A major criticism from the IB Extended Essay (EE) examiners is that students
fail to put forward an argument in their EE.
Up to 4 marks can be gained in Section E: Reasoned Argument. However, to get those 4 points you have to “develop a reasoned and convincing argument in
relation to the research question” (IB Extended Essay Guide p28)
This is easier said than done. However, practice makes perfect!
So, where do you begin?
Begin by asking yourself the following questions:
why is the topic you selected important?
what are the basic issues at the heart of the topic?
what is your thesis statement/research question?
what are you hoping to prove? How do you hope to prove it?
Have a look at some of the introductory paragraphs of the essays presented in the DVD ’50 Excellent Extended Essays’ located in the IB section of the library.
Start to write the draft outline of your essay. Whilst doing this, it is strongly
recommended that you look at Chapter 5 of Storey’s ‘Writing History’. In particular, look at the draft outline for a narrative essay on p62. Then look at
the analytical outline on pp63-64. Do you see the difference? The analytical
outline contains arguments and their significance. This is what you need to work on to get the 4 points available for Section E.
Storey recommends that you go to the sources you will be using in your essay.
Look for support for your arguments in these sources. Quote (sparingly) to justify your argument.
As you continue to write check how your argument is developing. Is it consistent
or is it changing? Will you be able to sustain it for the entire EE?
Build your argument paragraph by paragraph. Remember the main idea of the
argument is usually contained in the first sentence of a paragraph. The rest of the paragraph should contain evidence to back up the argument.
Counterarguments should not be ignored. Why is there an alternative
viewpoint/argument? Remember, whomever will be evaluating your EE will have a background in the topic area. He or she will expect you discuss counterarguments and will be interested to see how you deal with them. You might like to consider the counterarguments towards the end of your essay. Then, in your final paragraph (not the conclusion) state why you think they are not relevant.
Have you considered and included (if relevant) the major authors in your topic area?
For example, if you are studying Tudor history you should be reading David Starkey, Alison Weir and Antonia Fraser. What arguments have they put forth regarding the period? For example, Starkey argues that it is not surprising that Elizabeth I never married given a state-executed mother, a charismatic father who beheaded two wives and who outlived five of them, a sister whose own marriage was unsuccessful and a guardian who may have seduced her. What are Fraser’s and Weir’s views? Can you use them to put forth a counterargument?
The conclusion should show why the results of your argument are significant. It
should answer the question ‘what’s the point?’ It should not include arguments that have not already been presented.
Frost, Bob. “Pointers For Structuring Written Arguments”. Bob Frost at the University of Michigan. 5th May 2009
Matheson, Ian. Passing Higher History. Hodder & Stoughton. 1996
Pirie, David B. How To Write Critical Essays. Routledge. 1985
Storey, William Kelleher. Writing History: A Guide For Students. 2nd ed. Oxford University Press. 2003
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