An Extended Essay in Economics

In my opinion, the Extended Essay requirement of the Diploma Programme, is one of the more enjoyable and challenging parts of the course. Students endeavor to write a mini-thesis on an original topic, based on a subject on their choice. Economics and Business Management seem to be common subject choices and I regularly supervise 4-5 students each year. Students pick topics which are either related to Singapore, or a country where they call home. In recent years, Singapore has provided plenty of original topics relating to recessions and government interventions.

Some of the recent research questions from my students include…

  1. To what extent will the policy of supplementary income payments be effective to boost the Gross Domestic Product of Japan in 2009?
  2. To what extent has the recession affected the consumption of demerit goods in Singapore?
  3. Are the movie industries in Singapore recession-proof?
  4. To what extent has price changes affected the demand for public transport in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area?
  5. To what extent are the HDB flats affordable in Singapore from 2000 to 2010?
  6. How effective are Electronic Road Pricing policies in reducing congestion in Singapore?
  7. To what extent has the government intervention in the market for hybrid cars lead to rise in demand in Singapore?

Some of these questions are good, but some questions are too broad in their focus. A good research question is essential to a good Extended Essay. Three of these topics received “A” grades.

What makes a good research question?

Any research question must be answered within the 4000 word limit, and therefore needs to be limited in both scope and economic content. A question which focuses on consumers in Singapore is in my opinion too broad. Selecting a cohort of consumers, such as working age males, would be a more focused approach. Limiting the number of economic concepts covered is also important. A good essay will explain one concept in sufficient depth and make links through the analysis to other related concepts. For example, an explanation of market failure could include links to elasticity but shouldn’t go any further to explain effects on economic growth, or inflation.

The way the research question is phrased is equally important. A closed question should be restructured to a question which can quantified. Rather than “what is the effect of government interventions on the market for hybrid cars” it could be restructured as “to what extent has the government intervention ….led to changes in demand.” Students can then conduct in-depth analysis which explains how much the demand has changed, or to justify the degree of success or failure of the policy. To simply state that,the intervention has lead to an increase in demand is too basic.

What kind of information should an extended essay include?

A good essay includes an innovative range of data, which could be either from a secondary or primary source, but preferably both. In my opinion, an essay with a good selection of primary data that is checked against other secondary research is a good approach. Too often students rely on the internet for all of their secondary research. They will be penalised for this approach in some of the criteria. The holistic judgment (Criteria K) is judged by the teacher and examiner and will reward students that adopt innovative or clever ways to collect data. Students can sometimes compensate in an essay with lots of secondary data by showing examples of in-depth analysis that makes links between separate pieces of secondary data. A survey of movie attendance during a recession, checked against secondary data on movie takings and consumer incomes will provide sufficient resources to analysis.

How could students improve their overall marks in an Extended Essay?

Each extended essay is assessed against a set of criteria. The criteria is very detailed and includes eleven different catagories. The highest level in some of these categories are easier to attain than others. For instance every student should achieve the highest level in each of the following. Criteria G,H and I

It is extremely important that economic terminology is used and that definitions of key terms are provided. This will clearly enhance the academic tone of the essay. Definitions should be precise. For example, a discussion of elasticity should refer to percentage or proportionate changes as opposed to “big” or “small” changes.

“Consistent” is the key word here: the conclusion should develop out of the argument and not introduce any new material. Any obvious limitations to the analysis/argument should be restated here, as evidence of critical awareness. For example, if a survey is carried out but the sample size is deemed to be rather small, then it could be stated that the sample size might limit the validity of the conclusion drawn. If interviews are carried out, it could be noted that the ideological bias of the interviewees might limit the validity of the conclusions drawn.

This criterion relates to the extent to which the essay conforms to academic standards about the way in which research papers should be presented. The presentation of essays that omit a bibliography or that do not give references for quotations is deemed unacceptable (level 0). Essays that omit one of the required elements—title page, table of contents, page numbers—are deemed no better than satisfactory (maximum level 2), while essays that omit two of them are deemed poor at best (maximum level 1). Additionally, if diagrams are poorly presented or if the information shown on the diagram is unclear, one mark should be deducted. (Source: IB DP Economics – Syllabus – first exams 2005)

For several other criteria, it appears harder to achieve the top band. The harder criteria involve analytical and evaluative writing. There is no easy way to gain high marks, but I think students need to follow the criteria very carefully to ensure they gain all of the “basic” marks. Below is a sample checklist which I have found useful. Students need to work through the list to ensure they have completed the essential parts of the Extended Essay.

Econ EE Checklist (accessed from IB Online Workshop – previous examiners)


12 thoughts on “An Extended Essay in Economics

  1. Tim Woods says:

    I’ve just stumbled on your site and I’m impressed!

    Great post on Econ EE’s. I’ll share it with my EE students next time around. I particularly like the Singapore examples, as I’m teaching IB Economics in Singapore as well (at OFS).

  2. Roshni biju says:

    Its really good tips for the students to perform well in the EE . I will use this for my present batch and for the coming up batches . Really great! !!!!!!.

  3. Vasukinandan says:


    I am an IB student studying in India. I recently came across your blog and find it very useful for my Extended Essay. I have chosen Economics as the subject for my extended essay. I wish to choose my topic on the new airport in Hyderabad, India and its economic impact on the regions around it. Could you please give me your opinion of my topic and suggest any changes.

    Thank You

  4. Daniel hong says:

    I am an IB Senior writing my Extended Essay on Economics and I was wondering if you could help me expand on my topic using economic theories and concepts. My question is how the 2007 Recession, which began in the U.S. affect my secondary school district. I have information on where cuts were made to survive the recession and also how they plan on surviving in the coming years, but I feel as though I lack explicit economic concepts.

    Thank you,

  5. Daniel Goebel says:

    Wow. Impressed. There is so much useful information on here. Thank you for putting together this information. I will definitely be sharing this information with my students for the EE.

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