To Guide to EE To Assessment- Subject Specific


These subject guidelines shou Id be read in conjunction with the Assessment Criteria


An extended essay in philosophy provides students with an opportunity to undertake a philosophical investigation into a topic of special interest. The student is encouraged to engage in serious, personal thought to develop and explore in a disciplined and imaginative way a specific philosophical question appropriate to the subject, and to arrive at a clear conclusion.

Choice of topic

The chosen topic may be stimulated, for example, by work done in class, by current events, by issues of contemporary debate, by discussion, by private reading and/or reflection, or by conceptual features of belief systems not previously encountered by the student.

A precisely circumscribed topic should be selected, so that it can be treated thoroughly. For example, it may be preferable to choose as a starting point a specific hypothesis rather than a general one, certain of the ideas of one philosopher rather than several, or a single text by a philosopher rather than the whole of his or her work.

Atopic should be reconsidered or amended if it is interdisciplinary in nature and/or is not directly related to philosophy.

The following examples of titles for philosophy extended essays are intended as guidance only. The pairings illustrate that focused topics (indicated by the first title) should be encouraged rather than broad topics (indicated by the second title).

A necessary condition for a sound philosophical treatment of the topic is a well-formulated research question. Previous experience shows that, in essays where the research question is well focused and stated clearly, the arguments seem to unfold of their own accord. Therefore, the focus of the investigation must be narrowed down as much as possible and stated in a concise and sharply defined research question. Students must choose a research question that can be treated effectively within the word limit and is philosophically relevant. The research question can be formulated as a question or as a statement. Some examples with good results in the past include the following.

Title :                                      Do stem cells have moral status?

Research question             What criterion can be identified in order to ascribe a moral status to stem cells?

Approach                              An explanation and justification of a criterion that allows a moral status to be ascribed to stem cells.

Title :                  Asian philosophy of critical thinking: divergent from or convergent to Western fundamental principles?

Research question:      What is the nature of the critical thinking that is clearly visible in Indian historical texts such as the Caraka and the Nyayasutra?

Approach:               An exploration and justification of the notion of critical thinking that is found in the Coraka and the Nyoyasutro

Title:                                     Art and politics in Hannah Arendt's The Crisis in Culture

Research question           In Hannah Arendt's essay The Crisis in Culture, art and politics are not opposed but complementary.

Approach:                          An investigation into the relation between art and politics in The Crisis in Culture.

Title                                     The roots of wisdom according to the Tao Te Ching

Research question:      Does wisdom necessarily imply acting in accordance with the order of nature, according to the Tao Te Ching?

Approach:                       An exploration of the idea of wisdom according to the Tao Te Ching.

Title:                                 The scientific character of Freud's interpretation of dreams

Research question:      Is Popper's falsifiability an adequate criterion to evaluate Freud's theory of dreams?

Approach:                      An examination of whether Popper's falsifiability is an adequate criterion to evaluate Freud's theory of dreams.

Topics that are mainly dependent on summarizing general secondary sources (such as textbooks and encyclopedias), those that are likely to lead to an essay that is essentially narrative or descriptive in nature, and general topics that are not well focused or are more appropriate to other subjects, should all be avoided.

Treatment of the topic

Clarity, coherence of ideas and attention to detail are necessary conditions for an effective treatment of a philosophical topic in an extended essay. A lucid understanding of the problem(s) should be demonstrated, and the proposed solution(s) should be logical and well structured. Counterclaims or objections should be envisaged, addressed and, if possible, rebutted.

While irrelevance must be avoided, the wider implications of the philosophical issues raised should be explored to an appropriate degree, and an awareness should be evident of the connections between such issues and more universal concerns of human life.

Thetreatment of the research question mustaim towards its philosophical exploration and the construction of an argument, which presupposes a careful, critical analysis of themes and/or texts. This approach, which allows many different ways of philosophical reflection, is based on the emphasis of the Diploma Programme philosophy course on doing philosophy. Within this context, the aim of a philosophical investigation is to encourage students to develop the ability to reason and argue, and to learn to take a personal and independent position on philosophical issues. This should result in the construction of a personal philosophical argument, which should be cogent, rational, and economical in expression, and should be supported by relevant and, if possible, original examples. It is strongly recommended that any student considering writing an extended essay in philosophy should first read the current Philosophy guide and understand its approach.

