Research skills

What kind of research is

expected of undergraduates?

How does the IB extended essay

prepare you for this?

How can you develop

the skills that you need?

We’re not talking here of breaking new ground: that’s for postgrads.  We’re talking instead of finding out information for yourself, selecting what you need, and presenting it in your own way and with your own perspective.  Students doing the IB will need to do this; everyone going to university will need to acquire the same skills.  And you do it on this course.

Your choice?

In your final school exams, you may write an essay in answer to a question.  But eventually you will need to choose a topic and discuss it, perhaps in an essay, perhaps as a dissertation.  How do you select a topic?  Some brainstorming helps!

Aberdeen library

So what exactly is ‘research’?

For the purposes of this course, you have now selected a topic.  Somewhere, information on that topic is available.  Where do you find it, how do you extract it from all the information which you don’t actually need, and how do you record it?


Research in action

For this unit, you’re on your own – a taste of the real thing!  But actually, your teacher is there to assist, working with different students at different times to help them find the information they require. Don’t forget to acknowledge your sources!


Feedback time

Working in pairs or small groups, students now share the information obtained.  Can others help you to develop your topic further, perhaps by challenging your hypothesis?  And can you help them?  Are there other approaches you could pursue?  You still have time…


Structuring your essay

If you have an hour or less in a final exam to write an essay, you don’t have much time to prepare it.  But then there is not so much you can say.  Now, potentially, you have a lot to say, but you need to select your material and think carefully how you will present it.


Putting pen to paper…

You’re ready to go!  There won’t be time for you to write the 4,000-word essay expected for IB, but in two hours, and after careful preparation, you should be able to write a very creditable, well-researched essay on a topic of your choosing.  Good luck!


Discussing the results

In this unit, your teacher discusses each student’s essay individually.  While this is taking place, everyone else works on a presentation for the final unit: how will you present your ideas to the group, awakening their interest, and ideally inviting their contributions?


Presenting your ideas

To conclude, we invite everyone to present their findings. As they do so, the rest of the class prepare some questions.  We conclude with a review of all the skills which have been practised during the course, and consider how you can develop them further.