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Extended Essay: Step 11. Read, Read, Read!

A guide to the research and writing process required for students completing the IB Extended Essay.

Time to read!

You have your subject (Step 1), topic (Step 4), and research question (Step 5), and you have identified some sources (Step 7).  Now you need to do some preparatory reading to make sure your research question is viable in light of the information you have found.

It is at this point, if you are not able to find the evidence to support your essay in the time you have available, you will need to change your research question.  (See box at right.)

The IB advises that you evaluate all of your sources (online, print, and otherwise) to make sure they are valid and reliable.  On this page see:

Advice from the IB on Evaluating Sources (Online, Print, and Multimedia)

You can also use "The CRAAP Test" for evaluating sources.  See:

Currency:  The timeliness of the information
Relevance:  The importance of the information for your needs
Authority:  The source of the information
Accuracy:  The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content
Purpose:  The reason the information exists

Advice from the IB on Evaluating Sources (Online, Print, and Multimedia)

The Internet is a tremendous resource for finding information, but you need to use it critically and with care. One important thing to be aware of is that unlike resources found in a library in printed form, those found on the internet may not have been through a review or editing process.

When researching online you should:

  • know appropriate search engines to use
  • not rely exclusively on sources found on the Internet
  • have a clear and focused research question to help you search more directly on the Internet (given the amount of information available it is easy to be overwhelmed!) 
  • critically evaluate the reliability and validity of the information presented on the Internet 
  • keep a detailed record of all references, in accordance with the IB’s minimum requirements, ensuring that the URL of where the source was located is written down correctly. This includes recording the date that the site was accessed. The Researcher's reflection space (RRS) is a good tool for supporting this practice.
The following table contains a series of questions you can apply to determine the reliability and validity of the information you find: on the Internet, or in print or multimedia.
Evaluating Sources - Questions to Ask
Desirable source attribute Questions to consider in order to determine this
  • Is the author of the information identified?
  • If the author has chosen to remain anonymous, why might this be? Is this significant in terms of your evaluation of the information presented? 
  • Is there enough information available to establish the author’s credibility?
  • Is the author affiliated to an academic institution or credible organization?
  • Is the author qualified to write about the subject?
 Audience appropriate
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Does the information presented appropriately address the target audience?
  • Is the information relevant to your area of research?
 Reliability and credibility
  • Does the information appear to be valid and well researched? 
  • Can it be supported by evidence?
  • Can the information be verified through other sources?
  • Is there a non-web equivalent of this material that could be used to verify the information?
  • Does the URL (web address) give you any indication of the source of the information?
  • Is there an indication as to who has responsibility for the accuracy of the information provided? 
  • Do you know if the information has been reviewed?
  • Are there grammatical, spelling or typographical errors? If there are, what does this suggest about the source? 
  • Is there a bibliography?
  • Is the information fact or opinion?
  • Is the language used free of bias?
  • Is the author’s point of view objective or do they make it clear when they are expressing a personal opinion? 
  • Is it a personal website?
  • Is the author affiliated with any institution or organization which might create a bias in the information?


  • Is the information kept up-to-date?
  • Is there any indication of when the information was last updated?
  • Are any links up to date and working?

Adapted from "Introduction; Academic honesty, Acknowledge the work or ideas of another person", from Extended Essay Guide, International Baccalaureate Organization, 2016.

Twelve-step Plan for Researching the Extended Essay - Step 11

11.  Undertake some preparatory reading in light of the proposed research question. 

NOTE:  If you discover that it will not be possible to obtain the evidence needed in the time available, the research question should be changed.  This is  better done sooner rather than later; do not lose time waiting and hoping that something will turn up.  Go back to step 3, step 2, or step 1, and choose a new research question that CAN be answered.


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