Business Extended Essay Format

Business Management

These subject guidelines should be read in conjunction with the Assessment Criteria

Overview

An extended essay in business and management provides students with an opportunity to carry out in-depth research in an area of personal interest relating to business and management. This is likely to be in the context of the Diploma Programme business and management course, but students may also want to consider issues that fall outside the scope of this. For example, they may want to undertake a detailed investigation into work relating to a specific regional/national context, or perhaps practical applications relating to the work of a particular management theorist. Whichever research area is chosen, it should be firmly rooted in the realms of accepted business and management theory.

The extended essay provides students with an opportunity to develop research skills by reviewing business theory, concepts and principles, and critically analysing how these have been put into practice in the business world and the resultant impact on business activity. This will involve broad and detailed research using a range of sources. Excessive reliance on a single type of source, such as a company's annual report, is unlikely to give students sufficient scope or breadth in their analysis of the research question. The extended essay requires the application of business theory, tools and techniques to produce a coherent and structured analytical essay that effectively addresses the research question.

Choice of topic

Students should undertake an extended essay that uses the core principles of business and management as a basis for researching a particular topic. In their choice of topic, students are strongly advised to ensure they develop a research question that enables them to carry out relevant research and apply business theory, tools and techniques. It is important that the research question is sufficiently focused to allow adequate treatment within the word limit.

The following examples of titles for business and management 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).

  • "What motivates employees? Can Herzberg's motivation theory help explain the improvement in productivity at XYZ Ltd?" is better than "Have motivational techniques benefited XYZ Ltd?".
  • "How significant has the contribution of Just-in-Time production been in improving efficiency in the produ ctivity at XYZ Ltd?" is better than "Have motivational techniques benefited XYZ Ltd?".
  • "How significant has the contribution of Just-in-Time production been in improving efficiency in the textile industry?" is better than "How effective are Just-in-Time production techniques?".
  • "Why has the practice of publishing environmental audits been adopted more widely in Country X than in Country Y?" is better than "Why do firms publish environmental audits?".

The topic may be chosen because of an interest in issues raised in the classroom, aspects of a student's own experience, or current events. The choice and treatment of the topic must, however, ensure that the student can address all the assessment criteria. An essay that is purely descriptive must be avoided: analysis and evaluation are critically important.

It may help in achieving this if the student further defines the topic chosen for study in the form of a research question, followed by a statement of intent that indicates which methodology is going to be used in answering the question. In this way, the approach to the topic chosen may be even further clarified. Some examples of this could be as follows.

Topic                      Operations management

Research question      To what extent has the introduction of Total Quality Management (TOM) improved quality at ABC Ltd?

Approach                      A review of how quality management techniques have changed with the introduction of TOM. Relevant indicators are selected for measuring quality and the data for ABC Ltd is collected. The way in which ABC Ltd have adapted their approach to managing quality, and the impact of this on the selected indicators, is analysed and evaluated.

Topic                       Growth strategies

Research question       How effective has the joint venture between ABC Ltd and UBI Ltd been as a growth strategy?

Approach                       A review from secondary sources of growth strategies available to a firm and joint ventures specifically. Relevant indicators are selected to quantify the impact of the joint venture on the growth of ABC Ltd and UBI Ltd. Relevant data is collected from the two businesses, and the findings are analysed and evaluated.

Topic                       Financial performance

Research question        Why has the market capitalization of XYZ Plc increased more than the market capitalization of its competitor ABC Plc?

Approach                        A review from secondary sources of factors affecting financial performance and selection of variables that may contribute to differences in market capitalization. Data is collected and a comparative analysis is made of the findings.

Treatment of the topic

Students should use as the basis of their extended essay secondary data, supported, where appropriate, by primary research. The sole use of secondary sources will allow students access to all levels of the extended essay assessment criteria. (Note that this is the reverse of the approach required in the HL internal assessment component of the business and management course, where primary research takes precedence.) Students should apply the accepted theories, tools and techniques of the subject to the topic/research question chosen.These may be applied to an organization, industry or market in a particular region or country, or globally. Students should ensure that the treatment of the topic allows for an analytical approach.

It is important that the approach to all aspects of the essay is directly related to the research question and that the research carried out addresses the question. Topics researched should not be too broad in scope. The development of the essay must be related to the question directly and must not include information that is unnecessary. Strategic approaches should be encouraged and considered—for example, the effect of new technologies and cultural, international and ethical implications.

If primary research is carried out in relation to an organization, there is a need for tact, sensitivity to other people and respect of confidentiality.

A good extended essay will demonstrate the appropriate use and application of selected analytical tools, often supported by statistical data to assist the discussion and evaluation.

Some examples of analytical tools are as follows,

  • Ansoff's Matrix Boston Matrix
  • Break-even analysis Decision tree analysis
  • Financial accounts and performance ratios
  • Fishbone analysis PEST (LE) analysis
  • Porter's generic strategies and five forces
  • Position maps
  • Statistical tables/charts/diagrams
  • SWOT analysis

Students must ask probing questions and look at all relevant factors when considering the information obtained from their research. Information cannot always be accepted at face value. A critical approach, in which the skills of analysis and evaluation are displayed, is essential. Students should indicate unresolved questions, or new questions that have arisen from their study, in their conclusions.

