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Extended Essay: Reflection

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


Bullfrog reflection - Britannica ImageQuestThe IB encourages students to reflect throughout the research process - not just at the end after your paper is finished!

You will meet with your supervisor a number of times while you are working on your EE, for a total of 3 to 5 hours.  Three of those sessions will be "reflection sessions", meaning that following these meetings you will be required to submit a 150-175 word reflection on the research and writing process of your EE to the EE Coordinator.  Your reflections will be submitted to IB by WSA's IB Coordinator, using the Reflections on Planning and Progress Form (RPPF).

The 'Initial Session' in the spring of your junior year.  The remaining reflection session take place in your senior year:  one 'Interim Session' in September, and one 'Final Session' (also know as 'Viva Voce') in December.

Your three reflections will count for 18% of your final EE grade from the IB examiner.

On this page: 

Reflecting Throughout the Research Process
Reflections on Planning and Progress Form (RPPF) and RPPF examples
Viva Voce - the final conference with your EE Supervisor

One way to help with your reflection is to ask yourself questions. Your answers will help you identify any problems, so you can then find ways to solve them. See the page in this section:

Evaluating Your Work

Check the WSA EE Timeline for the scheduling of reflection sessions with your supervisor and the due dates for the three reflections.

Reflecting throughout the research process

Reflection is a continual process. If you are constantly considering the decisions you are making in the extended essay (EE) process, you are better able to avoid the common pitfalls of independent research. Reflection also helps you plan, allowing you to monitor your progress. 

The following table identifies three stages in the review process and the kinds of questions you can usefully consider at each. It also suggests what evidence you might use in your reflection sessions to demonstrate your progress and learning.

Stage Questions you may ask yourself Evidence from my Researcher's reflection space
Planning stage
  • What am I interested in researching and why?
  • What are my motivations for undertaking research in this area?
  • How will I begin the research process?
  • Is my chosen topic appropriate for the subject I have chosen to complete it in?
  • Do I have sufficient knowledge of the subject area to fulfill the criteria of an EE?
  • What possible question(s) might I research?
  • How might I go about undertaking this research?
  • Do I have access to appropriate sources?
  • Are my chosen research methods appropriate for the subject I have chosen to complete it in? 
  • Are there any ethical issues I need to consider before pursuing this area of research?
  • Is there sufficient focus to my research area?
  • Mind map®
  • Annotated section of the Extended essay guide
  • Annotated bibliography
  • Annotated photograph, newspaper article, and so on
Background reading stage
  • What have I learned about my subject area so far?
  • What questions are emerging? Are these similar or different to my initial questions?
  • Given the initial reading I have undertaken on the subject, is my research question appropriate for the subject I am submitting my EE in? 
  • Is my research question manageable within the word limit of the EE?
  • Will my research question allow me to think critically about the topic I am researching? If it suggests a descriptive response, how might I need to change it to allow for more critical thinking? 
  • Are there any challenges that I need to overcome in order to achieve my desired outcomes?
  • Notes
  • Annotated article
  • Brainstorm of questions
  • Mind map® of potential challenges and possible strategies
Interim: writing stage
  • Do I have sufficient data/information to begin formulating an argument?
  • If I do not have sufficient data/information, how will I go about resolving this? Can it be resolved? 
  • To what extent does the data/information I have relate to my proposed research question?
  • Given the data/information I have collected, do I need to reformulate my research question? 
  • Has the data/information collected taken me in an unexpected direction?
  • Do I want to change course now? Is it too late?
  • Are there still questions/issues that I am unclear how to resolve?
  • Am I keeping to a schedule with the writing process?
  • Introduction of the essay
  • Annotated sections from books, journals, articles, and so on
  • Reworked research question
  • Examples of data/information collected from research
Final: writing stage
  • Do I have a reasoned argument that can be sustained throughout the essay?
  • Am I able to make coherent links between different points made and the evidence presented?
  • To what extent have I answered my research question?
  • What reasons may have affected my ability to answer my research question?
  • If I have been selective in the evidence presented in my essay, can I justify my choices?
  • Is there a clear summative conclusion, and does this reflect the discussion that has taken place? 
  • To what extent do I think I have fulfilled the expectations of the extended essay as a task? 
  • Has my research resulted in me changing my perspective or views on the topic in question?
  • What strategies have I employed that have worked particularly well at this stage of the process?
  • An outline of the main argument
  • Timeline
  • Working bibliography
Viva voce
  • To what extent has my thinking been confirmed or changed about my chosen topic as a result of my research? 
  • What strategies did I employ that proved particularly effective in the research process?
  • What skills have I developed and how might these be useful in the future?
  • What improvements might I suggest to my own working practices?
  • How might different research strategies have impacted my outcomes?
  • What did I learn about myself as a learner in this process?


Viva Voce

What is the viva voce?

The viva voce is a short conference between the student and the supervisor.   It is the recommended conclusion to the Extended Essay process, and lasts between 10 and 15 minutes.  

Brittanica ImageQuest - NOT an illustration of an actual viva voce conference!
NOT an actual viva voce conference!

Why have the viva voce?

The EE supervisor is required to submit a report when your EE is shipped to the IB examiner has been assigned to grade it.  The supervisor can ask questions in the viva voce that will help with writing that report.  This is especially important if the supervisor feels there is a need to check for plagiarism and malpractice in general.  Supervisors are required to confirm the authenticity of the work in any Extended Essay submitted to IB.

The supervisor will use the viva voce to help you:

  • Reflect on the successes and difficulties you had when researching and writing your essay
  • Reflect on what you have learned

What questions will be asked in the viva voce?

Here are some examples of questions you might be asked:

  • What have been the high and low points of the research and writing process?
  • In hindsight, would you choose the topic again?
  • What were the most interesting aspects of the process?  Did you discover anything that surprised you?
  • What have you learned through writing this essay?  
  • Having finished your essay, what additional questions did you find that could lead to further investigation?
  • Is there any advice you could pass on to someone who has just started work on their EE?

Reflections on planning and progress form (RPPF)

The Reflections on planning and progress form (RPPF) enables examiners to gain an insight into students’ thinking processes while researching and writing the EE. The examiners are looking to see how students’ thinking and skills have developed during this time.  

Completion of the RPPF is a mandatory requirement of the EE for first assessment in May 2018.  Your work on the RPPF constitutes 19% of your final Extended Essay grade from IB examiners.

The following are examples of the RPPF.  There is no one "right" way to complete the form and these examples should not be viewed as the "ideal".


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