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World Studies Extended Essay: Common Stumbling Blocks

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

Problems Encountered by WSEE Students During Their Research and Writing

Road blocker at New York City Hall - Britannica ImageQuestOn this page you can find lists of common stumbling blocks encountered by WSEE students, listed by the relevant assessment criteria.

Criterion A: Focus and method

Criterion B:  Knowledge and understanding

Criterion C:  Critical thinking

Criterion A: Focus and Method

Common stumbling blocks

  • The research question is not appropriate for an interdisciplinary investigation. It is:
    • descriptive rather than analytical
    • too broad
    • too narrow, or expresses a foregone conclusion.
  • The student presents the research question as a fact-gathering exercise rather than as a question framing a problem of inquiry.
  • It is unclear why this is relevant to the subject in which it is registered.
  • It is unclear why an interdisciplinary approach is necessary.
  • Sources are too narrowly focused or too broad in range in relation to the research question posed.
  • The methodological approach is presented mechanistically (“I will use interviews and surveys”) rather than a reasoned strategy for gathering relevant information or data collection (“While semi-structured interviews will allow me to understand the villagers’ perspectives and beliefs, a survey of adults in the community will enable me to see how widespread such beliefs are in the village”).

Criterion B: Knowledge and Understanding

Common stumbling blocks

  • The student has difficulty putting the area of research or research question in context; a general background is given rather than setting up an argument or explanation.
  • There is a tendency towards sweeping, broad strokes rather than deep understanding of the subject or area of research. The commentary is general and relies on common-sense observations.
  • The use and interpretation of sources is simplistic.

Criterion C: Critical thinking

Common stumbling blocks

  • There is a tendency towards narrative as opposed to a presentation and critical discussion of research and findings.
  • The research/findings are not discussed in relation to the research question.
  • Integration is unclear or superficial. There is a tendency to juxtapose the two disciplines.
  • There is little critical analysis of the sources used.
  • There is a tendency to list factors rather than assessing their relative importance.
  • The student inappropriately uses categorical language to assert firm conclusions when it might be better to be more tentative.
  • The student summarizes findings, without attempting to draw all the ideas together into an insightful explanation or argument.

WSEE Documents

WSEE Subject Guide and worksheets

RRS (Researcher's Reflection Space)

RPPF (Researcher's Planning and Progress Form) examples:

IB Extended Essay Guide & Timeline

Check the Extended Essay guide for specific guidance on completing the various steps in the research and writing process of the EE, and these documents:


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