An extended essay in business and management is a formal essay and, as such, should fully meet the assessment criteria for the organization and formal presentation of an extended essay. In addition, it should be remembered that a business and management essay must be written in an objective style without personal bias. Observations and conclusions should be derived from the evidence and not based on any preconceptions of the student.

Frequent reference to the assessment criteria by both the supervisor and the student will help keep a sharper focus on the essay.

Interpreting the assessment Criteria

Criterion A: research question

The search question can often be best defined in the form of a question, It may, however, also be presented as a statement, proposition or hypothesis for discussion. It must be specific and sharply focused. Topics or questions that consider broad areas of business and management theory may limit the possibility of effective treatment within the word limit and constrain performance on this criterion.

Criterion B: introduction

the introduction should relate the research question to existing subject knowledge: the student's personal experience or particular opinion is rarely relevant here. While it is important in the introduction to consider theoretical business context for the essay, it is not the place for a full review or explanation of that ,The introduction should consider why the question chosen is an important one forsses/organizations and/or the managers of those businesses/organizations, and, therefore, why an important topic for investigation. The research question should be clearly set in a business and management context.

Criterion C: investigation

The range of resources available will be influenced by various factors, but above all by the topic chosen. -students should use secondary sources in the first instance. These may include the Internet, textbooks research literature/journals. They could also include materials sourced from a particular business or organization whose area of business is related to the topic chosen (for example, market research ) companies, industry analysts or individual business organizations). Statistical data may be valuable although this is likely to depend on the nature of the topic/research question chosen. Sources for this include the Internet, government departments, business research organizations or industry analysts. Evidence can be conflicting and in need of explanation and analysis. The reliability of sources needs to examined, and relevant information clearly and systematically presented. If students make use of net-based sources, they should do so critically and circumspectly in full awareness of their potential liability.

Where primary research is used, it must be carefully planned to ensure that it will enhance the value of research undertaken, and provide specific quantitative and qualitative analysis directly related to research question.

Criterion D: knowledge and understanding of the topic studied

the introduction should relate the research question to existing subject knowledge: the student's personal researched or particular opinion is rarely relevant here. While it is important in the introduction to consider theoretical business context for the essay, it is not the place for a full review or explanation of that , The introduction should consider why the question chosen is an important one forsses/organizations and/or the managers of those businesses/organizations, and, therefore, why an important topic for investigation. The research question should be clearly set in a business and .gement context.

Criterion E: reasoned argument

To score highly on this criterion, students need to link the research question with the conclusion in a .clear, structured and logical way. A valid and persuasive argument needs to be developed in terms of busi ness and management in the context of the business theory used. This means that there should be links that can easily be followed between the research question and the conclusion. These links ' uld be developed throughout the essay in a coherent, flowing and structured way that is valid and uasively presented. To ensure reasoned argument, the essay should also demonstrate clear links between the data and evidence presented, and the arguments developed from the data. Straightforward descriptive or narrative accounts that lack these links are unlikely to advance a successful argument and should be avoided.

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

To score highly on this criterion, students need to demonstrate a sophisticated application of analytical and evaluative skills. This requires students to use the data and business theory they have considered and to assess arguments relating to the various aspects of the topic under consideration. This assessment should include a consideration of the relative value and importance of particular arg uments in answering the research question. The research question should help focus this analysis and ensure that students are applying evaluative skills to make reasoned and supported judgments.

Criterion G: use of language appropriate to the subject

This criterion requires clear and precise use of business language and terminology. This must be used consistently throughout the essay and applied with consideration of the context of the arguments being used.

Criterion H: conclusion

"Consistent" is the key word here: the conclusion should develop out of the argument and not introduce new or extraneous matter.lt should not repeat material from the introduction; rather, it should present a new synthesis in light of the discussion.

Criterion I: 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 sources of all data used should be fully acknowledged and exact web site addresses and dates of access given.

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.

Criterion K: holistic judgment

Qualities that are rewarded under this criterion include the following.

  • Intellectual initiative: Ways of demonstrating this in business and management essays include the choice of topic and research question, the nature and breadth of the theory chosen to help answer the research question, and the breadth of research sources and imagination used in sourcing relevant material/data.
  • Insight and depth of understanding: These are most likely to be demonstrated through the analytical depth used to answer the research question, and the appropriateness of the business theories and tools used.

From:

International Baccalaureate Organization. (2007). Business and management. In IBO Extended essay guide, First examinations 2009, (pp. 52-56). New York: International Baccalaureate Organization.

 

When it comes to writing a brilliant first draft of your Extended Essay, or any essay, I fully believe that a solid structure is one of the surest guarantees of success there is. It’s the skeleton of the essay that makes it into a fully formed being instead of a pile of jelly. And the best way to make sure you have a skeleton instead of just gelatine (is that a rhyme?) is to create a plan or outline.

