extended essay topics

Can Extended Essays With a Generic Topic Score Well or Do They Have to Be Quite Original?

As an IB tutor and writer with years under my belt, I’ve experienced the highs and lows of writing extended essays. Whether you’re wrestling with choosing a generic topic or striving for something unique, the question remains: Can generic extended essays score high, or is originality the secret sauce to success?

What’s the Deal with Extended Essays?

The extended essay is an independent, self-directed investigation that finishes with a 4,000-word paper. For many, this essay is the first step into academic research, a preliminary encounter with the rigor and demands of a university-level thesis. From my experience, the EE is a golden opportunity to dig deep into a topic of personal interest within one of the IB subject areas.

Extended essays challenge IB students to demonstrate their ability to conduct independent research and express their academic voice clearly. Selecting a topic isn’t just about following your passions but strategizing for that top grade. From my experience, students often wonder if choosing a common topic will negatively affect their essay’s evaluation.

Now, let’s tackle this crucial decision. As I know from countless discussions with examiners, while the topic’s breadth and depth are essential, how you handle it — regardless of its originality — can make or break your score. A common misconception is that a unique topic automatically guarantees a higher score, but this isn’t always true. The essence of a successful extended essay lies in your approach to the topic: how thoroughly you research the subject matter, the clarity and depth of your argument, and how effectively you engage with your sources.

Ultimately, your choice of extended essay topic should be based on your interests and the scope for rigorous investigation. Striking this balance will increase your enjoyment and engagement with your research and significantly influence your work’s overall quality and impact, potentially leading to a higher score.

What Are Generic Extended Essay Topics?

I’ve encountered a broad spectrum of extended essay topics chosen by students. Some opt for niche, unresearched areas, while others prefer more well-trodden paths. These more popular, frequently chosen topics are what we refer to as “generic” extended essay topics. From my experience, these topics are not necessarily disadvantageous; they often provide a solid foundation for students who can then focus on demonstrating robust analytical skills and a strong argumentative structure.

Generic extended essay topics typically revolve around commonly discussed issues or subjects with many available resources. This availability can be a double-edged sword; it eases the research process but demands a higher level of originality to stand out. According to general IB criteria, the creativity and insight of the analysis improve an extended essay, regardless of the theme’s originality. Below are some examples of generic topics that I’ve seen over the years:

  • The impact of World War II on a particular European economy.
  • The research of feminism in a well-known 19th-century novel.
  • A comparison of renewable energy technologies in the current market.
  • The role of symbolism in the films of a famous director.
  • Psychological analysis of consumer behavior in traditional vs. online markets.

Although these topics seem ordinary, they offer vast potential for deep investigation and critical analysis. In my opinion, the key to making a generic topic stand out is how you frame your research question and the unique angle you bring to your investigation.

From my perspective, choosing a general topic requires you to critically engage with the material to find an aspect that can be developed freshly and insightfully. It often involves synthesizing different points of view or applying innovative theoretical frameworks to present familiar issues in a new light.

Can extended essays with a generic topic score well?

Does Original Topic Boost Your Extended Essay Score?

From my extensive experience as an IB writer and mentor, selecting an original topic for the extended essay sparks excitement and curiosity among students. In my opinion, an original topic can potentially engage and impress IB examiners, possibly enhancing your overall score. Original topics encourage more profound research, demanding critical thinking and innovative approaches, which are highly valued in the IB curriculum.

However, choosing an original topic comes with challenges and risks. Here’s a list of considerations that I always share with my students when they’re deciding on a novel topic:

  • Availability of Resources. Ensure enough resources are available to support your research. Original topics sometimes lack scholarly material, making the research process more complex.
  • Scope for Analysis. The topic should allow for deep analytical work rather than just a description or summary. It’s about adding something new to the existing body of knowledge.
  • Feasibility. Consider completing the essay within the given timeframe and word limit. Original research often requires more groundwork.
  • Expert Guidance. Having a knowledgeable mentor can be crucial, as they can provide insights and direction that might not be readily available through conventional sources.

While originality in an essay is prized, it’s not without its pitfalls. As I know from discussions with examiners, an original topic can boost your score by demonstrating innovation and high intellectual engagement. However, it is essential to keep a clear focus and ask the right questions in the essay. Overly ambitious or vague themes lead to confusion and a scattered research approach, which might detract from the essay’s overall quality.

According to general IB criteria, an original topic should be unique but also well-defined and manageable. From my experience, students who successfully overcome the complexities of an original topic often produce some of the most impressive and intellectually rewarding extended essays.

Can You Excel with a Generic Extended Essay Topic?

You can excel with a generic topic! Remember, it’s not just what you discuss but how you discuss it. Many students have penned outstanding essays on common topics by injecting their unique voice and novel analysis. From my point of view, it’s clear that a well-argued essay on a generic topic can score just as well as a groundbreaking original piece.

In my opinion, the success of an essay does not solely depend on the novelty of the topic but on the depth of analysis and the clarity of claims you bring to it. A well-researched generic topic can demonstrate your ability to think critically and apply knowledge effectively, which are critical skills the IB curriculum aims to develop.

From my experience, generic topics come with their set of advantages. Firstly, they usually have a wealth of resources available. This abundance of information can facilitate comprehensive research of the topic, allowing you to create a nuanced argument supported by various sources. Here’s some advice: don’t just regurgitate known information; strive to provide a new perspective or insight.

Furthermore, as I know from discussions with IB examiners, essays on generic topics often allow for a more explicit demonstration of understanding and synthesis of the material because the student is not bogged down by the scarcity of sources or the complexity of a novel topic.

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Choosing Between Original and Generic Extended Essay Topic

Choosing between an original and a generic topic for your IB extended essay is a critical decision that can significantly affect your project’s writing process and outcome. Below, I’ll outline some considerations to help you decide whether to venture into uncharted territory or follow the well-trodden path.

Assess Your Interest and Motivation

Your interest is one of the most critical factors in choosing your EE topic. From my experience, a theme that genuinely fascinates you will sustain your motivation throughout the lengthy research and writing process. An original topic can be particularly engaging because it allows for investigation, which can be rewarding. However, a generic topic might appeal more if you prefer a more structured approach with accessible resources and clear guidance. The key here is to choose a topic that excites and challenges you, ensuring a more enjoyable and engaging research experience.

Consider the Availability of Resources

When contemplating an original topic, ensuring enough resources are available to support your research is crucial. As I know from watching students struggle, an original topic with limited resources can lead to significant challenges down the line. Conversely, generic topics often have abundant resources, making the research process smoother and more straightforward. According to general IB criteria, a well-supported argument is critical for a high-scoring EE, regardless of the topic’s originality.

Evaluate Your Willingness to Take Risks

Choosing an original topic involves a higher degree of risk. These risks can include the potential lack of depth in available research or the challenge of establishing a clear and compelling argument due to the novelty of the subject. However, I know from experience that original topics can also lead to high rewards if handled effectively. They can stand out to examiners and potentially lead to higher scores due to their innovative approach. On the other hand, a generic topic might offer a safer route with established methodologies and predictable results.


Never underestimate the power of a well-written essay, regardless of the originality of the topic. Remember, it’s your analysis, your insights, and your unique academic voice that make your paper stand out. So, choose a topic you can commit to, dig into your research enthusiastically, and write with a clear and persuasive voice. Also, if you need help, just contact our IB experts from Buy TOK Essay Service. 😉

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