A Really Long Essay?

What is an Extended Essay? How do I write one? When is it due again?

An Extended Essay is a 4000-word research paper that every student has to complete if they wish to obtain their IB diploma. It is a chance to flex some academic research and writing muscles, and also for most students to curse the high heavens and have a glimpse into their future as college students plowing away late at night writing papers.

Finding yourself in the beginning of your second year of the IB diploma and not having a research question for your Extended Essay yet is a probably a bad situation. I am in that bad situation.

Let’s take a look at where I went wrong so far, and see how we can fix it:

– Hiroshima, Japan: I wanted to write my EE on Biology, as it was my primary area of interest. Finding a topic and an appropriate research question, however, proved to be a challenge. Then I came across this article about the effects of music on bacterial growth. Very interesting, but too many confounding variables (music is a mixture of different frequencies, and research involving bacteria needs a highly sterile environment) and too little existing research. This idea was scrapped.

– Santa Barbara, California: For six weeks during the summer, I did research at the University of California, Santa Barbara with a PhD student. The research was focused on the evolution of bioluminescence in ostracods (commonly known as seed shrimps). I was surrounded by academic powerhouses and state-of-the-art research facilities. It got me chasing dreams. Still no viable EE topic yet however.

– Auckland, New Zealand: Here I am, arriving to my final year of high school, sadly still without an EE topic. Looking at the available research facilities at our host school, I decided an empirical research for my EE was too difficult. For a while, I entertained the idea of a literature-based thesis on the evolution of bioluminescence in ostracods, as I already had so much knowledge from my summer research. I even garnered and read through a significant amount of academic papers on ostracods (I got quite well-acquaintanced with Jim Morin and Anne Cohen, and the ostracod species named after them: P. annecohenae, E. morini and V. morini). Alas, this dream was too far amongst the stars, and the scope of the research would be way beyond what I could achieve in such a short amount of time with such limited resources.

Back to square one. To the drawing board again.

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