Getting intellectual with your Extended Essay and Google Scholar

Google Scholar is a nice way to search journals and access the most academic forms of research by experts in a particular field.

Journals are collections of academic writing, which are very important to students wishing to complete an Extended Essay. They cover very specific concepts, case studies or analyse issues and dissect the knowledge very deeply with rich data. For these reasons, journal articles are better quality sources of  information for your Extended Essay compared to other sources such as a website, blog or online source. However, the language and complexity of terminology is often too hard for a high schools student to comprehend. Notwithstanding, Google Scholar opens up a wealth of information and will support your research if used carefully.

What is a journal article?

Journal articles are peer reviewed pieces of research. This means that a group of other academic scholars including university professors will read and verify the piece of research and then potentially recommend it for publishing in thier journal. The most respected journals such as the American Economic Review have published academic writing since the early 1900’s. Having your work published in this journal is a reflection of the quality of the research and also the originality of your ideas, and is held in high esteem by other experts.

How does Google Scholar work?

Google Scholar allows you to search existing databases of journals. Most of the time, the results from the search will provide you an extract of the paper and not the full text version or PDF. However you can search for the same paper in your school databases and you will usually find a full copy, or from your local university or library. Some of this research is not freely available and is only available to fee paying subscribers.

The search results within Google Scholar are ranked in two interconnecting ways.

  • Firstly, they are ranked according to if they show the keywords included in your search string.
  • Secondly, they are ranked according to the number of times a paper has been cited in other papers. If a paper is cited in lots of other papers, it is therefore obviously of higher quality or more credible than other less cited papers. When a writer cites another paper, it is to make reference to the author of the original idea.

Google Scholar Advanced search allows you to get very precise results from specific authors, or from from different time periods. If you are using Zotero to collate your references, you can click on the Zotero icon in your internet browser and then select the articles of interest.

See here for Google’s Advanced Scholar Search Tips

Extended Essay Tools – Zotero for Collating References

Zotero is a digital research tool that will revolutionize how you collate references, and then cite these in your final paper. It is a tool that you install on your computer together with a plugin for your internet browser (Safari, Chrome or Firefox). Once these are both installed you can click on a small button in the browser and add the specific newspaper article, journal or data into your list of references. Zotero will collect the metadata from your source, such as the author, publisher, title etc. You can then fill in the gaps.

When you are ready to create your bibliography, you click to extract the references from Zotero in any chosen format, including MLA, Chicago or APA and then paste these into your paper. You can also use the MS Word plugin to add citations as you write the paper. Overall this is an excellent tool to support your research and invaluable digital skill if you are moving onto further study at university.

For more information about Zotero, watch the tutorial below. You can also visit thier website to see the detailed Quick Start Guide. I have also developed some brief resources as part of our schools Digital and Information Literacy programme,

How do I start?

Firstly, you need to download two files to set this up on your MacBook. Zotero 3.0 standalone for Mac, allows you to collate citations and then add them into Microsoft Word as you write. The Connector to Safari allows you to drop and drag resources, into your library as you work. All other download links are available here.


Graphing Tools and Applications – Omnigraph Sketcher

Omnigraph Sketcher (Omni Group)  is an application which can help you make clear, precise graphs that can be embedded in any document. A few of my Economics students trialled the product last year and then decided to purchase a license. ($19.95, less for bulk purchases, free 14 day trial available) It is a useful tool for students completing an Extended Essay and as shown below it can draw complex models and parabolas clearly. Other than using drawing tools in a word processing application, I haven’t come across many tools to draw good graphs. Any further ideas welcome.


Borrowed from Paul Biese | Grade 12 Economics student | ISS International School

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)