The Truth about the Extended Essay Week

The Sciences:

At 8:30 we’re waiting outside MO1 for a teacher to come. 8:33 the door is unlocked and we are slowly attracted to our desks where all our chemicals and plants and shrimps and trebuchets and kimchis are lying untouched as we had left them the day before. The lab is our own; we return to it every day like we return to our beds every night. Dazed, we set up our experiments for the day, mostly in silence (except for the chain sawing and drilling of the physicist and the blending of the biochemist’s beef liver). We listen to the soft bells of glassware tinkling as we slowly wake up.

An entire week of this sounds daunting, at first, and yet it soon becomes almost “normal”. As if this lab has become our home. We chemists, biologists and physicists alike are all scientists. We perform our experiments throughout the day, helping each other along the way. During that week, no one is left behind; whenever someone has a problem, we all help; we were a lab full of intelligent young people, all investigating something different, something we find ‘cool’. It felt as if by the end, we’d become a family.

There’s an unmistakable sense of unity when working on a science Extended Essay, the people in your lab are your best friends for that week; no matter your relationship outside the lab, you all help each other, problem solve together, and let your research thrive. Because, at the end of the day, for a scientist, the EE Week really is all about research, it’s about collecting as much data as possible so that you can figure out trends and patterns. Without that week, scientists would never be able to overcome the Herculean task that the EE can be. In my personal opinion, without the EE Week, the sciences could not be done. I found it incredibly useful, as I had the opportunity to actually be a scientist. It isn’t anything like being in class and just following the worksheet that the teacher has handed out, it’s a whole other level. You are now the teacher, the student and everything in between. You don’t get a worksheet, you will have little guidance, you are expected to be an expert, and if you researched well and determined a solid method, then you will find yourself triumphant.

Paul: I did my EE in Chemistry, and I had no method, no apparatus, nothing was given to me, and I had to figure out all that I would need and how I was going to make it work. And believe it or not, I did. That’s not to say that I arrived unprepared with no clue about what to do, please do not think that is what I did. I had planned a method and I had sent a list of all I would need to the technicians prior. The key to being successful lies in your preparation. It also lies in the people surrounding you willing to help at any given moment – this includes teachers, technicians, and librarians. Have you planned your week? Have you made sure you’ve got all your equipment? Have you perhaps even found a way to test your method? Because I can say from experience, things NEVER go as planned. Adjustments will be made, chemicals needed, and a number of things will have to be changed. But that’s okay, it’s part of the beauty of this week. It is a week where you have the opportunity to be in your own world, to discover and delve deeper into something you love, and that is regardless of your subject. The EE Week is something you will never forget.

Lilia: My EE was in Biology. To tell you the truth, I didn’t really start experimenting until the last two days. Not because I didn’t do anything the first few days – I was working so hard to figure out the best method. Because the Sunday before, you print out a clear, super-detailed method, and in your mind you have all the steps you are going to take planned out meticulously. But Monday comes and your plan may literally fall apart. Don’t worry though! It’s good you wrote all those steps, but you realise you’ve imagined yourself with 8 hands instead of two, or believed that liquids warm up instantaneously. Now comes the fun part – thinking up tricks to figure out how to improve your method. Since in the end, you love your experiment (“your experiment is your baby” as some supervisors will say) and you would push your brain to come up with things for the sake of your experiment. Fortunately, you also have science teachers available in your room at all times, a lovely technician, Mathilde, by your side, and all your research-mates if you ever need help. As the week goes by, you will start becoming more and more flexible and witty in the lab. You will feel privileged going into the technician’s rooms filled with shelves of chemicals and glassware which you’ve always been curious about. This week will leave behind a new you: an expert in the lab, a more passionate lover of your subject, and a more matured researcher.

By the last day, most of us had finished our experiments, finished gathering our data, and the tiny group slowly diffused out of the room. The desks were looking empty. When the last blue desk was shining clean, we walked out of the room. We would never look at MO1 the same way again…


The EE Week

So what really is the EE week? We – especially soon-to-be IB students – are told from early on about the “EE week,” a supposedly daunting week where we work on one of our most important essays in the IB: the Extended Essay. Especially the way the teachers present this week to you is just… incorrectly frightening. “This is just the RP (2nde Research Project) – you will have a whole week next year.” “You can be in the lab the whole week next year.” “Next year you will be doing this all alone.”

Well first of all, that is a lie – you are not alone in this. Each student is given a supervisor for their subject, a teacher who helps guide you. Plus you have all other teachers in your subject, and the librarian. And your parents’ encouragement. And I don’t think anyone would want you to fail your EE so… You’re lucky. In addition, the EE won’t just be one deadline given in February due for October. It will be baby-steps with many little checkpoints which will let you keep on track.

So it’s really not that scary. It’s much more “fun” and interesting than something you should be afraid of.


The Humanities:

Ilkay: Unlike the portion of us doing their experiments hands-on in a laboratory with chemicals and funky smelling plants and whatnot, the rest of us were doing our extended essays elsewhere, and by elsewhere, we mean quite literally all over. Some of us were spending our days in the city, wandering the enormous libraries and even begging the people working at the Mairie de Paris for a chance to access their archives (it worked!!). Those doing their extended essays in economics or geography were out interviewing, potentially anybody from people running market stands to grandparents.

That leaves the rest of us, the group of students just as dedicated as the rest, just as passionate about gathering data and researching for new information at every corner, exploring every possible resource available at our fingertips … those of us that stayed at home during the extended essay week. I myself was one of those students, English as my chosen subject for the EE.

I’ll admit – it was kind of scary before the week actually started, worrying that if I stay at home I would be very tempted and would eventually give in to the one and only Procrastination, worrying that being in the house for so long without it actually being vacation would drive me crazy because of lack of human contact entirely, worrying about so many things that could go home simply by staying within the comforts of one’s own home, and then it ended up going absolutely incredibly.

The thing about the humanities is that there is always more to say, always more to argue, always more than one meaning to the word, and the greatest part of it all is that for the majority of my research I had access to this wonderful thing called the Internet. Now I know what you’re thinking: doing an essay in language and literature and using the internet? It doesn’t seem like the most obvious choice of source, but if there’s one thing I learned during the extended essay week, it’s that the internet is the one source that can tell you exactly how people truly feel, and that is a key element in writing an essay in language and literature: one has to assess the effect of context on text, the effect of how people were thinking on how they were writing, and quite frankly, a blog or even a meme is the greatest source of that information. Yep, I looked at memes at a certain point during my essay week, and yep, it was spectacular.

With that in mind, I’m hoping you can imagine that every day waking up became easier and easier because of what I had to look forward to doing. I spent a good 6 hours of my day parading the internet and one of my favorite novels of all time. I could ask myself the questions and I was the only one that had to answer them, in whichever way that felt right to me and only me. It was extremely liberating, having an entire week dedicated to a topic that you love and being able to research about it from your couch at 1 am with a bag of popcorn next to you if you so pleased (I’m not saying that’s what I did but popcorn should really be listed under the best brain foods of all time).

To anybody in the least bit worried about the extended essay, it was probably the most work that I’ve ever done painlessly and very willingly. Choose a topic you like, a topic that you love, and it’s a guarantee that the week will go by with a breeze, whether you’re plopping chemicals into test tubes or plopping your fingers onto the keyboard as you enter the realm of the deep web… just don’t forget to cite it.


Written by the Editorial Team