Extended Essay

Understanding the Basic Mantra of an Extended Essay

What does an extended essay mean? How do you create the so-called extended essays or research papers? How do they differ from ordinary essays? This is all you need to know about an extended research paper.

An extended research paper or essay is increasingly becoming a frequent assignment for undergraduate and graduate students in most universities, today. It is not uncommon that students, as well as the writers they consult for custom papers, to misunderstand the basic template of an extended essay. This brief article will help you understand not only the nature of such an essay, but also its intended purpose, and its creation/writing process. The secret lies in the role of the essay, and not in its length.

What is an Extended Essay?

Extended essays are now a common required component for diploma and degree programs in leading universities globally. They are simply independent research reports or papers that present a research undertaking, not as detailed as a thesis or dissertation, but me expansive that research papers and standard essays. Extended essays range from 3,500 words to 4,500 words, although some universities require up to 6,000 words.

The essay reports an empirical or secondary research study, which although not structured in these sections, always cover the (a) background, (b) literature review, (c) research methods, (d) research findings, (e) conclusion, and (f) recommendations of the study. In many ways, an extended essay can be described as a mini-thesis or mini-dissertation, because except for length, they resemble in content and form. The essay however focuses on an argument (in the tradition of essays), which is not a norm of conventional dissertations. A good essay will necessarily:

  • Formulate a unique research purpose (in rhythm to the core argument of an essay)
  • Derive objectives or aims of the study from the research purpose
  • Develop appropriate research questions or question in resonance with the purpose
  • Explore a given area of interest or topic from a unique approach
  • Appraise current knowledge with a critical literature review
  • Develop, background, develop, and then resolve/conclude on a specific argument   

Role of Extended Research Papers

An extended essay has one singular role in any diploma or degree program, namely preparing a student for the implementation of a research study. The students are simply prepared to conduct a scientific study, either empirical or secondary, in the subsequent stage of the degree program. A step towards graduation, the essay helps the students prepare for the actual dissertation, and may actually be for the same research topic.

Again, as a means of preparing the graduate, data collection for the essay may be minimal, particularly primary data. Nonetheless, for some course, the students may still be directed to conduct such a data collection activity as face-to-face interviews. The essay therefore serves the role of a readiness platform for the dissertation or thesis. Preparing the essay mandates a student to understand how to conduct and report a scientific study, a critical component of modern higher education.  

Structuring an Extended Research Paper

While most extended essays are defined by the instructions given by the instructor, they all adopt a relatively standard structure or format. The extended essay has three critical sections, namely (a) introduction or background, (b) body or report, and (c) conclusion. This replaces the background – literature review – methods – findings – conclusion/recommendation sections of a dissertation, although still covering the same scope, content, and form.

For example, the background section of the study provides the introduction of the essay, the literature review, methods, and findings constitute the body of the essay, while the conclusion/recommendations provide the conclusion of an essay. Importantly, some universities require the conclusion to provide reflections rather than recommendations, more so when the essay is subsequent to an interview for data collection.

The paper will therefore look like an essay, but in essence provide the very mantle if a dissertation. It is therefore important to structure the introduction, body, and conclusion of the extended essay both deliberately and creatively, with a keen attention to the sectional purpose. The nature, form, and role of these sections have been detailed below:

Section 1: Introduction

To begin with, the introduction should be crafted to include:

(a) Identification of area of interest or topic under research (essay question)

(b) Context-specific statement on the essay topic (a referenced background to the study)

(c)  Thesis statement of the essay framed as the core argument (as explained above)

(d) Overall preview of the essay structure and contents (identifying which sections cover which stage of the research)

(e) Guideline or lead into the consequent body section of the essay (… in the sections that follow …)

Section 2: Body

The body section provides several paragraphs to describe the (a) literature review underscoring the core argument for the topic, (b) the research methods used to collect and analyse data, and (c) the findings that validate the argument posed in the introduction. In a dissertation, the body of an extended essay should cover the literature review, methods, and findings of a dissertation. The length and level of details however vary, with the extended essay being relatively shorter.

When writing the body, each of these elements of the body section should ideally progress logically and progressively flow one after the other. Always remember that the primary intent of the essay is establishing and validating the core argument, which represents the overall purpose of the essay. Always identify what is garnered from the literature, the investigation process, and finally what is found or established consequent to the research undertaking.

Section 3: Conclusion

The last and final section of an extended essay is the conclusion, which carries either recommendations based on the research findings, or reflection of the research process. Importantly, this section should then be mapped to restate the introduction, but reworded to conclude the essay. Key components of the conclusion section include:

(a)   Refocusing the argument back to the original area of interest or topic

(b)  Succinct summary of the key findings made in the body (evidence-based validation of the core arguments and always not referenced)

(c)   Restatement of the essay thesis already validated with evidence (core argument)

(d)  Bringing the essay question to a comprehensive closure, and deductively.

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