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Extended Essay: Criterion E: Engagement (Reflection)

Criterion E: Reflection (6 pts max)

Examples of the levels of reflection


(limited reflection)


(good reflection)


(excellent reflection)

  • What did I do?
  • How did I undertake my research?
  • What were the problems I faced?
  • Did my approach or strategies change throughout the process?
  • What have been the high and the low points of the research and writing process?
  • Was my research successful?
  • If I changed my approach or strategies during the process, why did I do this?
  • What did I learn from the experience in terms of my understanding of the subject area and/or the skills needed to undertake research?
  • How has my understanding of the topic and research process developed throughout the task? 
  • If I were to undertake this research again, would I do it differently—if so, why or why not?
  • What has affected this?
  • If I did do the research again, would I change the theories applied or the methodological approach? Would this have led to a different outcome?
  • What can I conclude from this?
  • Were the strategies I used for undertaking my research the most appropriate for achieving my outcomes?
  • What, if any, questions emerged as a result of my research that I was not expecting? Would these questions influence my approach if I were to undertake the research again? 


Remember to include discussion of the Approaches to Learning (ATL's) in your reflections. This discussion needs to be specific and well-illustrated with clear examples. For specific language related to each of the ATL's, please click here.

Reflection One- Initial Stage

This will be after one of the early sessions with your supervisor where you outline:

  • Your ideas regarding the topic in general
  • The research question you have in mind
  • Initial background reading or research you may have conducted
  • Possible approaches
  • Initial thoughts about the answer to your research question
  • Roughly 100 words in length

Guiding Questions:

  • What exactly do you want to find out?

  • What resources do you plan to use?

  • What problems do you anticipate in your research?

  • What writing and research have you done since last session?

  • Have you found any sources with conflicting viewpoints?

  • Have you been able to find relevant sources from different eras?

  • What challenges did you encounter in finding relevant sources?

  • How do you think you might use your sources?

  • Have you collected sufficient data?

  • Have you finished note taking from your text?

  • What am I interested in researching and why?
  • What are my motivations for undertaking research in this area?
  • How will I begin the research process?
  • Is my chosen topic appropriate for the subject I have chosen to complete it in?
  • Do I have sufficient knowledge of the subject area to fulfill the criteria of an EE?
  • What possible question(s) might I research?
  • How might I go about undertaking this research?
  • Do I have access to appropriate sources?
  • Are my chosen research methods appropriate for the subject I have chosen to complete it in?
  • Are there any ethical issues I need to consider before pursuing this area of research?
  • Is there sufficient focus to my research area?

Examples of Reflection One

I was attracted to Anna Comnena's The Alexiad as a result of some extra readings which formed part of my IB History course (Crusades). As the first female historian, she stands in a unique place in terms of historiography, something which appealed to me as both a woman and budding historian. I was initially considering writing about her accounts of the First Crusade but quickly found the topic to be far too wide in scope. A reading of Paul Magdalino's article "The Pen of the Aunt" helped refocus me on the issue of historical purpose, i.e., why she wrote the history she did. I have now allocated time to reading historical accounts of Manuel I's reign to decide how closely the events Anna mentions in her history of her father's reign (Alexius) so as to validate my current hypothesis-  that Anna intended the work as a celebratory account of her father so as to cast a negative light on the rule of her nephew Manuel I. My current list includes Runciman, France, Macrides, Christomides, and Hill.

Reflection Two- Interim Stage

This reflection session will usually fall somewhere in the middle to latter half of your EE process, usually before the first draft is completed.

  • Discuss how the research question has become more refined.
  • Comment on any challenges you have encountered & what solutions you have attempted.
  • Discuss how your thinking on your topic has evolved.
  • Roughly 200 words in length

Guiding Questions:

  • Where was I? Where I am now? Where am I going?

  • What sources do you find helpful?

  • How have you evaluated your sources?

  • Have you adopted a structure for writing based on what the IB requires?

  • What do you need to do next?


Examples of Reflection Two

I was finding it hard to come up with a satisfactory counter to the question of accuracy and authenticity which feature prominently in modern readings of her work. Historians ranging from Edward Gibbon and John France to the more direct Howard-Johnson paper which completely challenges her authorship effectively negated my hypothesis entirely. Using Magdalino and Hill as a focus point, I re-read key sections of The Alexiad and mapped out her account against the policital events of Manuel I's reign and quickly discovered some interesting overlaps (building works, military campaigns, relations with the West, etc.). Though occasionally obscure and subtle, the criticisms emerge by means of an unspoken comparison which Byzantine readers of her account would have well understood. This approach is providing me with a suitable counter to the aforementioned criticisms. I have also begun structuring my work accordingly with sections devoted to historical context followed by a section on The Alexiad which compares and contrasts events from Alexius' time with those of Manuel's. I am considering a chapter on the historiographical tradition of Byzantium but may integrate it into the main body in the end.

Reflection Three- Looking Back

This final reflection should be written BEFORE the Viva Voce meeting. It should:

  • Offer your final reflections on the process
  • Discuss any achievements realized or challenges overcome
  • Discuss elements that allowed you to complete the task that may not be readily apparent in the essay itself.
  • Discuss any relevant ATL's (Approaches to Learning) that you have developed through the process & be ready to provide good examples.
  • Roughly 200 words in length

Guiding Questions

  • What did you discover that surprised you?

  • Is writing the EE mainly about process or product AND why?

  • What would you have done differently and why?

  • What advice would you give to a student just beginning this process?

  • What have been the high and low points of the research and writing processes?

  • What would you have done differently?

  • What is the most important thing that you learned?

  • What was your greatest challenge and how did you overcome it?

  • What would you change if you did another EE?

  • What was the most valuable experience that you took away from the process?

  • What was your greatest challenge and what did you do to overcome it?

  • What IB learner profile attribute would you say helped you through the process (communicator, risk-taker, etc.)?

  • Would you like to continue reading on this topic?

  • What questions did this process raise?

  • What conclusions have you drawn about the topic?

Examples of Reflection Three

I am very pleased with how the essay has turned out. Skills wise, I had no problems with referencing which I picked up quickly though integrating source analysis did prove a challenge at times due to my narrative tendencies. I believe I've been able to challenge the orthodox interpretations of Anna's work as a piece of fantasy fiction at the hands of a disgruntled woman by showing that Anna was effectively using one of the few weapons still permitted her in her diminished political state- the power of words- to criticize the existing leadership. Hill's works proved of particular use to me as they examined female power in a broader context and thus gave me a framework for interpreting what Anna was able to do within the context of her time.

Reflection Sentence Starters and Key Words

Click here or on the image below to go to the list of sentence starters you can use to help you write up your reflections. Regarding word count, we recommend 100 words for first reflection, 200 words for second reflection, and 200 words for third reflection (roughly).