinely interested in, can make the task significantly lighter. In an effort to make the process even smoother, here’s my advice to guide you along the way!
Selecting a topic
While there is no difference in the marking criteria of an HL/SL student, you should note that your research question, concepts, and techniques used should be appropriate to your level. Rather than stressing whether it’s an HL/SL topic, focus on how you can use the knowledge you have from your coursework (or beyond) to explore something you are interested in.
There are many ways that one can go about selecting a topic however they should all center around determining areas of interest. You could begin by:
- Determining the experimental technique (titration, calorimetry, colorimetry, database, simulation etc.) of interest, which should also be feasible in your school labs.
- Determining a personal interest that could be linked to a chemistry concept. Maybe you’re interested in health, the environment or food, each of which has potential to connect to chemistry!
- Determining chemistry topics of interest in the syllabus.
Each of these can help you narrow the scope of your research process. For example, my research question explored the activation energy of the thermal degradation of vitamin C using a redox titration because I enjoy chemical kinetics, titrations, and I have an interest in biochemistry. Other tips I have for this initial step are:
- Have a notebook/document where you keep track of your developing ideas, progress and sites visited.
- Choose an experiment where there is research available with an answer that you can compare with.
- Websites with lists of topics can be a starting point to explore further but make sure to make the investigation your own. This YouTube video is particularly helpful for completing the IA in a pandemic.
- Past IAs can be helpful, especially any extensions sections.
- Chemistry Option topics could also provide inspiration.
Remember do not be discouraged if your initial ideas do not work!
Before you begin…
…it is crucial for you to read through and understand the rubric. I also suggest going through past IAs with the rubric and noting how other students have fulfilled the criteria. This can help guide you with formatting as well as factors that other students may have considered that might also apply to your IA. I would also suggest that trying to find IAs that explored a similar experimental technique whether database/simulation/practical work. It’s also great practice to think about how your IA will meet all the criteria. For me, this process was really important for planning ahead and feeling less stressed. It helped me begin drafting the skeleton of my IA before I had even done my experiment.
Collecting your data
It is unlikely that your experiment will work flawlessly the first time around, so I would suggest completing a preliminary experiment where you determine exact quantities and procedures. Any modifications you make should be noted and they can contribute to personal engagement. Remember to take photos along the way (these can be used as diagrams or for qualitative data) and to have a notebook with you in the lab. If you are doing your IA online through a database/simulation make sure that it is appropriate and that you are still able to fulfil the allotted 10 hours of work for your IA.
Writing Your IA
Writing a clear IA relies on your structure as well as consistent formatting. I would advise that you cite along the way (in the format your school prefers), include labelled images/diagrams where necessary and tables and lists to organize information. An example structure could be:
- Background Information
- Materials and Apparatus
- Risk Assessment
- Preliminary Experiment
- Qualitative Observations
- Raw Data
- Processed Data
- Error Analysis
- Evaluation (Strengths, Weaknesses and Extensions)
Overall, your IA should be between 6-12 pages excluding the bibliography. Remember as with other science IAs you should not include a cover page.
Reviewing your IA
Thoroughly go through your teacher’s feedback and I encourage asking peers who do chemistry, and/or those who do not, to read through your IA. Remember to do a grammar check, plagiarism check as well as check your calculations and significant figures.
GOOD LUCK! 🙂