4 Sciences

Sample 4.1 - Biology - Smoking and teenagers

The research question for this essay is: "To what extent does smoking cigarettes affect vital capacity in teenagers?" 

Read the sample essay and assess it according to the criteria. Compare your marks to the examiner's marks. How do yours compare? What improvements could be made to this essay in light of the assessment criteria and the points made below ('when writing about the sciences')?

When writing about the sciences

There are a few points worth considering when writing an EE in the sciences. Take these into consideration when reading the following essay: 

  • Essays on biology should have a biological focus. 
  • Experiments should be run in an ethical manner that does not harm its subjects (including animals and humans). 
  • Essays should draw on primary sources such as: 
    • experimentation
    • survey
    • microscopic observations
    • biological drawing
    • fieldwork
  • Essay may also draw on secondary sources, such as scientific articles.
  • Biology essays are expected to comment on why a particular methodology was chosen and how it was carried out.
  • Like all extended essays, Biology essays should not be a glorified version of work that has already been submitted for internal assessment. 
  • Like all extended essays, the content should show evidence of critical thinking and avoid summary or reductive description. 
Subject breathing into spirometer (2016)
Take pictures of your experiment and include them in the essay!  

Did you know?

You may not 'double dip', meaning that may not submit work as both internal assessment and an extended essay.

EE Sample 6.1 

You can download a copy of the essay here.

EE Sample 6.1 - RPPF 

RPPF

Student's comments

First
reflection

I have always found it intriguing that some athletes smoke. Besides greater questions I have about why anyone would do this, it’s also interesting to ask how the human body responds to this seemingly contradictory behaviour. I wonder: How would an ‘athletic smoker’ measure up to a ‘couch potato’? How could I compare the two and measure their differences? I have talked to my supervisor about this and he has told me about a nifty little device called a spirometer, which measures lung capacity. He has suggested that I focus on the effects of sport and smoking on a single organ, and the lungs seem to be the obvious choice. I imagine that this kind of research has been done before, but I’m not sure if anyone has focused on teenagers. Seeing as I’m surrounded by them at school, I might want to run an experiment on them, with their permission of course. (153 words)

Interim
reflection

I have my research question, which ties in nicely to my hypothesis. “To what extent does smoking affect vital capacity in teenagers?” My hypothesis is that physically active non-smokers are going to have the same lung capacity non-active non-smokers. In other words their smoking pretty much nullifies their physical activity, making them just as winded as lazy people when walking up stairs. I’ve already read some articles on this topic of lung capacity, which my supervisor helped me find, as they were hard to access in scientific journals. And it seems that I will have to take a few other variables into consideration like height and gender. I’m finding it hard to actually find smokers among the population of my school. I’ve handed out questionnaires, but very few of the smokers are willing to come forward and participate in the experiment, even though it’s anonymous. My supervisor says I should move forward with the few smokers I have found, as the deadline for the rough draft is approaching quickly. (169 words)

Final
reflection
(viva voce)

It’s nice to have this done and over with, as the essay and the experiment seemed long and drawn out. I was constantly on the look out for physically active smokers, the ones that originally intrigued me. But it turns out that they are very rare, especially at my international school. So it’s unfortunate that I only had 2 male smokers and 8 female smokers. And then there was the outlier, whose VC rates were so low that he must have some pulmonary disease that he did not know about. All in all, my results are non-conclusive because my participant numbers were not significant. Despite these disappointments, I learned a lot from the experience of conducting the research and experiment. (120)

Supervisor's comments

Veronika was very committed to this extended essay. She showed perseverance and dedication to the experiment and research, despite low participation numbers for her experiment. She was especially thorough in the application of her (scientific) methods. Her hypothesis was clear and her research question was feasible. The experiment was repeatable and the results were measurable. As a bonus, she learned a lot about MS Word and Excel, as she documented and reported her results very effectively. It was an honour to supervise her on this essay. . 

EE Assessment criteria

Criterion A: Focus and method

Level 0

The work does not reach a standard outlined by the descriptors below.

Level 1-2

The topic is communicated unclearly and incompletely.

  • Identification and explanation of the topic is limited; the purpose and focus of the research is unclear, or does not lend itself to a systematic investigation in the subject for which it is registered.

The research question is stated but not clearly expressed or too broad.

  • The research question is too broad in scope to be treated effectively within the word limit and requirements of the task, or does not lend itself to a systematic investigation in the subject for which it is registered.
  • The intent of the research question is understood but has not been clearly expressed and/or the discussion of the essay is not focused on the research question.

