Unformatted text preview: EXTENDED ESSAY REPORTS – MAY 2003
The range and suitability of the work submitted
As usual, a huge range of topics was chosen. In most cases, the focus of the essay was on an
economics concept – though there were frequent problems in terms of veering into business/marketing
and economic history. Making this grave mistake makes it very difficult for the candidate to achieve
successful scores on the subject specific criteria.
An area which seemed to interest many candidates this session was the ‘9/11’ terrorist attacks; a large
number of essays focused on the economic effects of this attack. Generally, these were too
descriptive, unsubstantiated and contained far too much information which was not relevant.
There were a disappointingly large number of candidates who chose topics that are best described as
economic history and then simply wrote descriptive summaries of secondary sources. Moreover, this
led to the problem of not being able to establish a clear research question. Examples of this are as
follows: “ This essay is an investigation into The Great Depression.” or “This essay is about
Roosevelt’s Effect on the U.S. economy after the Great Depression.” or “ The effect of the formation of
the European Union on the economies of its member states from its creation up to the present.”.
The best essays had quite simple titles and straightforward research questions which allowed the
candidate to develop a logical argument backed by clear evidence. These are often in the area of
micro-economics based on a local example. Nevertheless, it is not necessary that they be so and
teachers do not need to counsel candidates to avoid topics in macroeconomics, international
economics or economic development. There is a vast amount of material on the Internet in the form of
databanks of primary data, which is suitable. The danger is only when too many secondary sources
are used, or when the research question does not lend itself to the use of the economic theory
addressed in the IB syllabus.
Candidate performance against each criterion
General assessment criteria
Criterion A Research question
Many candidates did not focus their question sharply enough for an investigative report of this nature.
While it is pleasing to see candidates focus on an area which interests them, it is rather sad that so
often the said topic does not lend itself to a systematic investigation involving economic analysis.
This tends to be the case when candidates choose a family run business to research.
Criterion B Approach to the research question
Weaker candidates tended to write a narrative, descriptive essay, which ends up scoring poorly on
many of the criteria. A better approach involves the collection and use of relevant economic theory. In
some cases, reasonable economic data were collected, but the relevant economic theory was presented
as a separate section of the essay, rather than integrated with the data. Sadly, many candidates failed
to gather relevant data but simply provided a synopsis of secondary material on a general topic.
Criterion C Analysis/interpretation
This tends to be a problem area, with many candidates substituting description or narration for
analysis. It was often the case that the candidate gathered useful information/data, but then lumped it
together in one section followed by a largely descriptive section. EXTENDED ESSAY REPORTS – MAY 2003
Criterion D Argument/evaluation
The link between analysing one’s own data or information and then evaluating it and addressing it to
the research question to make a reasoned argument proved to be a difficult task for many candidates.
It was not unusual to see data presented with an assumption that it was self-explanatory, rather than
stating how the data could be applied to help answer the research question and how it could be used to
support or question economic theory. There was little evaluation of the data and how it could be used
to form an argument. Better candidates were able to develop an argument based on a clear and
cohesive evaluation of the results of the data, which they collected.
Criterion E Conclusion
In most cases, the conclusion was clear, relevant and consistent with the argument. However, a
remarkable number of candidates failed to indicate unresolved or unanswered questions.
Criterion F Abstract
Most essays do now contain an Abstract, which is within the word count. Often there was some
attempt to include all three required elements (research question, scope and conclusion), but it was
rare that these were all clearly stated.
Criterion G Formal presentation
This should be an area where candidates receive top marks, given their IT skills, which appear to be
of a high level. Weaknesses are noted in a lack of standard format for the Bibliography, especially
organising it in alphabetical order and providing the full information including date and publisher.
There seems t o be a major weakness in knowing when and how to provide a footnote (or endnote).
Given that the candidates are writing a research essay with, in most cases, some use of secondary
sources, it is remarkable how often ‘bits’ of information, which are clearly taken from other sources,
are not cited. Another frequent error occurred as candidates would refer to a secondary source in their
writing, but then not include the source in the Bibliography. Some students insist on presenting an
appendix, which turns out to contain all the research material gathered – with extreme cases where the
quantity of the material in the Appendix actually exceeded the quantity of the essay! Too many essays
contained references to Internet material by a very simple website address which did not clearly
identify the source, date or author of the material.
Criterion H Holistic judgement
Examiners are greatly helped with this criterion when the supervisors write an appropriate comment
on the inside cover of the folder in which the essa y is submitted. Some evidence of the gathering of
primary data was generally enough to score reasonably well on this criterion. Those that relied
entirely on secondary sources with no original interpretation scored less well here.
Subject specific criteria
Criterion J Appropriate economic information
The higher scoring essays gathered together and utilised an impressive amount of original data, often
from primary sources. It should be noted that data gathered from Internet data banks is also a suitable
source of information. Good essays must also, of course, include appropriate economic theory taken
from textbooks. In some cases candidates made an earnest attempt to collect primary data through
interviews or surveys but used poor questioning techniques, wh ich resulted in data which was
superficial and not able to be related to economic theory, or was statistically invalid.
Criterion K Using the language of economics
This should be an area where the candidates perform well. All that is expected is that they use
economic terms accurately and reliably whenever they are needed. However, in far too many cases
candidates do not define the economic terms that they use, or define them in a very vague or incorrect
manner. In the worst cases, candidates do not use the language of economics at all and write in a very
general, descriptive manner. These tend to be the lowest scoring essays. EXTENDED ESSAY REPORTS – MAY 2003
Criterion L Understanding the relevant economic concepts
In far too many cases, candidates failed to include all of the relevant concepts that were needed to
answer the questions that they had posed. The ones presented were usually well explained, but
concepts such as elasticity, or exchange rate determination were often ignored, when they would have
been very useful in supporting the arguments being made in the essays. In weaker essays, economic
concepts were often introduced in a separate section of the essay, and then not used again. In the
weakest essays no economic concepts were introduced.
Criterion M Use of relevant economic theory
Many essays identified the relevant theory, but were unable to clearly explain or logically apply it to
the research question. A significant number of candidates did not include any theory at all in their
essays. This is the biggest weakness in this criterion. Too many essays are descriptive efforts that are
written around poor, or inappropriate, research questions. Very often, these questions tend to be
historic or business studies based. Examples might be, ‘What were the causes of the Vietnamese
War?’ or ‘How was the stock market crash of the early 1980’s caused?’
Recommendations for the supervision of future candidates
It is absolutely vital that supervisors make themselves very familiar with the IB guidelines and
requirements for extended essays and that they make these available to their students. It is often all
too evident that neither the candidate nor the supervisor has read the guidelines, as both the research
question adopted and the approach taken are far more appropriate to another form of writing such as
a research report, or simply a long essay. If teachers are uncertain about topics in which their students
are interested or are worried about the suitability of the research questions, they should be encouraged
to go onto the Online Curriculum Centre (OCC) for guidance.
There is no reason why the weakest of candidates cannot gain more marks on the general criteria, if
they are given proper assistance. The supervisor and candidate can check that the pages are numbered,
the research question is stated early in the essay (printed in bold, if possible), necessary terms are
defined, a bibliography is presented in a standard format, a conclusion is written, and an abstract is
present and under 300 words.
Candidates should be encouraged to ask themselves at all points of their writing if they are still
answering the research question that they set themselves in the first place. In this way, they will find
it easier to stay focused on their topic. This may be further aided by the candidates turning their
research question into a hypothesis, so that they have an outcome to question. ...
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- Spring '11
- Economics, supervisor, candidates