International Baccalaureate Assistance

IB Extended Essay: How to Formulate a Research Question

Going into the IB extended essay, you may feel a sense of anxiety. That's normal, and also something that you're going to want to try your best to overcome, and confront head on. The IB extended essay is, of course, an important part of your scholastic process, and a key part of your passing the IB program - hence the stress, and hence the need to transcend that stress.

Still, many students find that they can't even get past the first step of the process, namely formulating a research question. This is, certainly, a tricky process, but it's not one that needs to cause you stress and heartache - chances are you're already dealing with enough of that without having to deal with it at such an early stage of your paper-writing process.

Here, then, are a few pointers when it comes to trying to get out of the gate and formulate a research question for your IB extended essay.

Get By With a Little Help from Your Friends

Take a tip from the Fab Four - while the IB program is fantastic for broadening your mind and teaching you a variety of different subjects in the kind of detail and with the sort of critical insight that few high schoolers in the US will ever have the privilege of experiencing, in the real world, you really do "get by with a little help from your friends." Simply put, if you get stuck - ask a friend. They might be able to shed some night light on your problem or provide some fresh insight which will, in turn, lead to a research question.

If you've already talked to them about this, go ahead and branch out and talk to your teachers - the important thing here is to not be a Nowhere Man, treading water and going nowhere fast while flailing around with your material.

That kind of strategy's just doomed from the start, so if you find yourself experiencing A Hard Day's Night during the research process, don't be an overly-proud Day Tripper and just ask a friend for help.

What Do You Think?

No, really - what do you think about the subject of your prompt? Forget all the different factors that go into refining a thesis and making a proper research question - that part comes later. Just ask yourself what you honestly think about this topic.

Communicating what you mean begins with understanding what you mean yourself.

Take the time to just jot down some ideas on what you think about this topic, or even just say them aloud.

Do you not know what to think? That's OK too - even being conflicted or confused about a topic gives you a perspective, and having that perspective gives you somewhere to start when looking to formulate a research question. Chances are, if you're confused, others are too - and that can lead to a research question.

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