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Recommendations on How to Write an Extended Essay

Cover Page

Write the title of your paper indenting approximately 1\4 from the top of the page. You should come up with an original title without repeating the main research question of your paper. In other words, the title should concisely represent the focus and the main idea expressed in the paper. Besides, the title should be interesting enough to catch readers' attention.

Please provide a header in the top left corner. Include the following information:

  • Student's last name
  • Title of the extended essay
  • Name of the academic advisor
  • TOK teacher
  • Word count
  • Date of submission

Page Numbers

Each essay page but for the cover page should be numbered. Use Insert menu tab in Microsoft Word to add a page number.

Table of Contents

Table of contents is provided for easier navigation throughout the extended essay. It enumerates all paper sections and subsections the essay consists of. Here you include everything from abstract to appendices. All points included in the table of contents should correspond to a specific page number. The major sections of the paper should be written in bold, while the subsections should be indented from the left side.


As a rule, a properly written abstract should not exceed 250-300 words. An abstract should not be introduction-like. It is rather an overview of your paper, which includes the main objectives and the focus of writing. An abstract is usually written in the 3rd person and provides a clear statement of the research question. The abstract is written on the next page right after the table of contents. Sometimes, you might be asked by your professor to indicate the number of words at the end of the page after the abstract.


Introduction is an inseparable part of any type of essay. Your main aim here is to introduce the paper and its topic to the reader. You should provide sufficient details to enable the reader grasp the main information of the essay. The research question and the main aspects of the discussion section should be clear as well. When writing an extended essay, do not forget that it differs from a simple essay in that the former should contain a clearly formulated research question. The research question represents the central idea the paper revolves around. To be successful in writing, always remember that you should choose a narrow topic to explore. When you choose a too broad one, you will probably have difficulties in structuring your paper well. On the contrary, when you choose a specific topic, you will be able to explore it in detail and provide only relevant information. Therefore, it is really important to clearly formulate the research question and make it clear what exactly you will investigate in the paper. As an extended essay comprises more or less 4,000 words, introduction is a really important part of the paper as it provides the main details on the focus of the paper. Moreover, it can be inferred from the introduction how well the research question is formulated, whether relevant information is presented, and whether the paper is logically structured.

Simply formulating a research question is actually not enough – you should also state WHY you explore the issue of your choice (unless the topic was assigned for you by the professor). Having a research question does not mean that a thesis statement is unnecessary. The latter is an inseparable part of any introduction – it is a backbone of your paper that briefly conveys the message of what your paper is about. Usually, a thesis is placed at the end of the introduction. It represents the position you take in exploring the topic. Remember to refer to and defend the arguments mentioned in the thesis statement in the body of research. When you have completed the introductory part, it is high time you moved on with the other sections.

Main Body (Methodology and Results – if Necessary)

The sections you need to include into the main body depend on your major and the instructions you got. However, there are some general standards of how you should organize the paper:

  • Reflect on your approach towards research question exploration;
  • Analyze the research question and interpret the supporting evidence. Not only provide the summary of the sources you use but also evaluate them and include personal reflection on their importance in your research;
  • Provide your arguments on the topic.

Actually, there are numerous variants of how you can organize your main body – it all depends on the requirements you get, so, in any case, you have to follow them. The only thing you should be sure about is that you must clearly state your research question, thesis statement, provide solid argumentation and support it with ample evidence. The sources you use should be credible and the arguments should be convincing. Mostly, in essay writing, you are supposed not only to present well-grounded research but also to provide your own opinion on the research. Therefore, you should apply your critical and analytical skills.


In conclusion, you should summarize the main ideas expressed in the paper (remember to make the conclusions in different words from the main body layout). Besides, you should restate the thesis statement and focus more on the logical explanation how it was proved throughout the paper. Therefore, provide more focus on the outcome of the paper. If you have some recommendations or questions that are left after the research, mention them as well. You should demonstrate your ability to make logical conclusions. Never introduce any new ideas in the conclusion.

Graphs, Charts, Illustrations, and Other Data

If you need some more visual representation of data in your paper, make sure you place and format it correctly. There are specific rules for adding charts, graphs, and illustrations depending on the format of the paper. Therefore, please make sure you check on the main formatting rules. Keep in mind that all the illustrations and graphs that you include need to be explained.


Usually, appendices include those illustrations, charts or graphs that are not normally placed within the main body. You may explain the figures or tables in text, but then provide corresponding references in text (e.g. “table 1,” “see fig. 1,” etc.).


In any extended essay, it is obligatory to use outside sources (to support your arguments). The sources you use should be properly cited depending on the style you should adhere to. Therefore, pay attention whether you have to follow author-date or author-page style, whether you should use footnotes, endnotes or citations in parentheses. You are free to browse some guides and manuals on the Internet, where you can read about different styles (APA, MLA, Chicago, Harvard, Oxford, Turabian, Vancouver, etc.). Remember that all the sources you have provided in the reference list should be cited in text. As a rule, the minimum number of sources you should use in an extended essay is fifteen. If it is a history paper, the reference list should comprise approximately 30-40 entries.

If your professor expects you to provide a draft of the extended essay, then it should comprise the shortened version of all the aforementioned sections. The draft should be logically organized and be visually structured. You should be consistent with the font you use throughout the whole paper. Do not forget to split the essay into paragraphs and make logical transitions between the sections. Before submitting the paper, make sure you proofread and edit it. Do not rely on online grammar checkers – carefully check all formatting and grammar mistakes.