For other articles on the Extended Essay on Intense Cogitation, please see our helpful articles on The Extended Essay Outline and Sample sources for an Extended Essay – The American Civil War. Please also check out my extended essay exemplar about the American Civil War.
As I’m sure you all know, the Extended Essay is a 4000 word essay that is a requirement for the International Baccalaureate Diploma. You can write it in a wide variety of topics and subjects, as long as you have an Extended Essay supervisor (usually a teacher) guiding you along. Most schools encourage students to complete an outline, at the very least, for the Extended Essay at the end of IB1 to prevent students from procrastinating too much in IB2.
For some people, the outline can be quite challenging; what if you just want to start writing the essay? What do I include in it? I had similar questions whilst I was writing mine, so I shall divulge some things I discovered for you to think about.
Generally, it is a good idea to do extensive research prior to writing the outline. Presumably by this point you will have already found a subject, topic and a supervisor; if not, ensure that you have all three before continuing. Make notes whilst you are writing so you can pick out common themes and ideas, which will help you immensely when you start writing the thesis. Don’t forget to write the sources down!
For example, I started reading about the American Civil War because I saw a documentary on naval warfare. After doing some research, I found something that really interested me — the Battle of Hampton Roads. With this in mind, I proceeded to narrow this down to:
VALUE OF THE CONFEDERATE IRONCLAD Virginia IN THE BATTLE OF HAMPTON ROADS, MARCH 8-9, 1862
Don’t worry if it isn’t perfect! Just get your ideas down first–let editing take care of the problems.
Once you have that, try to think of a question that concerns most of the material you have read and digested so far. Is there a problem or question that keeps on coming up in your mind when you are studying this topic? What are some common academic arguments about this topic? Try to shape that into a research question. After that, formulate a thesis which attempts to answer this question. It’s hard to understand, so I’ll show you an example from my outline here:
Research Question: To this day, the question of who won is still debated. One method for analysis would be to study the battle through one ship to determine the extent of the ship’s usefulness to its home country; if the ship was costly and ineffective in battle, it would likely not be the victor. In this battle, a study of the Virginia in this battle would be most beneficial since she was present for both days of the battle. Thus, the following research question emerges: how useful was the ironclad Virginia to the Confederacy in the Battle of Hampton Roads?
Thesis statement: To examine the question, this essay will use both primary and secondary sources to explore the Virginia’s impact on industry and economics, and strategic and tactical ramifications of the battle for the Confederacy, including the Virginia’s vulnerabilities and her psychological effect on civilians and combatants. Although the Virginia was a remarkable ship, this essay will prove that the Virginia was of limited use to the Confederate war effort.
This wasn’t my final research question or thesis statement, but it gave me enough of a focus to write a first draft. In essence, your task here is to find a central question to your essay, and choose a view point that you think the evidence supports.
After that, you are probably ready to write a rough outline of the structure of your Extended Essay — how will you structure the knowledge you’ve learned through research into a persuasive argument? How will you make this relevant to your thesis? What evidence will you use? At this stage, it’s probably easiest to just write jot notes of your major arguments and some minor supporting points as it is just an outline, not a draft. It doesn’t have to be very detailed, as illustrated by mine:
- Introduce Confederate naval situation and reason for ironclad construction
- Introduce Battle of Hampton Roads
- Research question
- Thesis statement
- Plan of attack (see thesis statement paragraph)
- Confederate industrial situation
- Confederate iron ore shortages
- Issues with processing iron ore into iron plating
- Problems with transporting the finished product to Norfolk
- Therefore, transforming the USS Merrimack into the ironclad CSS Virginia was extremely costly in terms of resources and stressed Confederate industry, which was limited at best
- Battle of Hampton Roads
- Military events on March 8
- Military events on March 9
- Sum up the battle
- Explore weaknesses
- Explore other ramifications of the battle (ie. Delay of McClellan’s Peninsular Campaign)
- Psychological effect on civilians and government officials
- In essence, the military value of the Virginia was marginal at best. She was extremely flawed, and marginally seaworthy. The Battle of Hampton Roads was a draw since she did not make a significant breakthrough, and thus all the effort and resources that the Confederacy spent on her was all for naught. She was more useful as a psychological weapon, but even that could not prevent superior Union industry and resources from overrunning the Confederacy both on land and sea.
- The Virginia was the Confederacy’s V-1 and V-2. Although she was technologically advanced for her time, she did not win the important Battle of Hampton Roads, nor did she have any significant long-term effect on the war.
- In essence, she was of little use to the Confederacy.
Once you have these major components in your essay outline, you’re probably ready to submit it to your supervisor. Keep a copy for yourself so you can still use it as a road map when you start writing your essay draft! As mentioned above, it might also be a good idea to include the sources you’ve used so far so you don’t forget about it in your final copy!
Any questions? Leave a comment!