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Extended Essay (IB): Reflecting

To guide IB students through the Extended Essay process. New format for September 2020.

Reflecting is a vital part of the inquiry process and, while it is important to set aside time to reflect at the end of an inquiry, reflection should take place throughout. Three formal reflection sessions are a requirement for the Extended Essay and it is also expected that students should continuously reflect on their progress throughout the process in a Researcher's Reflection Space. While this is not a formal requirement, students who make a habit of recording and reflecting on the process as they work are likely to get more out of the process and produce more engaging and thoughtful essays.

Criterion E (Engagement) is worth 18% of your final mark and will be largely assessed through your reflections on the Reflections in Planning and Progress form, so it is vital to practise this skill.

What is a Researcher's Reflection Space?

The Researchers Reflection Space is a place for you to record your reflections on what you are reading, writing, thinking and feeling as you journey through the inquiry. You might have used something similar in the past and called it a research journal or inquiry journal.

While not a compulsory, assessed element of the EE, the RSS is very important because it will help you to understand and talk about the choices you make and paths you choose. This will not only help you to write reflections for your Reflections on Planning and Progress Form, but will actually support you in developing all the skills and attitudes that you need to become a better inquirer - something which can potentially have a huge impact on the rest of your life.

What should I put in my Researcher's Reflection Space?

You might keep:Diary

  • A diary or log of your reflections. Remember it is as important (if not more important) to reflect on what is going wrong or proving frustrating and what you plan to do about it, as it is to reflect on your successes.
  • Paperwork you used to help you to make decisions, such as the Using with Subject-Specific Guidelines table, the Supervisor Application Form and the Research Proposal Form, along with notes of any changes of direction you have made and why, and drafts you have made for the Reflections on Planning and Progress Form.
  • Notes from any meetings with your supervisor or conversations with your subject teachers about your EE.
  • A record of emerging questions and new lines of inquiry. Your final question will usually emerge out of your investigation, so it is important to track how it changes as you understand your topic better.
  • A record of the resources you have found to support your inquiry and your thoughts about them - the Annotated Bibliography is excellent for this
  • More detailled notes on individual resources - the Investigative Journal is designed for this. You might also want to annotate copies of aricles (either on paper or on printouts in OneNote for example)
  • A record of search strategies and/or data collection methods you used and how successful they were. The Keyword Record might be helpful here.

There is no fixed way to do this - it is YOUR Researcher's Reflection Space. You might use Mind maps, lists, tables, diagrams or blocks of text. You might want to annotate or highlight documents in different colours, or make separate notes. Find something that works for you - but make sure you keep your notes organised so that they make sense to you!

DiscussionYou should be able to show your supervisor documents from your RSS during supervisions so that you can discuss:

  • How your planning is going
  • What you are learning - about the topic, but more importantly about the process
  • Whether you are on track and how you should proceed

Where should I keep my Researcher's Reflection Space?

The Researchers Reflection Space is YOUR tool for recording your thinking, and you need to do this in a way that works best for you.

You might use:


A notebook: while you could use a notebook like a diary to write down your reflections, you are also going to want somewhere to store printed documents relating to your EE, and electronic notes (such as URLs).


A folder: This is a great way to store all the paperwork relating to your EE, including handwritten notes, forms and printouts of articles. Make sure you use dividers and think carefully about how you organise it though.

But you are likely to want to use at least one online method to store notes too. This will be particularly important when you start the investigate stage of your inquiry and need somewhere to store dowloaded articles and links. You might use:

Folder iconA folder on your computer: Make sure anything you save is carefully organised into subfolders with sensible filenames so that you can find it again. You might want to keep a single, central document called something like Reflective Journal to record your thoughts as you go through the process.

If you decide to keep your Researchers Reflection Space on a computer's hard drive you MUST take regular back ups. You should never keep it on just a single hard drive or memory stick.

While you can use the school network, you may find this difficult to access during holiday periods and you should NEVER save anything important directly to your desktop on the school network.

A cloud-based solution is much more secure...OneDrive

OneDrive  is useful If you just want to save a series of documents (one of which might be your Reflective Journal). It is very similar to using a computer hard drive or memory stick but is cloud based so you can access it from anywhere and it does not need to be backed up.

It is still very important to use a sensible folder structure and filenames so that you can find your documents again.

There are instructions at the bottom of this page for saving documents to OneDrive directly from Office 365, and uploading documents of any type to OneDrive.

OneNoteOneNote is an excellent solution. You can upload documents to it but also use it for making notes, and you can organise it using pages and tabs. You can even share your notebook with your supervisor so they can see how far you have got.

ManageBac logoManageBac has a dedicated area for your Researcher's Reflection Space which allows you to write journal entries and upload documents, images and links, and is automatcally shared with your supervisor. It isn't as flexible or easy to organise as OneNote, for example, and it is certainly not compulsory to use it.

See graphic below for how to access this.

ManageBac screenshot

Regardless of how you choose to set up your RRS, the most important thing is what you put into it...

Saving to OneDrive from within Office 365

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