Methodology of the research is limited.

  • The source(s) and/or method(s) to be used are limited in range given the topic and research question.
  • There is limited evidence that their selection was informed.

Level 3-4

The topic is communicated.

  • Identification and explanation of the research topic is communicated; the purpose and focus of the research is adequately clear, but only partially appropriate.

The research question is clearly stated but only partially focused.

  • The research question is clear but the discussion in the essay is only partially focused and connected to the research question.

Methodology of the research is mostly complete.

  • Source(s) and/or method(s) to be used are generally relevant and appropriate given the topic and research question.
  • There is some evidence that their selection(s) was informed.

If the topic or research question is deemed inappropriate for the subject in which the essay is registered no more than four marks can be awarded for this criterion.

Level 5-6

The topic is communicated accurately and effectively.

  • The research is clear and appropriate.

The research question is clearly stated and focused.

  • The research question is clear and addresses an issue of research that is appropriately connected to the discussion in the essay.

Methodology of the research is complete.

  • An appropriate range of relevant source(s) and/or method(s) have been applied in relation to the topic and research question.
  • There is evidence of effective and informed selection of sources and/or methods.

Criterion B: Knowledge and understanding

Level 0

The work does not reach a standard outlined by the descriptors below.

Level 1-2

Knowledge and understanding is limited.

  • The selection of source material has limited relevance and is only partially appropriate to the research question.
  • Knowledge of the topic/discipline(s)/issue is anecdotal, unstructured and mostly descriptive with sources not effectively being used.

Use of terminology and concepts is unclear and limited.

  • Subject-specific terminology and/or concepts are either missing or inaccurate, demonstrating limited knowledge and understanding.

Level 3-4

Knowledge and understanding is good.

  • The selection of source material is mostly relevant and appropriate to the research question.
  • Knowledge of the topic/discipline(s)/issue is clear; there is an understanding of the sources used but their application is only partially effective.

Use of terminology and concepts is adequate.

  • The use of subject-specific terminology and concepts is mostly accurate, demonstrating an appropriate level of knowledge and understanding.

If the topic or research question is deemed inappropriate for the subject in which the essay is registered no more than four marks can be awarded for this criterion.

Level 5-6

Knowledge and understanding is excellent.

  • The selection of source materials is clearly relevant and appropriate to the research question.
  • Knowledge of the topic/discipline(s)/issue is clear and coherent and sources are used effectively and with understanding.

Use of terminology and concepts is good.

  • The use of subject-specific terminology and concepts is accurate and consistent, demonstrating effective knowledge and understanding

Criterion C: Critical thinking

Level 0 

The work does not reach a standard outlined by the descriptors below.

Level 1-3

The research is limited.

  • The research presented is limited and its application is not clearly relevant to the RQ.

Analysis is limited.

  • There is limited analysis.
  • Where there are conclusions to individual points of analysis these are limited and not consistent with the evidence.

Discussion/evaluation is limited.

  • An argument is outlined but this is limited, incomplete, descriptive or narrative in nature.
  • The construction of an argument is unclear and/or incoherent in structure hindering understanding.
  • Where there is a final conclusion, it is limited and not consistent with the arguments/evidence presented.
  • There is an attempt to evaluate the research, but this is superficial.

If the topic or research question is deemed inappropriate for the subject in which the essay is registered no more than three marks can be awarded for this criterion.

Level 4-6

The research is adequate.

  • Some research presented is appropriate and its application is partially relevant to the Research question.

Analysis is adequate.

  • There is analysis but this is only partially relevant to the research question; the inclusion of irrelevant research detracts from the quality of the argument.
  • Any conclusions to individual points of analysis are only partially supported by the evidence.

Discussion/evaluation is adequate.

  • An argument explains the research but the reasoning contains inconsistencies.
  • The argument may lack clarity and coherence but this does not significantly hinder understanding.
  • Where there is a final or summative conclusion, this is only partially consistent with the arguments/evidence presented.
  • The research has been evaluated but not critically.

Level 7-9

The research is good.

  • The majority of the research is appropriate and its application is clearly relevant to the research question.

Analysis is good.

  • The research is analysed in a way that is clearly relevant to the research question; the inclusion of less relevant research rarely detracts from the quality of the overall analysis .
  • Conclusions to individual points of analysis are supported by the evidence but there are some minor inconsistencies.

