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F6 FOSIL investigation: Introduction

Introductory video

You will need to log in using your school email address and password to view the video. If you have problems with the embedded video here is the direct link to the video in Stream. Mac users using Safari should read the notice to the right.

The task

The task
•Identify something that intrigues you about what you have recently studied or are about to study
•Investigate this further using the scholarly resources available to you in and through the library
•State briefly:
  • what you have chosen
  • why you considered it to be worthy of further investigation and
  • something of what you have found out (beyond what you already knew when you started).

Note: this should be a new, original piece of work, not something that you have submitted before.

Success criteria

The task should take 3-4 hours. There is no fixed word limit but as a rough guide you are expected to write around 500-750 words. If you are particularly enthusiastic about your topic and want to write more than this, that's fine but it is not necessary.

Everyone is expected to:
  • Use the FOSIL investigative journal to record the results of their investigation before starting to write the essay. You will be expected to hand this in with your essay and learning to use it effectively is an important part if the task.
  • Use scholarly resources and cite all the resources you use
  • Your citations must include:
    • at least one of Britannica or Oxford Reference online
    • another subscription database
  • We encourage you to also include a book or e-book, but under the current circumstances we understand that this might be more challenging
  • You may also include references to other sources such as websites, magazines, newspapers, TV or radio programmes, films, podcasts etc. but please make an effort to choose reputable (trustworthy), academic sources.

Deadline and submission

The task is due by 9am on Monday September 28th and both your essay and your investigative journal should be submitted electronically via Microsoft Teams (links for submission will be posted on the Writing and Submitting your Essay tab of this guide shortly).

This gives plenty of time for those who wish to do a bit more wider reading or spend more time on the task - perhaps because they are already considering using it as a springboard for an EE or EPQ - but we would encourage you all to aim to focus on it in week 1, when subject prep is likely to be lighter, and to submit it as soon as it is finished.

Why does inquiry matter?

[This video only has a music soundtrack - it can be fully understood without listening to the audio]

We live in a rapidy changing world, where those who do not know how to learn for themselves quickly get left behind. School can't teach you everything you will ever need to know - much of it hasn't even been invented yet. We can, however, give you a solid foundation of core knowledge to build on and the skills to keep building your knowledge and understanding throughout your life, by finding out for yourself. These are inquiry skills.

Tasks like this essay are designed to build your inquiry skills. The final essay is as important as you make it. Its value depends entirely on how much you invest in it - but the real value of the task lies in the skills you develop along the way.

To find out more about inquiry and FOSIL, the internationally recognised model we are developing here at Oakham School, have a look at the tab on The Inquiry Process.

Yes, but really, what's the point?

If that's all a bit abstract for you, think about the opportunities that this task gives you personally:

  • to explore a topic that really interests you and share it with others - your tutor, Mrs Toerien & Mr Foster and your subject teachers in the topic you have chosen?
  • to get a head start on something that could potentially be the seed for an Extended Essay for IB students, or an Extended Project Qualification for A-level students.
  • to develop your inquiry skills and learn how to use the resources the Library has to offer, in preparation for any coursework and other inquiries you might need to do during your time in Upper School and beyond at university.

Tutors will choose the best essays in their tutor groups, and the best from the sixth form overall will be published in the Oakhamian Magazine but the purpose is not primarily a competition and the focus is not on winning - the focus is on how much each individual can develop their own skills and interests.

Previous essays



You can view the titles of the best essays from last year and extracts from the two 'winning' essays in the Summer 2019 Oakhamian, which is available online. Note that the winning essays were exceptional in both depth and length and there is no expectation that you spend any more than 4 hours in total on your investigation or write more than 750 words.



Notice for Mac users

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