Extended Essay Guidelines Visual Arts

Required Formatting

The extended essay should be written in a clear, correct and formal academic style, appropriate to the subject from which the topic is drawn. Given that the extended essay is a formally written research paper, it should strive to maintain a professional, academic look. 

To help achieve this, the following formatting is required:

  • 12-point, readable font (Calibri or Times New Roman);
  • double spacing throughout entire Essay;
  • page numbering - top right corner;
  • no candidate or school name or supervisor name on the title page or page headers.

Submitting the extended essay in the required format will help set the tone of the essay and will aid readability for on-screen assessment by examiners.

Required Structure

The structure of the essay is very important. It helps students to organize the argument, making the best use of the evidence collected. 

There are six required elements of the final work to be submitted. More details about each element are given in the “Presentation” section. Please note that the order in which these elements are presented here is not necessarily the order in which they should be written. 

Six required elements of the extended essay:

  1. Title page
  2. Contents page
  3. Introduction
  4. Body of the essay
  5. Conclusion
  6. References and bibliography -- if MLA "Works Cited" if CSE "References"

1. Required Title Page 

The title page should include only the following information: 

  • the title of the essay
  • the research question
  • the subject the essay is registered in (if it is a language essay also state which category it falls into; if a world studies essay also state the theme and the two subjects utilized) 
  • word count 

    The upper limit is 4,000 words for all extended essays. 

    Please note: Examiners are instructed not to read or assess any material in excess of the word limit. This means that essays containing more than 4,000 words will be compromised across all assessment criteria. Given the holistic nature of the assessment criteria, students who write in excess of the word limit will self-penalize across all criteria. 

2. Required Contents Page

A contents page must be provided at the beginning of the extended essay and all pages should be numbered. Please note that an index page is not required and if included will be treated as if it is not present.

3. Required Introduction

The introduction should tell the reader what to expect in the essay. The introduction should make clear to the reader the focus of the essay, the scope of the research, in particular an indication of the sources to be used, and an insight into the line of argument to be taken. 

While students should have a sense of the direction and key focus of their essay, it is sometimes advisable to finalize the introduction once the body of the essay is complete.

4. Required Body of the Essay (research, analysis, discussion, and evaluation)

The main task is writing the body of the essay, which should be presented in the form of a reasoned argument. The form of this varies with the subject of the essay but as the argument develops it should be clear to the reader what relevant evidence has been discovered, where/how it has been discovered and how it supports the argument. In some subjects, for example, the sciences, sub-headings within the main body of the essay will help the reader to understand the argument (and will also help the student to keep on track). In structuring their extended essay, students must take into consideration the expected conventions of the subject in which their extended essay is registered. 

Once the main body of the essay is complete, it is possible to finalize the introduction (which tells the reader what to expect) and the conclusion (which says what has been achieved, including notes of any limitations and any questions that have not been resolved). 

Any information that is important to the argument must not be included in appendices or footnotes/endnotes. The examiner will not read notes or appendices, so an essay that is not complete in itself will be compromised across the assessment criteria.

5. Required Conclusion

The conclusion says what has been achieved, including notes of any limitations and any questions that have not been resolved. While students might draw conclusions throughout the essay based on their findings, it is important that there is a final, summative conclusion at the end. This conclusion(s) must relate to the research question posed.

6. Required References & Bibliography

Students should use their chosen style of academic referencing as soon as they start writing. That way they are less likely to forget to include a citation. It is also easier than trying to add references at a later stage. For more information on this, refer to the guidelines in the IB document Effective citing and referencing.

Writing the essay takes time but if students have used their Researcher's reflection space and reflection sessions in a meaningful way they should be well prepared to develop their arguments.

Visual Arts

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

Overview

An extended essay in visual arts provides students with an opportunity to undertake research in an area of the visua I arts of particular interest to them.

The outcome of the research should be a coherent and structured piece of writing (with appropriate illustrations) that effectively addresses a particular issue or research question, appropriate to the visual arts (broadly defined also to include architecture, design and contemporary forms of visual culture). The research may be generated or inspired bythe students direct experience of artwork, craftwork or design, or interest in the work of a particular artist, style or period. This might be related to the student's own culture or another culture. Personal contact with artists, curators and so on is strongly encouraged, as is the use of local and/or primary sources.

