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World Studies Extended Essay: Academic Lenses

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

Disciplinary Lenses

Academic disciplines play a key role in your interdisciplinary work on the WSEE.

A note on Subjects for the WSEE:  Most often a WSEE draws on subjects from across subject groups. The IB advises students to use only two Diploma Programme subjects, one of which they must be studying already.

Squirrel on camera lens - Britannica ImageQuestYou show interdisciplinary understanding in the WSEE when you select insights from two disciplines or subject areas to address the topic of your choice.  

It would be very easy for you to rely on common-sense understanding of a global issue or more informal insights.

However, the academic nature of the EE requires you to understand a global issue through disciplinary lenses.

Which Disciplines Should You Choose?

The IB requires students writing a WSEE to select insights from two disciplines or subject areas to address the topic of their choice. So ... which disciplines should you choose for your WSEE?

You must consider:

  • what discipline might best inform your work, given your chosen topic
  • what particular insights from the discipline will be most relevant.

There are many aspects of a discipline that can communicate knowledge and information effectively in an interdisciplinary project like the WSEE:

  • theories, conceptual frameworks, concepts or findings (for example from biology, history, mathematics or economics)
  • distinct disciplinary methods, research instruments or approaches to inquiry
  • characteristic communicative styles, languages or symbol systems.
Here's the ultimate goal:  By grounding your research in disciplines and established areas of expertise, you will avoid superficial or solely journalistic or narrative accounts of your chosen topic.

Before you begin your research, try using the 'lens' of the professional in one of your WSEE disciplines to get an initial answer to your question.

Use the lens of ...

the biologist

Biologist studying a sooty albatross (Phoebetria, or Diomedea, fusca) on its nest - Britannica ImageQuest

the geographer

Geography teacher Hans-Joachim Fuchs of the Institute of Geography of the University of Mainz, Germany, poses on the Rhone Glacier in the Swiss Alps - Britannica ImageQuest

the historian

UK political analyst and historian Cyril Parkinson - Britannica ImageQuest

the scientist

Scientist using a seismograph at Volcano National Park on Big Island, Hawaii - Britannica ImageQuest

the artist

Canadian painter in her studio - Britannica ImageQuest

the poet

An African-American poet writes rap lyrics in his notebook - Britannica ImageQuest


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