Short vs. Extended Essay: Help from 3 Experts


(Updated on April 7, 2020)

An IB extended essay is a long composition project that's required by the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme, an accelerated secondary school curriculum offered by certain schools around the world.  IB extended essays are required to be 4,000 words, which is approximately 16 double-spaced pages.  Therefore, it's likely that an IB extended essay will be the longest piece of completing a high school student has ever had to complete.  In this way, IB extended essays are very different from the type of reports high school students are used to writing.  IB extended essays are more like college research papers than high school projects.  They take weeks of planning, research, and composition, and require an advanced level of critical acumen.

Short vs. Extended Essay: Help from 3 ExpertsDetermining an exact topic for the IB extended essay is a gradual process.  First, the student should determine a general area of interest—one that he/she is intrigued by enough to merit sustained dedication to it.  Once this general area of interest has been chosen, the learner will then need to select a specific sub-category of that area and develop a thesis about it.  For instance, if the student is generally interested in linguistics, he/she would need to choose a sub-category of linguistics on which to write the assignment—such as a particular linguistic practice or theory—and then develop a thesis about that sub-category.  A thesis is a very specific argument, stance, or opinion.  A thesis presents a point about a particular topic, typically incorporating a WHAT and a HOW.  The WHAT is the paper's point or argument and the HOW is the way that point or argument is going to be explained and developed.

An IB extended essay is a investigation-based text.  This means that the student's exploration of his/her chosen subject will be enhanced and guided by scholarly research.  Scholarly research is research that's peer-reviewed.  This means that the research is published after being examined and assessed by expert scholars.  Such review process helps to ensure that the research is valid and authentic.  High school students don't have significant experience with how to find, assess, and use scholarly research.  This is one of the hurdles of the IB extended paper.  However, all IB extended essays are done under the advisement and guidance of a teacher in the student's IB program, and this teacher will assist the student with the research process.  This teacher will likely advise students to begin their research at a local university library and will caution students against excessive reliance on the internet.  There are many valuable online sources, but they typically must be accessed through a library database.  The internet is often not a valid resource because many sources on the internet aren't peer-reviewed.

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The composition of IB extended essays will be greatly assisted through the development of a report outline.  This outline should be detailed and should indicate the research that the learner will incorporate into the report draft.

Through every stage of the IB extended essay process, the student should work closely with the teacher that's guiding his/her project and seek that teacher's feedback and advice.  This will help the student to stay focused and on schedule and to produce a well-researched, well-written essay.

Short Essay

A short essay is a common academic assignment for students in high school, graduate school, and even undergraduate programs.  Short essays allow students to express their opinions, convey ideas, and review information in a succinct way.  Professors often assign short essays because they allow students to study a particular topic in-depth and think critically about it.  Short essays are also easier for professors to read if they have large classes.

In order to complete an effective and thorough short essay, learners should follow the same format that they would follow for a normal composition.  They should begin with an introduction, which includes information about the purpose of the report, background information about the topic of the report, and a thesis (a one-sentence statement that the learner will prove to be true).  The thesis states the purpose and goal.

After the introduction, the student should include body paragraphs.  In a short essay, the student may wish to only contain three body paragraphs, which is a standard recommendation for shorter works.  Each body paragraph should provide new information or ideas that support the thesis.

The last paragraph of the paper should contain a conclusion.  The short essay may only contain about five paragraphs, so the conclusion might only need to tie together the ideas from the introduction and the three body paragraphs into one easy-to-understand paragraph.

A short report should be formatted to look like an inverted pyramid.  The broad theme of the paper should be introduced in the beginning.  The conclusion should contain the point.  Each of the paragraphs should contain information that leads to that point.

The paragraphs of short reports should also look like inverted pyramids, with broad information in the first sentence and the point of the paragraph in the last sentence.

A short report is different from a long essay, even though the two are similar.  A short essay and a long essay may require the same amount of research and critical thinking skills.  However, the point of a short essay is to keep the information as brief as possible.  Short reports should be succinct and, therefore, not as in-depth as longer essays.  Long essays can be many dozens sof pages and cover a wide variety of topics.  Short reports should only be about one or two pages and should focus on a very specific idea or theme.

Extended Essay

There are many different types of assignments that students will have to write during their academic careers.  An extended essay is simply a longer version of any similar type of essay.

When it comes to academic documents that students need to create, freshman essays are generally considered to be the shortest and most informal of all of the academic writing types.  For example, an essay can be as short as five (5) paragraphs, while many dissertations exceed three-hundred pages (complete with appendix and visual aids).

The difference between a normal assignment and an extended essay has to do with length and little else.  Extended essays will still be written from a student's point-of-view and may contain less factual information than other types of academic writing.  However, even though extended essays are longer than other projects, they should still follow the same format.

The standard format for an essay requires that students create an introduction for the first part.  The introduction should provide background information about the topic that the learner will address.  The introduction also contains the thesis for the document.  Extended essays may contain longer introductions, but the introduction should still only fall in one paragraph.

The body of the extended essay is where the document gets its length.  Each body paragraph should contain new information or fresh ideas that support the thesis.  For extended essays, the document may contain many more body paragraphs than a normal composition.

In the conclusion of an academic essay, the student needs to tie together the body paragraphs to supply information that supports the student's conclusion.  The conclusion should still only be about one or two paragraphs, even if the student does have multiple body paragraphs that he/she needs to tie together.

The major difference between an extended essay and other college essays is the length.  However, just because an extended essay is longer than other college essays doesn't mean that extended essays are more difficult than other forms of academic works.  For example, an extended essay doesn't necessarily become a term paper or a reference project.  Such compositions are always distinct from other forms of writing because of their heavy focus on a student's point-of-view, in most cases.  Therefore, even extended essays are unique from every other form of writing.

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