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How to Write a Philosophy Extended Essay for the IB Program

The skills you gain from working on a Philosophy extended essay are highly transferable.

Greetings, young scholars! If you’re like most IB students I’ve met, the IB Philosophy extended essay sends a minor shiver down your spine. But fret not! As someone who has been around the IB block, I can tell you it’s not as daunting as it seems.

The extended essay is a fantastic opportunity to get into a subject you’re passionate about — in this case, Philosophy. So, let’s begin by discussing why this subject is an excellent choice for your extended essay and how you can ace it.

Why Choose Philosophy for Your IB Extended Essay?

Ah, Philosophy — the realm where intellect and intrigue meet! Let me share why this subject is close to my heart and how it can be the same for you. From my experience, Philosophy is akin to a grand theater where you can discuss everything from the meaning of life to the nuances of ethics, political theories, and even the Philosophy of science. The breadth of topics available is astonishing, offering you a limitless playground of ideas to engage with.

Now, let’s talk about benefits. Philosophy sharpens your skills not only in logical reasoning but also in effective argumentation. We’re discussing not just how to argue but how to present arguments compellingly and convincingly—skills that are golden in your academic life and beyond. You’re actively nurturing these competencies in crafting your IB Philosophy extended essay.

But wait, there’s more! According to general IB criteria, the extended essay aims to develop research, writing, and critical thinking skills in students. Philosophy is the perfect candidate to achieve all these objectives. It equips you to dissect complex arguments, view issues from multiple angles, and articulate your thoughts.

In short, Philosophy is not just another subject; it’s a skill set, a mindset, and a gateway to success in your IB program and life at large.

Getting Started with Your Philosophy Extended Essay

If you need to learn how to write a Philosophy extended essay, you must make a clear action plan. First, you should start by choosing a topic and resources for further research. Let’s talk about this in more detail.

Topic Selection

Indeed, the choice of topic can make or break your essay. I cannot stress this enough: your topic should meet IB extended essay Philosophy guidelines and ignite your passion. It is best to follow this instruction:

  • Identify Your Interests. List down areas you’re passionate about — ethics, metaphysics, social Philosophy, etc.
  • Broad to Specific. Start with a general subject and gradually narrow it down to a specific research question or problem.
  • Check for Relevance. Ensure your topic is aligned with the general IB criteria and Philosophy subject-specific extended essay guidelines.
  • Consult Your Advisor. Get their expertise on your topic’s viability, depth, and scope.
  • Finalize Topic. Based on feedback and your interests, finalize a compelling and compliant topic with IB guidelines.

So here’s my two cents: start broad, then narrow. If you still need help choosing suitable extended essay topics (Philosophy and its fields), we recommend you read our blog; you will find much inspiration there.

Research and Resources

Research is not just an aspect but the backbone of your extended essay. Your credibility as a scholar rests on the quality and breadth of your research. Where should you look? A variety of places:

  • Academic Journals. Use databases like JSTOR or Google Scholar for peer-reviewed articles.
  • Primary Texts. Works by philosophers relevant to your topic are crucial.
  • Books and Anthologies. Look for compilations of essays or philosophical treatises that discuss your topic.
  • Online Resources. Websites from reputable institutions can offer modern perspectives.

But don’t just stop there; use IB extended essay Philosophy examples to understand the nuances of writing. For instance, consider how arguments are structured and primary texts are interpreted. These can serve as excellent templates for constructing arguments and staking claims. From my experience, it can be instrumental in helping you define the structure and flow of your essay.

Extended Essay Guide: Philosophy Research Question

In my opinion, the research question is the backbone of your essay. It sets the direction and the scope of your argument. To make your question engaging, it needs to be specific, focused, and clear.

Research is not just an aspect, but the backbone of your Philosophy extended essay.

Use straightforward language to formulate your question. Avoid jargon unless it’s crucial. Also, remember that general or vague questions won’t cut it. “What is good?” is too broad. Instead, consider, “How does Kant’s notion of “good will” differ from Aristotle’s ‘virtuous character’ in defining a good action?”

It would help if you also kept a balance. Your question should be narrow enough for deep analysis but broad enough to meet the word count comfortably. If your question is too broad, you risk skimming the surface; if it’s too narrow, you might run out of things to say.

