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IB Tutor’s Guide to Writing a Geography Extended Essay

Thorough research improves the quality of the Geography extended essay and strengthens your arguments.

As a seasoned IB tutor, I’ve encountered numerous students grappling with penning a compelling Geography extended essay. Based on my experience and understanding of the IB criteria, I aim to share a few pointers that could be instrumental in your academic path.

IB Geography Extended Essay: Specifics and Assessment Criteria

The golden number for the extended essay is 4,000 words. It’s a strict maximum, and it’s crucial to adhere to it. The 4,000-word limit does not include the abstract, footnotes and endnotes, bibliography or works cited, or appendices. Maps, graphs, charts, diagrams, annotated figures, and tables are not counted.

This type of essay also has specific assessment criteria for evaluating students’ work. Each has different weightings and is used to assess various aspects of the paper. Here is a general overview of the assessment criteria for the IB Geography extended essay as of that time.

Criterion A: Focus and Method

From my time working closely with the IB curriculum, one of the critical pillars of a geography extended essay is its focus and method. According to general IB criteria, this aspect evaluates the clarity of your topic and how well you’ve framed your research question. A well-defined topic appropriate for a Geography extended essay, combined with a systematic research approach, can set a solid foundation.

Criterion B: Knowledge and Understanding

Over the years, I’ve realized that genuine success in the extended essay lies in demonstrating profound knowledge and understanding of your chosen topic. As far as I know, evaluators look for the depth of your context and how well you wield subject-specific terminologies.

Criterion C: Critical Thinking

In all my years as an IB tutor, if there’s one thing I’ve consistently emphasized, it’s the importance of critical thinking. According to general IB criteria, this section assesses your ability to analyze, discuss, and evaluate your research question. Writing a well-structured argument and ensuring the reliability of your research is crucial.

Criterion D: Presentation

Presentation might seem minor, but as I’ve seen time and again, it can significantly impact the reader’s experience. The structure, layout, and elements like tables and charts should be presented meticulously. And, of course, always ensure your sources are cited using a recognized convention. A well-presented essay is like a well-wrapped gift — it heightens the anticipation and enriches the experience.

Criterion E: Engagement

Engagement is all about showcasing your connection with the topic. From my extensive interactions with students, I’ve found that those who display genuine personal engagement produce more compelling essays. According to general IB criteria, this section seeks to understand your relationship with your research, making it an integral aspect of the essay.

Criterion F: Use of Subject-specific Terminology and Conventions

Lastly, but by no means least, is the use of subject-specific terminology. Geography has its unique terms, maps, diagrams, and conventions. Employing these accurately and consistently raises the quality of your essay and showcases your expertise in the subject.

Choosing the Right Topic for Your Geography Extended Essay

Ah, the challenge of finding the perfect topic! I know from countless student interactions that this initial stage can often be daunting. But fret not! There’s a wealth of Geography extended essay topics out there. Focus on areas that genuinely pique your interest, as your enthusiasm will shine through in your writing.

How to Find Geography Extended Essay Topics

One effective way to develop ideas is to reflect on recent global events, geographical phenomena, or even localized issues with global implications. Reading recent publications, geographical journals, or news outlets that highlight environmental and geographical stories can offer many ideas. The vast scope of geography, from human interactions to intricate environmental processes, provides a canvas for many topics.

Reputable books can improve the quality of your Geography extended essay.

Popular World Geography Extended Essay Topics

Thinking of World Geography extended essay topics, several intriguing options come to mind:

  • Sustainable Urban Planning in Modern Cities
  • Coral Reef Degradation and Coastal Communities
  • Agricultural Practices and Soil Erosion in the Midwest
  • Impacts of Tourism on Coastal Ecosystems
  • Glacial Retreat in the Himalayas and Its Consequences
  • Effects of Land Reclamation on Coastal Habitats
  • Economic Implications of Desertification in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Comparative Analysis of Organic versus Conventional Farming
  • Population Density and Its Relation to Urban Green Spaces
  • Geopolitics of Freshwater Resources in the Middle East

Climate change in polar regions, urban sprawl in emerging economies, or even the socio-economic implications of river diversions are some themes that, according to general IB criteria, resonate well with evaluators. Remember, the trick is to choose something both engaging and academically enriching.

