International Baccalaureate Assistance

Developing an Argument for Your IB Extended Essay

Approaching your IB extended essay means two things - you're nearing the end of your stay in both high school and the IB program, and likewise, you're may well feel like you're nearing the end of your tether as far as patience is concerned. After all, making that quantum leap from high school and adolescence to college and the adult world is a hard enough step to take, and now you have to deal with the argumentation process for your IB extended essay?

It's easy to see how that can feel rather rough.

However, rest assured - you're not the first person to run up against this kind of wall and, more importantly, it's one that can be overcome.

So, what should you do when developing your argument for your IB extended essay?

Arguing vs. Arguments

Every single one of us argue. Some of us even enjoy arguing! There's a famous sketch from Monty Python starring John Cleese and Eric Idle that you'll want to watch for two reasons - it's hilarious (Google "Monty Python Argument Sketch," you could use the five-minute break) and it likewise gives some good insight into the basics of arguing vs. arguments -

A man walks into a room looking for an argument. He really wants an engaging, maybe even enlightening discussion. Instead he gets a seemingly-endless loop of "No you didn't!" "Yes you did!" "Didn't!" "Did!"

Not a very good argument...but it is two people arguing. And therein lies the first point of difference to make when developing an argument for your IB extended essay - make sure it sounds like an argument rather than just arguing. There's a certain formality that's expected. You probably already know that as an IB student, but you'd be amazed at just how many informal IB extended essay arguments are made and submitted.

So what is an argument?

Refine Your Points/Statements/Questions

"An argument's a collective series of statements to establish a definite proposition."

At least that's what the Monty Python sketch tells us, but that's not a bad definition to start with. When you argue with friends, you may well just go back and forth, vacillating across different and unconnected points; here, you want "a collective series of statements," unified under a common theme, and all to help you "establish a definite proposition" - that is, to create and support your thesis. The same goes for questions. At one point in the sketch, John Cleese points out to Eric Idle that he didn't come into the room for a good argument - just an argument. Good arguments have good, clear questions, and valid, on-topic points and statements to back them up. Bad arguments are closer to what you'll see in the sketch, and while that makes for great comedy, it doesn't make for a good paper.

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