Absolute reliance on textbooks and the Internet is discouraged and no extended essay in visual arts should be based exclusively on such sources. Textbooks should be consulted only insofar as they may stimulate original ideas, provide models of disciplined, structured and informed approaches, and encourage direct and personal involvement with the essay topic.

Choice of topic

Topics that are entirely dependent on summarizing general secondary sources (such as universal art history textbooks, and encyclopedias), and topics that are likely to lead to an essay that is essentially narrative or descriptive in nature, should be avoided. Biographical studies of artists must address a relevant issue or research question and arrive at a particular, and preferably personal, conclusion. Choosing a topic that covers many aspects of art history and/or a long period of time is also unlikely to result in a successful essay. Restricting the scope of the essay will help to ensure a clear focus and will provide opportunities for demonstrating detailed understanding and critical analysis.

The following examples of titles for visual arts 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).

  • "How did Wassily Kandinsky use colour?" is better than "The Bauhaus".
  • "An analysis of African influences on Henry Moore" is better than "20th-century British sculpture".
  • 'What is the artistic significance of recent poles raised by the First Nations of Haida-Gwai?" is better than 'The art of Native North American people".
  • "Klimt's use of gold" is better than "Sezession in Berlin".
  • "Robert Ntila's etching techniques: a critical investigation" is better than "Contemporary East African art".

 

It may help if the student defines the topic chosen for study in the form of a more specific research question, followed by a statement of intent that indicates which broad process 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 include the following.

Topic                                     Cultural influences on Pablo Picasso's work

Research question               Picassm individual genius or cultural thief?

Approach                               An investigation of the extent to which selected images in Picasso's work may have been appropriated from other cultural sources.

Topic                                    The influence of Renaissance architecture in Montreal

Research question            Cathêdrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde, Montreal:a replica of St Peter's, Rome?

Approach                             An original investigation into the stylistic similarities in the architecture of these two buildings.

Topic                                    The impact of immigration on an artist's work

Research question           What is the impact of transcultural experience on the art of Gu Xiong?

Approach                             An investigation into the effects of migration on a selected artist's

Treatment of the topic

It is essential that the topic chosen is clearly and directly related to visual arts. If the connection is only incidental, students risk introducing material that is of only marginal relevance, and will confuse the inquiry and weaken the argument. Students should be encouraged to formulate a research question of personal interest and to draw on a variety of sources to support their arguments, such as textual analysis, study of original artworks or designed artifacts, and interviews with practitioners or authorities on the subject. Students should be helped to identify and choose appropriate sources, both primary and secondary, and appropriate methods of research. Research questions that do not allow a systematic investigation that demonstrates critical artistic analysis and detailed understanding are unlikely to be suitable. In some instances, it may become clear at an early stage in the research that too few sources are available to permit such an investigation. In such cases, a change of focus should be made.

The inclusion and discussion of appropriate visual reference material is of particular importance in visual arts extended essays. Such material must, however, be directly supportive of, and relevant to, the analysis/argument. It should be neatly presented, properly acknowledged, and should appear in the body of the essay, as close as possible to the first reference.

In order to promote personal involvement in the extended essay, the use of local and/or primary sources should be encouraged wherever possible. However, it is appreciated that, in certain situations, students may not necessarily have access to primary sources. In such situations, reproductions, videos, films or photographs/Internet images of a high quality are considered acceptable sources. An argument should be well substantiated, with comments and conclusions supported by evidence that is relevant and well founded, not based simply on the student's preconceptions.

Students are expected to evaluate critically the resources consulted during the process of writing the essay by asking themselves the following questions.

  • Which sources are vital to the support of my ideas, opinions and assertions?
  • Which sources do not contribute to the analysis?

Many different approaches to the research question can be appropriate, for instance:

      • use of primary sources (artwork and artists) and secondary sources (material about the visual arts) in order to establish and appraise varying interpretations
      • analysing sources (primary and secondary) in order to explore and explain particular aspects of the visual arts
      • using primary source material for an analysis, with emphasis on a particular aspect of visual arts
      • collecting and analysing reproductions of artwork, possibly leading to a comparison of similar or different images.

