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EE: Reflections

Extended Essay Resources

Three Reflections: Prompts & Examples

Write the first reflection after one of the early sessions with your supervisor. Focus on...

  • Your ideas regarding the topic in general
  • The research question you have in mind
  • Initial background reading or research you may have conducted
  • Possible approaches
  • Initial thoughts about the answer to your research question
  • Roughly 150 words in length

Guiding Questions:

  • Why is this question personally important to you?
  • Was there a specific conversation, book, news report, or other source that helped you narrow your focus or decide on your question? Explain.
  • What do you see as your biggest challenge as you begin this process? How do you hope to address this challenge?
  • What exactly do you want to find out?
  • What problems do you anticipate?
  • To what extent does your topic fit within the subject EE criteria?
  • What sources have you found and what do you still need to find?
  • Have you collected sufficient data? (if applicable)
  • Do you have sufficient knowledge in the subject area to fulfill the EE requirements?
  • Are there any ethical issues to consider before beginning this research?

Sample 1st Reflection: Psychology

I first showed an interest in this topic when in a TOK lesson we discussed some aspects of history. The teacher spoke to us about what drove a lot of the Nazis to commit despicable acts against the Jewish people and others despite them previously having no such experience. An example given was Adolf Eichmann, a very prominent Nazi responsible for the death of millions who stated that he was just following orders during his trial. After this lesson, I wanted to look deeper into how social influences impact human behaviour. Eventually, I was able to find studies based on Milgram’s shock experiment. I decided to narrow my research question down to how obedience impacts people’s ability to cause physical or psychological harm to others as there seemed to be some debate on the topic.

The Second Reflection session usually falls somewhere in the middle to latter half of your EE process

  • Discuss how the research question has become more refined
  • Comment on any challenges you have encountered & what solutions you have attempted
  • Discuss how your thinking on your topic has evolved
  • Roughly 150 words in length

Guiding Questions:

  • Looking back at your initial reflection, how would you assess your start to the research process for this question? Did you plan appropriately? What would you do differently if you were to start all over again?
  • At this stage in your process, what could be improved in your research and writing method? What specific steps should you take to show improvement?
  • How is your background in the subject you are researching, TOK or CAS informing the writing of your paper?
  • Has anything surprised you so far in your research? How has this affected your approach to the paper?
  • Where was I? Where I am now? Where am I going?
  • What sources do you find helpful?
  • How have you evaluated your sources?
  • Have you adopted a structure for writing based on what the IB requires?
  • What do you need to do next?

Sample of 2nd Reflection: English A- Literature

After gaining deeper familiarity with my chosen texts, I have only slightly changed the structure of my initial Research Question but maintained the main idea. During my brainstorming process, however, I have encountered several challenges with analyzing the stylistic features of my two novels. For example, as the Murakami novel I have chosen is nonfiction and more journalism-based, it lacks the scope of literary and rhetorical techniques than what is found in Steinbeck’s fictional novella. Therefore, this was a big worry during my planning stage as I was hesitant in continuing with analyzing Murakami for my EE. However, after discussing this problem with my supervisor, we noticed that this presents a new possibility in the direction I can go; instead, writing a comparison-like essay that compares how isolation is presented in the fictional setting on Of Mice and Men and the more non-fiction real-world scenario in Underground.

The Third Reflection can be written before the Viva Voce meeting to help you prepare for the conversation.

  • Offer your final reflections on the process
  • Discuss any achievements realized or challenges overcome
  • Discuss elements that allowed you to complete the task that may not be readily apparent in the essay itself.
  • Discuss any relevant ATL's (Approaches to Learning) that you have developed through the process & be ready to provide good examples.
  • Roughly 200 words in length

Guiding Questions

  • How did what you learned about your question change your way of thinking?
  • What was the most significant problem for you in carrying out the research and writing your paper? How were you able to resolve this problem?
  • What did you learn about yourself in the process of writing this paper?
  • If you were going to evaluate yourself on your planning and decision-making with regard to the extended essay, what would you say?
  • Is writing the EE mainly about process or product AND why?
  • What would you have done differently and why?
  • What have been the high and low points of the research and writing processes?
  • What was the most valuable experience that you took away from the process?
  • What IB learner profile attribute would you say helped you through the process (communicator, risk-taker, etc.)?
  • Would you like to continue reading on this topic?
  • What questions did this process raise?
  • What conclusions have you drawn about the topic?

Sample 3rd Reflection: World Studies

Through months of research and extended thinking about my research question, I learned a lot about how the global politics world works together with economics. Although I knew there was a relationship between both, I hadn’t realized it exists in every government policy and action. I realized this because both economic and political concepts impact each other. In this, the most significant challenge I faced was going back and editing my paper. I wrote 5200 words in my first draft and had to focus solely on what was analytical rather than merely descriptive in order to bring the word count below 4000. I managed my time well and realized that by choosing a topic I am passionate about, it made me more inclined to spend hours doing work. Through the process of researching and writing, I learned that if I plan my time well and make a schedule, I can complete anything I set my mind to. In terms of planning, I realized how important it is to have a plan and closely follow that plan in order to complete anything on time. Overall, I gained an understanding not only in economics and politics but also about how to conduct good research and apply that research to a paper.

Questions to ask yourself...

Avoid using only description and keep descriptions brief. Use the prompts to spark your thinking.

See reflections with Examiner comments to get an idea of the level of thinking you want to attain.

Descriptive Ideas (limited reflection)

  • What did I do?
  • How did I undertake my research?
  • What were the problems I faced?
  • Did my approach or strategies change throughout the process?
  • What have been the high and the low points of the research and writing process?

Analytical Ideas (good reflection)

  • To what extent was my research successful?
  • If I changed my approach or strategies during the process, why did I do this?
  • What did I learn from the experience in terms of my understanding of the subject area and/or skills needed?
  • How has my understanding of the topic and process developed?

Evaluative Ideas (excellent reflection)

  • If I did this again, what would I do differently?
  • If I did this again, would I change the theories applied, or my methodology?
  • Would there be a different outcome?
  • What can I conclude?
  • Were the strategies I used most appropriate for achieving my outcomes?
  • What questions emerged as a result of my research? Would these questions influence my approach if I did this all over again?

Criterion E


Reflection Tips

How To Write IB Extended Essay Reflections (Video and article)

Writing Tips:

  • Use strong active verbs (eliminate "to be", is, was)
  • Personal interest
  • Research Planning
  • Concrete details/examples (brief)
  • Use words such as: choice, decision, progress, engaged 

Sentence starters:

  • "I decided to...."
  • "I gained insight when...because of...regarding...."
  • "I adjusted my approach when/because/due to/ order to..."
  • "Based on ---, I decided to ---"
  • "I made progress when...."

Reflection Due Dates (2023)

Submit to MB in the "Progress and Planning" tab

First Reflection (about 150 words)

  • March 22

Interim Reflection (about 150 words)

  • May 24

Viva Voce and Final Reflection (about 200 words)

  • Oct 25

Criterion E: Engagement

EE Marks Breakdown:

A: Focus and method (6 marks)
B: Knowledge and understanding (6 marks)
C: Critical thinking (12 marks)
D: Presentation (4 marks)
E: Engagement (6 marks) = Your REFLECTIONS!

Total marks awarded: 34