Biology Extended Essay Questions – Addressed by an EE Examiner
Q1. Should students be encouraged to do an original piece of research, or should they analyze (in a new way) data that someone has collected (e.g., data obtained from a previous research study that perhaps has been published in a journal)? If they use existing primary data, I am assuming that they will still carry out an actual experiment???
Answer: IB allows students to do science extended essays that are of two main 'types'. The first is the literature search type, typically using scientific journals as primary sources mixed with a variety of secondary sources as needed. This is an exceedingly difficult way for students to write a good EE because of the difficulty of showing creativity and a high degree of analysis. The data that will be given in a journal will already be analyzed by the researcher(s). The student then typically reports on this already given analysis (an analysis of an analysis).....which is obviously not the same as showing good analysis. Almost all science EE's written in this style end up being "reports" rather than "essays" and do not meet the requirements of the criteria. The best a student could expect on this style of essay is probably an "average" even if they really do a good job of minding their “p's & q's” regarding formatting and styling of the paper.
The second (and better way) is for students to do original 'lab research' and then the extended essay becomes a lab report written specifically to maximize scoring via the criteria. The criteria fit this style very well since originality and analysis are built into a lab approach. IB does not expect the questions that are asked to be life-changing, big-time questions. The student needs to ask a reasonably useful, possible-to-do question and approach it (design procedures, etc) from a fairly unique and creative way. I encourage students to ask ecology related questions because they are typically...
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