Interpreting the assessment criteria

Criterion A: research question

Although the aim of the essay can best be defined in the form of a question, it may also be presented as a statement or proposition for discussion that is clearly philosophical or open to sustained philosophical analysis and argument

Criterion B: introduction

The introduction should relatethe research question to existing subject knowledge: the student's personal experience or particular opinion is rarely relevant here. It should explain succinctly the philosophical significance of the topic, why it is worthy of a philosophical investigation and how the research question fits into a philosophical context (for example, a problem, discussion, tradition, or conception). The introduction should refer to the specific research question or to the argument that is going to be developed. Lengthy background information that is not relevant to the question should not be included.

Criterion C: investigation

When the research question has been established, the student should explore the topic, for example, by making a research plan. The proper planning of an essay should involve interrogating source material in light of the research question. In philosophy, research questions are explored through an examination of themes or texts. Accordingly, the range of sources that could be used is wide, including works of philosophers, dictionaries of philosophy, textbooks and encyclopedias. An appropriate and effective use of sources should take into account the following.

Criterion D: knowledge and understanding of the topic studied

The essay demonstrates the students philosophical knowledge and understanding of the topic when it does the following.

Criterion E: reasoned argument

Students should be aware of the need to give their essays the backbone of a developing argument: arguments should be focused and sustained. Straightforward descriptive or narrative accounts that lack analysis do not usually advance an argument and should be avoided.

The construction of an argument lies at the very core of a research essay in philosophy. Developing a reasoned argument in philosophy implies at least the following.

Criterion F: application of analytical and evaluative skills appropriate to the subject

Analysis has always been at the heart of philosophical method but it has been understood and practised in many different ways. In one basic accepted sense, it consists of breaking something (an idea, a topic or a question) down into its components. Analysis might also be characterized as disclosing or working back to what is more fundamental by articulating relevant elements and structures, on the basis that more fundamental concepts have a broader explanatory power. In turn, evaluation in a philosophy extended essay should be the result of students developing their exploration and own line of reasoning it concerning the research question. However, this must be carefully distinguished from the mere statement of opinions or beliefs that are not the result of the specific investigation. Analytical skills are shown by means of an in-depth and extensive critical philosophical treatment and discussion of themes, basic concepts and arguments; whereas evaluative skills are exhibited when ideas, arguments and perspectives are assessed from a consistently held and well-justified perspective with clear evidence and strong support.

The exploration of the research question implies the development of analytical and evaluative skills, which is usually carried out through an examination of themes and texts. The following statements suggest an approach that may enable students to research themes or texts in a consistent way. They are not the only directions that can be taken into account but they provide a starting point from which students can develop into independent researchers in philosophy. Students should adopt a similar approach when they examine a philosophical issue or when they investigate a philosophical argument presented in a text. In the case of themes, students should:

In the case of texts, students should adopt the same approach. Students should always be careful not to refer to the text or the author as an authority. In addition, students are expected to:

Criterion G: use of language appropriate to the subject

An appropriate use of language in a philosophy extended essay implies at least both of the following.

Moreover, it could be useful to take into account the following.

Criterion H: conclusion

"Consistent" is the key word here:the conclusion should develop out of the argument and not introduce new or extraneous matter. It should not repeat the material of the introduction; rather, it should present a new synthesis in light of the discussion. Students should reflect on the argument that they have presented and draw conclusions from it.

Criterion 1: formal presentation

This criterion relates to the extent to which the essay conforms to academic standards about the way in which research papers should be presented. The presentation of essays that omit a bibliography or that do not give references for quotations is deemed unacceptable (level 0). Essays that omit one of the required elements—title page, table of contents, page numbers—are deemed no better than satisfactory (maximum level 2), while essays that omit two of them are deemed poor at best (maximum level 1).

The layout, organization, appearance and formal elements of the essay should help the organization and presentation of the philosophical argument. For instance, the contents list should indicate specific issues that are relevant to it. The division of the essay into generic "Introduction", "Development" and "Conclusion" sections does not help to identify and elucidate the purpose and structure of a particular argument. Subdividing the essay into sections with specific names tends to tighten up the structure and make clearer the transitions in lines of thought.

The bibliography should contain all sources used, with details of the author, title of publication, publisher and date of publication, which should be in alphabetical order (by author's family name). Any material that is not original must be acknowledged.

Criterion J: abstract

The abstract is judged on the clarity with which it presents an overview of the research and the essay, not on the quality of the research question itself, nor on the quality of the argument or the conclusions. The result of a philosophical investigation is the argument that is presented and developed. Therefore, the abstract must be focused on the argument, its structure and content.

Criterion K: holistic judgment

Qualities that are rewarded under this criterion include the following.

International Baccalaureate Organization. (2007). Philosophy. In IBO Extended essay 
     guide, First examinations 2009,  (pp. 133-139). New York: International Baccalaureate