How To Write A Good Psychology Extended Essay

The purpose of the EE is to demonstrate that students can use psychological knowledge - including facts, psychological theories, empirical studies, and key concepts - to address the research question. After the research period, students should have an idea of what the research says so that they can formulate a research question and a thesis.

RQ: To what extent do psychological factors make it difficult for people to quit smoking?

Thesis: Although psychological factors play a role in one's ability to quit smoking, biological factors play a more significant role.

The research question must be clear and focused so that the reader knows exactly what the student is investigating. It must be present in the introduction of the EE. The student is required to justify the choice of the research question with reference to real problems and former research done in the area.

What follows is a brief overview of what is necessary to consider in the structure of the EE

The introduction

  1. The opening paragraph: Just a few lines to gain the readers interest. This could be an indication of why the chosen topic is interesting, important or worthy of study - for example, that many people try to quit smoking but often they are not successful and this can be a problem since smoking is dangerous to health. A quote or use of statistics may be a way of getting the reader's interest.
  2. Background: A brief introduction to relevant information so that the reader can understand the issues at hand. This is in order to place the topic in an appropriate context. It may be appropriate here to include one of the first studies in this field of research.  It is also in the section that the question to be researched should be justified - that is, why is this worth investigating?
  3. Definition of terms: This section must define important terminology and explain any limitations in the essay - for example, that only cigarette smoking will be researched.
  4. The research plan: The research question should be stated, the research to be discussed should be listed and then a thesis statement should be made which indicates the argument that will be made. 

Analysis of evidence

The body (or development) of the essay should be structured in relation to the thesis statement, using psychological knowledge in the argument. The only way one can convince the reader that the thesis is valid is to support it with relevant evidence and demonstrate critical thinking. It is also important that the argument is structured in a logical way.

Each piece of evidence must be explicitly linked to the question.  When you present a study, also be sure to explain how this helps to support or challenge the thesis that you have written in your introduction.

Each piece of research should also be evaluated. Do not use a formulaic approach to evaluating the research.  If, for example, you find that most of the studies you use are correlational, then discuss this in the "discussion" part of the part, rather than saying this in your evaluation of each study.  Remember, ethics is often not relevant to making an argument.  If, however, ethics is a key barrier to carrying out research on your question, this should also be discussed in the "discussion."


After you reviewed the research, the discussion is where you directly address your question.  What does the research show us?  What are the key issues with the research? You might include issues such as:

  • The use of animal research
  • Ethical considerations
  • Methodological considerations
  • Cultural and gender considerations
  • Difficulty in operationalizing and measuring variables
  • Biases that affect research


The conclusion should be directly linked to the research question so that everything presented in the body leads logically to the conclusion, which briefly summarises the main points found in relation to the research question.

The conclusion should be:

  1. clearly stated;
  2. relevant to the research question being investigated;
  3. substantiated by evidence presented in the body of the extended essay;
  4. aware of new questions that have emerged during the research

In this particular topic, one may conclude that biological dependence of nicotine is one of the main factors in continuation of smoking, but that it is much more difficult to quit all the habits related to smoking so the psychological factors are just as important to take into consideration in smoking cessation.

The IB Extended Essay is a 4,000-word thesis written under a supervision of an advisor and is a mandatory component of the IB Diploma. This essay, along with the TOK presentation, could give you up to 3 additional points toward your overall Diploma score.

Table Of Contents

How do I start my Extended Essay?

The best way to start an essay with a free-ended topic is to find an area of interest. What would you like to write about? Brainstorm if you have no ideas. Jam-write for 10 minutes straight without stopping or make a mind map of what you’re interested in. EssayPro has many good brainstorming tips here.

How do I Pick an IB Essay Topic

Pick a topic that’s one of your IB subjects or something that’s closely related to your hobbies or passions. In this stage, make sure your topic is broad, so you have room for exploration.

For example:

Now, this topic is too broad. It could be a novel or a Ph.D. dissertation. That’s no good; you need to narrow this topic down.

At this point, you should do some research on your topic and find out if you’re actually interested in it. If you find it boring, refer back to the brainstorming section.

How do I create a research question?

Now that you know more about your topic, ask questions that pique your interests as well as ones that you crave an answer for. This is essential for Criterion A (research question).

Here is an example of some good research questions or potential topics:

  • Economics: How did College Board monopolize aptitude testing?
  • Psychology: What affects did the Syrian refugee crisis have on the psyche of young Children?
  • History: How did the Second Red Scare, lasting roughly from 1950 to 1956, heighten tensions between Russia and America during the Cold War.
  • Chemistry: How does Iron sedimentation affect the water quality in West Africa?
  • Biology: Do earlier school start times hinder children’s ability to learn?
  • English: How has Albert Camus’ novel The Stranger been lost in translation?
  • Math: What makes Euler’s Identity the most beautiful equation of all time?
  • Film: How has Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho shaped the thriller genre?

