Understanding DP: The Extended Essay

By Avery Howell, 11th grade

If you aren’t an 11th or 12th grade student, the phrase ‘DP’ may sound foreign to you, and perhaps a bit intimidating as well. The Diploma Program is rigorous; there’s no question about it. And it is as convoluted to the outsider as it is rigorous to the insider, so I sat down with an Imagine senior, Mia Norton, to try to get to the bottom of it all, starting with the highly formidable Extended Essay.

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To receive their IB diplomas, DP Students have to complete the Extended Essay, an essay of between 3,500 and 4,000 words and mandated source quotas, about any academic subject of a student’s own interest.   For those in or entering DP, the prospect of an essay determining whether or not they’ll get a diploma isn’t exactly welcoming, but it’s really not as scary as it may seem- it’s really just another assignment to get done. If you choose an interesting topic and stay on top of deadlines, you’ll likely be able to manage the process quite well.  but the Extended Essay is simply another assignment that has to get done. In my interview with Mia, she provides some welcome insight into the EE process and her personal journey with it.

Q: What was your extended essay topic and why did you choose it?

Mia’s response: My topic was the juxtaposition of bullying in China and the United States and I picked that topic because my personal project was about bullying and bullying is a really prominent theme in middle and high school so I thought it’d be a good topic to research.

So, there’s your first tip. The personal project, completed in 10th grade, can be a gateway into choosing your Extended Essay. While they can’t be the same exact topic (The IB calls this policy “No Double Dipping”), components of the Personal Project can be included in the Extended Essay including sources, data, and subject matter.

Q: How did you finalize this as your topic?

Mia’s response: Well, the US was easy because there’s a lot of resources on bullying here.
As for China I looked at other countries with bullying statistics and it had the most out of them so…

Q: How long did it take you to pick a topic? Was this the only topic you considered?

Mia’s response: It took me a couple of months cause it wasn’t my original topic and I probably changed it 3 times so it took me a while. I know I did one about the psychological effects of absentee fathers and I thought about a marketing one cause I want to go into business.

This brings me to tip #2. Exploring many different topics will make it easier to narrow down which one will be the best for you. With the right topic, the research and paper should eventually start to write itself. Chances are your first topic won’t be your final one. Make sure you choose something that’s interesting to you- this process will take several months and will be exponentially more difficult if you’re not interested in what you write about.

Q: What would you say was the hardest part and what advice would you give to those in or entering DP?

Mia’s response: Getting it approved by your teacher and finding all the resources you needed and making sure there’s enough for it. My biggest piece of advice is actually look up the topic that you’re essay is going under because I didn’t do that and it got all messed up so make sure to look at the criteria before you start. Talk to Mrs. Upton and look at your guide and make sure that you’re meeting with your advisor every so often.

And my final insight to you all: As long as you’re proactive, the Extended Essay won’t be a huge challenge for you. And to any MYP students reading this, it’s never too early to start thinking about what you want to explore in your Extended Essay. What do you have in mind?

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