We’ve talked about how to choose a topic, go about your research, and pin down a research question. So now we’re going to address how you can take all of that work and turn it into a concrete plan. It’s all about organising your ideas so that they are as clear as possible. After you’ve done this, writing the essay will be about simply filling in the gaps!

Preparing to construct your Extended Essay Outline

Know your destination

Although your research question should already suggest what you are aiming to achieve in the essay, your conclusion needs to take this a step further. It can’t just be the same as your introduction but in different words (as tempting as that option is!). Everything in your essay should take the reader on a journey to this conclusion. It should help progress your argument so that we get closer with every paragraph.

If you’re now realising that you don’t know your destination, take the time to figure this out before you start writing. The results of a Science experiment will make it pretty obvious, but even in more subjective subjects such as English, History and World Studies you need to decide what conclusion your research points towards.

My advice to you, if you simply aren’t sure, is to follow your instincts. Think about how your evidence has affected what you personally think about the topic. Chances are it will have convinced you of something. For a reminder of different types of essay conclusions, there are some useful summaries in this article.

Exercise 1: summarise your conclusion in one sentence. Even if it’s not exactly right, or if it doesn’t include everything you feel is important about your topic, compress it as much as you can into one core idea. If you can’t do this right away then set a timer for five minutes and start drafting sentences about what you ‘think’ your essay might conclude. At the end of the five minutes pick the one that you feel summarises it best.

Define your ideas

Take a moment to free your mind from all the details, facts, quotes and data. Go back to the essence of your essay, which is the argument you are trying to make. Without using your research to speak for itself, identify all the different ideas you want to include, and the things you want to say.

For example, you might have evidence that Virginia Woolf uses imagery of flowers frequently throughout Mrs Dalloway, but what does this actually mean in the context of your question? The idea behind it might relate more to her affinity with nature, or the parallels she draws between flowers and people.

Exercise 2: write down all the ideas you want to include in your essay. Don’t worry about an order yet. Focus instead of getting all of your ‘points’ written down somewhere. Not only is this likely to help your organise your thoughts, but it will also mean you can refer back to it later to make sure you haven’t forgotten one of your favourite ideas! This can take the form of a mind map, a list, a Word Doc. Do whatever feels easiest, because chances are this is what will help your ideas flow naturally.

Filter your evidence

I can 99% guarantee you that you won’t be able to use all the research you have done. A lot of it will be:

  1. Irrelevant to the question
  2. Repetition of what you already have
  3. Not quite right for your line of argument

THEREFORE it is important that you filter your evidence so that you only have the best examples and information.

Use your research question as your starting point and your conclusion sentence (the one you wrote earlier) as the end point. It is your job to make sure that every piece of research is part of a bridge between the two. Absolutely every quote, fact or piece of data that you include should actively answer your question. If it doesn’t, don’t include it.

Exercise 3: First, highlight the clearest, most informative research that you have gathered. Next, take all of these pieces of research, and write a short, one-sentence summary next to each one, describing how it relates to your question. Use your own words. You will hopefully start finding that they are backing up some of the points you know you want to include.

Constructing your Extended Essay Outline

There are different techniques you can use to structure an essay. Because the Extended Essay is much longer than what most of you will be used to, I strongly recommend using a particular technique or process to do this. Below are some examples, and you should do whatever works best for you.

The Bullet-Point Outline:

You know this one. It’s the most classic example of how to structure an essay and the one most of you have probably tried before. The trick with this one is to start small and expand outwards afterwards.

  • Summarise each paragraph into one line that defines the idea or sub-topic behind it.
  • Expand each paragraph summary by adding 2 extra bullet points:
    1. Evidence, data or a quote
    2. How the example relates to the idea you are trying to convey
  • Expand your paragraph bullet points by adding in other ideas or points that are directly relevant to the overall idea behind it

The Post-it Note Outline:

I’m defining this as anything that involves you breaking down your paragraphs into defined pieces. Post-it notes, cards, and scraps of paper are the most common examples. This option is brilliant if you struggle coming up with an order for your ideas straight away. Instead it lets you play around with all the different parts of your essay as you go, until you have put them in the best possible order.

If you like the idea of this process but can’t stand the idea of lots of physical pieces of paper, there are some apps that perform a similar function such as Gingko or Evernote.

The Spreadsheet Outline:

For the structure nuts among you. The beauty of this is that it lets you easily compare paragraphs in terms of length and content by breaking each one down into clear sections. You can choose how exactly you format it, but it might look like this:

As with the post-it version it is super easy to use this method to change the order of your paragraphs. You can also tailor the columns depending on what categories are most relevant to you. If you want to go a step further you can even colour code your sheet, for example according to 1st hand data or 2nd hand data, or close analysis and thematic analysis.

The key is to have a view of the bigger picture of your essay. How you go about it is up to you!

Read Part 5: How to Write It

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