Many people consider the Extended Essay to be the most daunting part of the IB Program. With a 4000 word limit and endless possibilities for topics, it’s hard to know where to begin. However, the IB allows you an essential tool to help you during your EE process: an EE supervisor! An IB teacher from your school will help you during the planning and research phase of your EE and give you feedback on one draft. A lot of students take their mentor for granted, or don’t know how to get the most out of them. Here are some tips for working with your EE supervisor:
Choosing a supervisor:
Choose a teacher who teaches the subject you chose for your EE, or something similar
That way, they will be more knowledgeable about your topic and be able to give you more in-depth feedback. For example, I did a Language A EE in English, so I chose my English teacher as my mentor. However, don’t stress out if your supervisor doesn’t teach the exact subject – sometimes, the subject area is close enough. For example, if you’re writing a Visual Arts EE, it’s okay if your mentor teaches History or Language A. They may still be familiar with your topic and be able to offer good feedback because the Arts are closely related to History.
Due to their busy schedules, many teachers have a limit on how many students they’ll supervise. If you have a specific teacher in mind, make sure you ask them a month or two before you start working on your EE.
Choose a teacher you’re familiar with
If you ask a teacher who doesn’t know you to be your mentor, they aren’t likely to agree. Choose a teacher who knows you and your writing style, and one you enjoy working with. That will make the revision and feedback process much smoother.
Choosing a topic and writing an outline:
Share your ideas with your supervisor
Have a list of possible research questions for your EE, and explain how you’re going to explore those topics. Your supervisor should tell you if your topic is too broad or too narrow, if it fits well with the subject you chose, and give you some starting points for research. I originally told my mentor that I wanted to compare the nature symbolism in Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice. He thought that topic was too big to fit into a 4,000 word essay, so I changed it to analyzing the nature symbolism in Pride and Prejudice.
Don’t expect your supervisor to tell you what to do
Your mentor is there to offer advice and help you in the EE process. They aren’t there to tell you what to write. Tell them what ideas you have and they’ll let you know if they think it will work!
Check in after you’ve done some research
Sometimes, you’ll decide to take your EE in a different direction after doing more research. Maybe the evidence you found doesn’t fit with your research question, or it makes you think of a better one! Bounce some ideas off your mentor to make sure you’re on the right track. For example, after rereading Pride and Prejudice, I adjusted my topic from nature symbolism to Romanticism and the sublime. That made my research much more focused, especially since I was analyzing an entire novel. My supervisor gave me some suggestions for further reading on Romanticism, which helped me a lot as I wrote my outline.
Check in after writing a detailed outline
This is the last step before you actually start writing your essay, so this is the last stage to make any major changes to your research question and topic. Make sure you include any quotes or evidence you want to use (with citations), so your supervisor can make sure it fits with your argument. Also include a strong thesis statement so your mentor can approve it, as well as any major points you want to write about.
Managing feedback, revisions, and formal meetings:
When you meet with your supervisor about your first draft, have a list of questions to ask them
Remember that your supervisor can give you feedback only on the first draft (page 63 of the EE guide). The IBO did not intend for mentors to suggest edits on multiple drafts, so it’s important that you get what you need after they review your first draft. They will give you feedback on what works, what isn’t flowing correctly, if your intro and conclusion paragraphs are strong enough, and if any parts of your argument lack clarity. However, if you have any specific concerns, you should be prepared to ask about them. For example, I used a lot of long quotations in my EE and I was wondering if they disrupted the flow of the essay. My supervisor advised me to break it up into shorter quotes and analyze each one on its own.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
If you have a question about your introduction paragraph, talk to your mentor for a few minutes. If you’re unsure whether or not a specific quote fits well with your argument, just ask your supervisor. Have a running dialogue with your mentor – they aren’t there just to give advice on your first draft. You can still ask for advice on smaller portions of your second and final drafts. Involve them in your process and make sure you get the most out of their expertise.
Thank them for their help!
Supervisors are an underappreciated part of the EE process – they take hours out of their schedules so they can review your work and make sure your EE is as good as it can possibly be. Once you submit your final draft, be sure to write a thank you card to your mentor showing your appreciation for the time they put into mentoring you.
Hopefully now you’re ready to start working with your EE supervisor! One final piece of advice I’d give you is to remember that your mentor is there to help you. If they agreed to be your mentor, they must like you and have your best interests in mind. They aren’t there to make you feel stressed or silly – they want to make sure you’re on the right track. As long as you stick to your deadlines and put in your best effort, your EE mentor will help you reach your full potential!