It isn’t just according to me; it’s straight out of the Philosophy subject-specific extended essay guidelines. Your research question should excite anyone who reads it to see where your arguments will lead. Essentially, you’re writing a quality extended essay question in Philosophy that captivates your reader’s interest.

Philosophy Subject-Specific Extended Essay Guidelines: Structure

While the structure of an extended essay is generally universal across subjects, each subject has its specific guidelines. For Philosophy, these often emphasize the importance of logical consistency and rigorous argumentation.

Therefore, you’ll want to ensure that your arguments are logically sound and that your evidence is reliable. Moreover, consider discussing ethical considerations or potential biases in your research, as this can lend further credibility to your work.

Now, let’s break down the critical structural elements that every IB extended essay should have.


The introduction to your essay is like the opening act of a play: it sets the tone, introduces the main characters — in this case, your research question and arguments — and leaves the audience eager for more. First impressions are crucial, and this section is where you make yours. To hit the right notes, your introduction should do several things.

Your introduction should be a microcosm of the essay, offering a snapshot of what’s to come while making a compelling case for why the reader should stick around for the whole picture.

The Body

It is where you unpack your arguments, present evidence, and engage with counter-arguments. You’ll divide this section into several subsections, each dedicated to a specific point or argument. Ensure a smooth transition between these sections; transition words and phrases are your allies.

Each subsection should start with a clear topic sentence that outlines what the section will cover, and each should conclude with a sentence that summarizes the section and links it back to your overall argument. It will make your essay more coherent and make it easier for your reader to follow your reasoning.


A firm conclusion does more than summarize the essay; it also synthesizes the key points to show how they contribute to answering your research question. You’ll want to restate your research question and summarize how your arguments and evidence have responded to it.

Importantly, your conclusion should also consider the broader implications of your findings. What do they mean for the field of Philosophy? For society at large?

IB Philosophy Extended Essay: Tips for Writing

Ah, the writing phase! It is the part where your research and planning begin to pay off. Originality and authenticity are your guiding stars here. Your essay should exude your genuine interest in Philosophy, presenting your unique take on the subject matter. 

Need help with your IB extended essay?

From research and analysis to structuring and editing, our skilled mentors will be by your side, helping you craft an exceptional extended essay that not only meets the wordcount and stringent IB criteria but also reflects your passion for selected IB group.

Don’t just regurgitate what others have said; instead, bring your voice into the conversation. In my opinion, this brings a sense of freshness that examiners appreciate. I also want to share a few other essential thoughts with you in this section.

Language Quality

While it may be tempting to showcase your extensive vocabulary, the main aim should be readability and clarity. Your essay should be intellectually rigorous but still accessible. Imagine you’re telling a fascinating story, albeit a scholarly one. Academic language is a tool, not a hurdle. Use it to build your arguments, not to confuse or alienate your reader.

Review and Revision

Let’s talk about the art of revising. It’s more complex than just reading through your essay to catch typos, although that’s important, too. You’re also looking for logical gaps, ambiguous phrasing, or weak arguments. Ensure each section contributes to your research question and overall argument.

Multiple rounds of revision are usually necessary. No first draft is perfect, nor should it be. Each revision is an opportunity to refine your thoughts and improve your writing. And yes, fresh eyes can be beneficial here.

Submission Process

When you’re confident that your essay is the best it can be, it’s time to submit — but not so fast! Make sure your work complies with all the necessary guidelines. These aren’t just bureaucratic hurdles; they are there to ensure a level playing field and maintain the academic integrity of the IB program. 

So, this is where attention to detail becomes crucial. Check your formatting, citations, and bibliography. Verify that you’ve adhered to the word count and followed any subject-specific guidelines, like those for a Philosophy extended essay.

Final Thoughts

To wrap it up, an IB extended essay in Philosophy is not just an academic requirement but also a fantastic opportunity to fine-tune your skills and get into subjects you’re passionate about. You’ll succeed and genuinely enjoy the process with the right approach and guidance. Now, armed with this guide, create your philosophical masterpiece!

Also, if you need help with an extended essay, you can always contact our experienced IB writers.

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