And what about other ideas for an IB World Geography extended essay? Topics that demonstrate an understanding of local phenomena in a global context stand out. For instance, examining how a local agricultural practice has global environmental implications can be captivating.

Research and Planning: Using Trustworthy and Academic Sources

A well-researched essay is like a well-cooked meal — satisfying and leaves a lasting impression. Always prioritize reputable academic sources. Remember, the quality of your sources can make or break your essay:

  • School’s Library. In my experience, school or university libraries are goldmines of reliable academic books, journals, and other publications. They often provide access to databases that can be incredibly valuable.
  • Books with High Publisher’s Reputation. Established academic publishers often have stringent editorial standards. Look for names like Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, and Routledge.
  • Online Scholarly Databases. Websites like Google Scholar, JSTOR, and ScienceDirect offer many peer-reviewed articles and papers. From my experience, these are goldmines for researchers.
  • Geographical Journals. Given the subject, journals such as Geographical Journal or Area often publish the latest research in Geography. They’re both current and highly reputable.
  • Expert Opinions. If possible, engage with geography professors or professionals in the field. Their insights can offer depth and a fresh perspective to your essay.
  • Current Events. They can play a significant role in a subject like geography. Keep an eye on global news that relates to your topic.
  • Other Source Types. While journals and articles are valuable, don’t avoid documentaries, interviews, or reputable podcasts. Different mediums can offer varied viewpoints.

Sites like Wikipedia, while informative, should be something other than your primary sources. They can be a starting point but always verify the information. As you research, keep track of all your sources. Tools like Zotero or Mendeley can help organize your references. It saves time and ensures you keep track of all valuable information.

Always ensure that any facts or data you obtain from one source can be verified with another reliable source. It adds a layer of authenticity to your research. As you progress, regularly review your collected data and sources. Ensure that they align with your research question and adjust if necessary.

Structuring Your IB Geography Extended Essay

The structure is the scaffold upon which your ideas are built. In line with general IB criteria, a well-structured essay comprises an introduction, body, and conclusion, each flowing seamlessly into the other. Transition paragraphs are invaluable in maintaining coherence as you move from one section to another.

Introduction: Setting the Stage

Your introduction is the gateway to your essay. In this section, clearly state your research question, briefly outline the scope of your investigation, and hint at the conclusion. In my experience, a compelling introduction draws the reader in and makes them want to read more about your work.

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Body: The Heart of Your Argument

It is where you’ll get into the meat of your research, presenting arguments, evidence, analysis, and perspectives. Typically, the body is subdivided into several sections, each focusing on specific aspects of your topic.

Also, remember:

  • Use subheadings to segment your ideas.
  • Present evidence and follow it with analysis. It ensures the reader understands the relevance of each piece of evidence you present.
  • Transition paragraphs or sentences are crucial here to ensure that one section flows smoothly to the next.

Ensuring each section has a clear focus and contributes to your overall argument is paramount. 

Case Studies and Real-World Examples

For a Geography extended essay, integrating case studies can be invaluable. It bolsters your arguments and provides practical examples, making your essay relatable and grounded.

Wrapping It Up

Your conclusion is where you revisit your research question, summarizing your findings and reflecting on the implications of your research. In my experience, a firm conclusion doesn’t merely restate the introduction but provides a synthesis of your main points, leaving the reader with a lasting impression.

Appendices and Footnotes

While not part of the main content, supplementary information, data sets, or detailed explanations can be included in the appendices. Footnotes, however, are excellent for clarification without breaking your essay’s flow.

Bibliography: Giving Credit Where It’s Due

A comprehensive list of all the sources you’ve consulted is essential. It adds credibility to your essay and adheres to academic conventions. Trust me, proper citation can affect how your essay is received.


To wrap things up, writing a Geography extended essay is rewarding, especially when you’re equipped with the right insights. Take it from someone who’s been there and done that; with dedication and the right approach, you’re well on your way to creating a commendable piece.

Lastly, staying updated with the latest geographical findings and trends is essential. They can be invaluable in adding depth and contemporary relevance to your paper. If you need help with a Geography extended essay, our IB writers are always ready to help!

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