Selecting an Extended Essay Topic – Alexander Zouev

Timothy Hoffmann

Once you have chosen under which subject your EE will fall, you must begin thinking of a topic or a range of topics that you could write about. Pick something that actually interests you and is motivating. Don’t get too excited if you can find a truckload of information online about your topic of interest – that’s usually a bad sign. Pick a topic that has barely any research already done on it and is unique in its nature.

Also remember that it needs to be very specific – you don’t want a topic that is too general. Understand just how important your topic choice really is – it will make or break your essay. Before you decide on a topic, have a talk to your friends about it, Google it, see if there’s an appropriate approach that you can take. A paper on “Economic Monopolies” is far too general, but a paper on a specific type of company monopoly, analysed at a more in-depth level, is more appropriate. It is critical to have a focused research question – talk to your supervisor and see if you can narrow your topic even further. A good topic is one that asks something worth asking and that is answerable within 4000 words. Remember also that your topic should not be something that is taught in relatively good depth already in the syllabus (for example, if you are doing a specific English book in your A1 class, you cannot use the same book for your EE).

This is your perfect opportunity to research that little thing that you have always wondered about but that seemed too complicated to ask. Whether it be specific casino techniques to win at blackjack (Mathematics) or dissecting the market structure of stores at your local mall (Economics), find something that has great depth and actually interests you. Don’t become one of those students who pick a topic that “sounds good” but has no real meaning – you will end up regretting it. If you pick a topic that actually interests you, then there is a greater chance that you will actually work on it! You may want to write outlines for several plausible topics, and then see which one would work best.

So how do you go about finding a final topic? Well, it will depend from subject to subject, but usually you will need something to inspire you. For this very reason, you need to start flipping through books concerned with the ideas you plan to write about. For example, if doing an EE in maths, I strongly recommend as a good starting point to look at a book about “100 greatest unsolved mathematical problems” and see if there is something there that interests you. Don’t stress out yet! Just because it has not been solved doesn’t mean that you will have to solve it! It just means that you can do a good research paper on it – find out what others have been writing and develop your own method at solving the problem.

Alexander’s guidebook on success in the Extended Essay and Theory of Knowledge components of the IB is available on Amazon [ ]