Students should also demonstrate awareness of other issues surrounding the art studied.

        • Do I show an awareness of the value and limitations of the art I am studying through analysing its
          origin and purpose?
        • .Do I show a consistently good artistic understanding in setting the research question into context
          and addressing it fully and effectively?

Relevant outcomes of this analysis should be integrated into the student's argument. The argument should also be well substantiated:

  • With what evidence do I support my comments and conclusions?
  • Is this evidence relevant and well founded, and not based simply on my preconceptions?

Finally, an extended essay in visual arts is a formal essay, so students must pay very careful attention to the requirements of the assessment criteria.

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

Interpreting the assessment criteria

Criterion A: research question

The research question can often be best defined in the form of a question. It may, however, also be presented as a statement or proposition for discussion. It must be:

  • specific and sharply focused
  • appropriate to the visual arts (broadly defined also to include architecture, design and contemporary forms of visual culture) and not of a trivial nature
  • centred on the visual arts and not on peripheral issues such as biography
  • stated clearly early on in the essay.

Criterion B: introduction

The introduction should explain succinctly the significance of the topic, why it is worthy of investigation, and how the research question relates to existing knowledge on the topic.

The introduction should not be seen as an opportunity for padding out an essay with a lengthy account of an artists life,

Criterion C: investigation

The range of resources available will be influenced by various factors, but above all by the topic.

Students should use in the first instance primary sources (artwork, exhibitions, architecture, interviews), with secondary sources (textbooks and the comments of other artists, critics, art historians) as evidential support. It is expected that visual material (sometimes including the student's own photographs) will be included and properly referenced.

The proper planning of an essay should involve interrogating source material in light of the research question, so that the views of other art scholars and artists are used to support the students own argument, and not as a substitute for that argument. It may thus be helpful for a student to challenge a statement by an art scholar (historian or critic), in reference to the art being studied, instead of simply agreeing with it, where there is evidence to support such a challenge.

If students make use of Internet-based sources, they should do so critically and circumspectly in full awareness of their potential unreliability.

Criterion D: knowledge and understanding of the topic studied

Students should demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the visual arts by discussing formal artistic aspects (for example, elements and principles of design) and considering historical, social and cultural contexts. Some of this knowledge and understanding should be based at least partially on primary sources.

Criterion E: reasoned argument

Students should be aware of the need to give their essays the backbone of a developing argument in which the essay is grounded in an understanding of the relevant and wider historical and sociocultural context. Personal views should not simply be stated but need to be supported by reasoned argument, often with reference to illustrations, to persuade the reader of their validity. Straightforward descriptive or narrative accounts that lack analysis (for example, a simple recounting of an artist's life) do not usually advance an argument and should be avoided. Good essays are those that have something interesting to communicate, where there is evidence of original thought, and where students are able to substantiate their ideas and opinions.

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

There should be strong evidence of a thorough knowledge of the visual arts aspects of the topic, and the essay should successfully incorporate and discuss visual images.

Criterion G: use of language appropriate to the subject

There should be evidence of familiarity with, and the accurate and effective use of, visual arts terminology. Appropriate vocabulary must be used to describe historical periods, artistic styles and so on.

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.

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, appropriate (and acknowledged) visual images, 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, visual references—are deemed no better than satisfactory (maximum level 2), while essaysthat omit two of them are deemed poor at best (maximum level 1). Within the visual arts, the "look" as well as the "craft" of the essay is given consideration.

In visual arts essays, illustrations should appear in the body of the essay, as close as possible to their first reference.

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 visual arts essays include the choice of topic and research question, and locating and using a wide range of sources, including some that may have been little used previously or generated for the study (for instance, transcripts of interviews with artists and collectors).
  • Insight and depth of understanding:These are most likely to be demonstrated as a consequence of detailed research, reflection that is thorough and well informed, and reasoned argument that consistently and effectively addresses the research question.
  • Creativity:In visual arts essays,this includes qualities such as new and inventive approaches to artistic analysis, new approaches to "well-worn" or popular topics, or attention to new topics and questions.

From:

International Baccalaureate Organization. (2007). Visual arts. In IBO Extended essay guide, First examinations 2009, (pp. 169-174). New York: International Baccalaureate Organization.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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