How to Construct Research Question

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IB Extended Essay – Forming a Research Question

Choice of topic
The topic chosen must focus on the human past, be worthy of study, and lend itself to systematic investigation in line with the published assessment criteria. Essays that focus on events of the last 10 years are not acceptable, as these are regarded as current affairs, not history. It is not a requirement for the topic to be chosen from the Diploma Programme history course, but it must be acceptable to the supervisor. It should provide an opportunity for critical analysis of source material, and not depend on summarizing general secondary sources (such as textbooks and encyclopedias), as this approach is likely to lead to an essay that is essentially narrative or descriptive. The topic chosen must be suitable for effective treatment within the 4,000-word limit, so those that cover many aspects of history, and/or a long time period, are unlikely to produce successful essays. Narrowing the scope of the essay will help to ensure a clear focus, and will also allow students to demonstrate detailed and specific historical knowledge, understanding and critical analysis. The following examples of titles for history extended essays are intended as guidance only. The pairings illustrate that focused topics (indicated by the first title) should be encouraged rather than broad topics (indicated by the second title). Note that it is not necessary to have a separate title for an extended essay in history, as the research question or hypothesis can be used on the cover as well as in the abstract and essay. It is usually better if this is the case, because it avoids confusion and helps the student to obtain a clear focus. However, most students start by thinking in terms of a wider topic and the following “Treatment of the topic” section gives guidance on defining and narrowing it. · “Causes of the collapse of the Mayan civilization” is better than “The Mayan civilization”. · “Varying interpretations of the...
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