Discussion/evaluation is good.

  • An effective reasoned argument is developed from the research, with a conclusion supported by the evidence presented.
  • This reasoned argument is clearly structured and coherent and supported by a final or summative conclusion; minor inconsistencies may hinder the strength of the overall argument.
  • The research has been evaluated, and this is partially critical.

Level 10-12

The research is excellent.

  • The research is appropriate to the research question and its application is consistently relevant.

Analysis is excellent.

  • The research is analysed effectively and clearly focused on the research question; the inclusion of less relevant research does not significantly detract from the quality of the overall analysis.
  • Conclusions to individual points of analysis are effectively supported by the evidence.

Discussion/evaluation is excellent.

  • An effective and focused reasoned argument is developed from the research with a conclusion reflective of the evidence presented.
  • This reasoned argument is well structured and coherent; any minor inconsistencies do not hinder the strength of the overall argument or the final or summative conclusion.
  • The research has been critically evaluated.

Criterion D: Formal presentation

Level 0

The work does not reach a standard outlined by the descriptors below.

Level 1-2

Presentation is acceptable.

  • The structure of the essay is generally appropriate in terms of the expected conventions for the topic, argument and subject in which the essay is registered.
  • Some layout considerations may be missing or applied incorrectly.
  • Weaknesses in the structure and/or layout do not significantly impact the reading, understanding or evaluation of the extended essay.

Level 3-4

Presentation is good.

  • The structure of the essay clearly is appropriate in terms of the expected conventions for the topic, the argument and subject in which the essay is registered.
  • Layout considerations are present and applied correctly.
  • The structure and layout support the reading, understanding and evaluation of the extended essay.

Criterion E: Engagement 

Level 0

The work does not reach a standard outlined by the descriptors below.

Level 1-2

Engagement is limited.

  • Reflections on decision-making and planning are mostly descriptive.
  • These reflections communicate a limited degree of personal engagement with the research focus and/or research process.

Level 3-4

Engagement is good.

  • Reflections on decision-making and planning are analytical and include reference to conceptual understanding and skill development.
  • These reflections communicate a moderate degree of personal engagement with the research focus and process of research, demonstrating some intellectual initiative.

Level 5-6

Engagement is excellent.

  • Reflections on decision-making and planning are evaluative and include reference to the student’s capacity to consider actions and ideas in response to setbacks experienced in the research process.
  • These reflections communicate a high degree of intellectual and personal engagement with the research focus and process of research, demonstrating authenticity, intellectual initiative and/or creative approach in the student voice.

EE Sample 6.1 - Examiner's comments and marks

Criterion A – Focus and method

5 out of 6
 The focus of this essay is clearly defined, as the student has a strong hypothesis about the correlation between vital capacity and smoking. The method of conducting the research is appropriate for testing this hypothesis, even though the sample of subjects was very low. The use of secondary sources helps inform both the candidate and the reader of the essay. It would have been interesting to learn more about why she focused on teenagers and their vital capacity.

Criterion B – Knowledge and understanding
5 out of 6 - The candidate has good knowledge and understanding of the subject matter. The choice of secondary articles is clearly relevant to the topic. The candidate’s understanding of vital capacity and ways of measuring it (spirometer) is useful for testing her hypothesis. Unfortunately she does not know how to find participants for her experiment.   

Criterion C – Critical thinking
9 out of 12  The research is good. The level of analysis of the data is also good. But because there is not much data to analyse it is difficult to award top marks for this criterion. Perhaps the best example is the ‘outlier’. The candidate is quick to conclude that this subject has a ‘pulmonary disorder’, unknown to the candidate or researcher, whereas this could have been a poor measurement or simply an ‘outlier’. The height of the subjects is another variable that’s considered by research but not by the candidate, because her sample population is too small. In the end it is difficult for the candidate to formulate a reasoned argument when there is not enough evidence to either refute or prove her hypothesis. 

Criterion D - Presentation
4 out of 4
- The candidate has gone the extra mile on presentation, especially with regards to graphs and images. She has a good understanding of MS Excel and how to generate charts that depict her findings clearly and accurately.  

Criterion E - Engagement

5 out of 6 
– It is interesting to read about the origins of her hypothesis, as she questions why athletes smoke. Her RPPF sheds light on the development of her experiment and reveals where and why her frustrations occurred. Unfortunately for her, it seems that time constraints made it difficult for her to find and test more smokers. It appears, nonetheless, that she was engaged and active throughout the process.