How do I pick an Advisor?

Pick an Advisor that knows a lot about your topic. A biology teacher would not be great for your History EE.

Meeting with your advisor is not mandatory, however, it is a very good idea to do so. The more help you can get on this thing, the better.

When is a good time to start writing?

Start as soon as possible. Your life will be so much easier if you have your essay complete before Year II. If you’re overwhelmed during the school year, do your extended essay during the summer; your future you will thank you.


Now that you have your research question, build a paper outline around it. The introduction should contain your research query and your main argument, otherwise known as the thesis statement. The body is easiest to divide into three parts. The conclusion should restate your argument and summarize your findings. An outline should just be the notes of what you plan to state. Do not fiddle with the roman numerals; keep it clean with bullet points and short sentences.

Annotated bibliography

At this stage, you should be reading through your primary sources and creating an annotated bibliography. This just means posting any relevant information that you plan to quote or use in your essay into a separate document and listing some points that you plan to address. Start your Works Cited page right away.

Title page

An extended essay cover page is easy, but an extremely important component of your essay. If you don’t follow the title page format of the IB closely, you might jeopardize your essay score. The title page is a standalone document with the title of your essay and your name centered. Include the name of your school and your IB number.


Your paper introduction should state your thesis and your research question. In order to get the highest benchmark for this section, you must present this: “The context of the research question is clearly demonstrated. The introduction clearly explains the significance of the topic and why it is worthy of investigation.” This last sentence is important. Don’t forget to state why your topic is important to study. This is a good tip for any essay; if something isn’t important, why would it be worth reading?

Essay Writing Advice From Our Professional Team

Jessie Pro Writer, from EssayPro

Writing a good extended essay is difficult, but if you are an IB student, you’ll know that those three extra points can really make a big difference. Remember that it's not as overwhelming as it sounds. Some people write a custom essay that’s 6,000 to 8,000 words long, while others will reach about 2800-3500 on their first draft. An important thing to keep in mind that 4,000 words is the maximum word count.

Personal writer advice is to start this as soon as possible. You will thank yourself in the second year if you already have your extended essay done. If word count is what you’re worried about, then you would probably want to write over 3,000 words, since a short essay might imply that the topic was not investigated thoroughly. However, some essay topics may require only 2,000 words to investigate them fully. As the article articulates and I want to reinforce: do not pick a subject that you don’t think you’ll like. It is of utmost importance that you genuinely enjoy what you’re writing about. The topic selection is wide enough; you can explore any IB class that exists. One constraint though is that you cannot do your essay in Theory of Knowledge. In gist, aim high and you will succeed!

Breaking down the IB Extended Essay criteria

  • Criterion A: Make sure your research question is “sharp and focused”. This is not a place to add snaz to your writing.

  • Criterion B: Restate your research question and state your thesis. Make sure to define exactly why your research query is important.

  • Criterion C: Use a wide range of primary, secondary, and tertiary sources. Don’t forget to work on that Works Cited page as you go.

  • Criterion D: Make sure you wholesomely understand what you’re writing about. Spend a lot of time reading your sources and learning things about your subject.

  • Criterion E: Your essay needs to flow logically and coherently. Stick to your outline, don’t go on tangents. Extra information that doesn’t answer your research topic will not grant you a better mark, it will only hinder the overall quality of your essay.

  • Criterion F: Analyze your information. Make connections throughout your essay. Don’t simply list factual information; no one wants to read that. In order to really hit those top scores, you need to elaborate on multiple aspects of the information you present.

  • Criterion G: Make sure your language is coherent and straight to the point. Avoid passive constructions and adverbs.

  • Criterion H: Your conclusion is very important; as mentioned before, you should restate your findings and include any unresolved questions you didn’t answer in your body paragraphs.

  • Criterion I: This criterion is the easiest to do and the easiest to mess up. After completing your essay, double and triple check that your “layout, organization, appearance and formal elements of the essay consistently follow a standard format.” Make sure you have the title page, table of contents, page numbers, illustrative material, quotations, documentation (including references, citations and bibliography) and appendices.

  • Criterion J: Your essay needs to be special. Throughout your essay and in your conclusion, demonstrate “intellectual initiative, depth of understanding and insight.” Be analytical and define why your topic is important. If you are interested in what you’re saying, most likely the reader will also be fond of your information.

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