3.1 Gathering data

3.1.1 Research skills and habits

Writing an extended essay requires certain skills, such as the abilities to gather sources, take notes and write coherently. In order to develop these skills, one must develop certain habits. What kinds of habits are we talking about?

For example: You will probably have to schedule time to work on your EE, so managing your calendar is important. You will probably have to find sources in the library or online, so it's important to know your librarian and your way around the Internet. You will probably need to annotate versions of your essay, so you'll need a printer and (coloured) pens. In brief, good habits lead to a good essay.

Together with your supervisor, discuss how you might complete the sentences below. After discussing each sentence, click on the heading to reveal the habits that are recommended. 

Figure 3.1.1a - Quiet space
Do you have access to quiet space? It's a starting point for a good EE!

Every time you have a new idea, you should... 

...write about it in your Researcher's Reflection Space (RRS) or journal. You should ask yourself how it connects to your original ideas, using mind maps, outlines or any other means. Creating a word cloud of synonyms or related ideas will give you new search terms for research. You can also discuss any new ideas with your supervisor and see if they're worth exploring further. 

Every time you want to change your research question, you should...

...think about the consequences and if necessary, conduct new, preliminary research. Where are you in your timeline of deadlines? If it's still early in the timeline, then there's time to discuss new questions with your supervisor. If it's late in your timeline, then you should ask yourself if it is worth the risk of starting all over again. 

Every time you see a weakness in your argument, you should...

...embrace it and research it. You can write about this in your RRS or RPPF. You can discuss counter-arguments with your supervisor. You can incorporate and address them in your essay. If there seems to be more counter-evidence than evidence, you may want to reconsider your original research question. 

Every time you find a new source, you should...

...keep track of it in a source journal or RRS. You should write down the name of the author, title of the source, date of publication or access and the name of the publisher. Besides these basic bits of information, you can write notes to yourself on the relevance of this source to your research question. Is it evidence to prove your hypothesis? Is it counter-evidence to disprove your hypothesis? Is it 'nice to know' or is it a corner stone to your argument? 

Every time you find the perfect quotation or illustration, you should...

...rewrite it, word for word. Or copy and paste it into a source journal or RRS, alongside its bibliographical information (name of author, title, publication or location data, year of publication, etc.). Beside these quotations and illustrations you should write down their relevance to your arguments. 

Every time you've written a new version of your essay, you should...

...save it with a new version number or filename! Furthermore print it, read it, re-read it and have someone else read it (if you do this, they may comment only generally). Annotating your own work will help you see what needs to be done. Because your supervisor is allowed to read and comment on only one complete version of you essay, it's important that this version is as complete as you can make it. 

Every time you've discussed something with your supervisor, you should...

...make a note of it in your RRS or RPPF, and date the conversation. Even a small bullet-pointed list will help you reflect on and remember what we have agreed to. Looking back on these notes will help you move forward. 

Every time you get stressed out over deadlines, you should...

...take a deep breath. Take out your calendar and make a (new) plan. It is less stressful if you work on you essay frequently in a concentrated period of time. So if your school has given you a long, draw-out timeline, you will need to plan carefully to make sure you get ahead of the deadlines. How much room is there for renegotiating deadlines? What consequences are there if you miss a deadline? Knowing answers to these questions will help you control your stress levels.