A Guide for the IB ESS IA

EES IA accounts for 25% of your final ESS mark, maximum number of marks you can get is 30.


-It is obvious, but writing about a topic you like is much easier. When interested in some topic, ex. Waste management or Ecological footprint, always think about your approach to the topic. For example:
Research question 1: To what extent does type of food eaten in Vienna International School influences students’ ecological footprint?

Research question 2: To what extent does type of transportation students in Vienna International School use, influence their ecological footprint?

As you can notice from the examples above, both Research questions address ecological footprint. However, the approach to this issue is different, in the 1st Research question, the accent is on type of food, in the 2nd Research question, the focus is on type of transportation.

-Think about everything you will need in order to measure a gas/element etc. Do you have all the equipment needed?

-Throughout your report, always use appropriate scientific ESS terminology. This is very important, as it will influence your COM marks, but other areas, too.

-Limit your words from 1500-2250. Work that doesn’t fulfil this requirement won’t achieve a full mark. What is included in word count is main text. Not included: Tables, titles, subtitles, content page, maps, pictures, calculations.

Identifying the context (CXT), maximum 6 marks

In this part, you need to have:

1.Environmental issue (on local and global level)

2.A focused Research question

3.Connection between Environmental Issue and Research question

1. Environmental issue can be air pollution. However, this is very general. You need to find some pollutant in the air you want to write about and to investigate it. Ex. Sulfur dioxide SO2 .

Then, you should describe local pollution situation in the area of your choice. Ex. Sulfur dioxide pollution in Moscow. Global level environmental issue is Sulfur dioxide pollution around the world which is linked with acid rains.

Here, you need to show all your knowledge about this topic, in this case Sulfur dioxide pollution. You have to write a lot about it, using ESS vocabulary. Also, consider using different sources (books, articles) that have investigated your topic.

2. A focused relevant Research question is very important. If you don’t have it focused, you can lose 1-2 marks in this criterion.

Very important thing I’d like to note is that if your Research question is well focused and clear, it will be much more easier for you to write the rest of your ESS IA.

Examples of good focused and relevant Research questions:

Ex.1: What is the effect of different NPK fertilizer concentration on the numbers of beans seed germinated?
As you can notice from the above example, you have to be clear about the type of fertilizer used, plant seeds used etc.

Ex.2:To what extent does Sulfur dioxide concentration in the atmosphere affects health of inhabitants in Moscow?
Here, you also have a type of pollutant- Sulfur dioxide, specifically in the atmosphere, and a specific place – Moscow.

3. You have to connect a Research context with Environmental issue.

For example: Health of people related to Sulfur dioxide concentration in the atmosphere. As we know, that high Sulphur dioxide levels lead to asthma, respiratory issues etc. You have to evaluate more aspects of this issue.

Here, you can include some maps, pictures, if needed. It is always better to have a spatial dimension presented as the examiner will have better image and idea of your IA.

Planning (PLN), maximum 6 marks

In this criterion, you need to write about:

1.A repeatable method
2.Relevance to the Research question
3.Sampling strategy to obtain sufficient amount of data
4.Safety and ethical issues

1. A method has to be repeatable, in order that provides reliable data. If you investigate something or measuring concentrations of a metal, gas etc., you need to have at least repeats.
Also, list all your variables: Dependent, Independent and Controlled. Write the list of materials used (equipment).

2. A method has to be relevant to your Research question, meaning, if you have to assess people and their opinion, you need to use a survey. You have to justify why you used certain method: was it simple and easy? Did it provide you with sufficient amount of data?

3. When it comes to sufficient amount of data, it is up to an examiner to give a final word, if it really is sufficient. There is no final amount to this criterion.

4. Safety and ethical issues: Are there any measures to be undertaken before or during your investigation? What about waste? What about data obtained from the survey? How will you deal with it? Privacy issues? If you don’t mention safety and ethical issues, you lose automatically 2 marks.

In planning, you can include pictures of your experiment.

Results, analysis and conclusion (RAC), maximum 6 marks

-Always include raw data (raw results) in the text of your report. Do NOT include it in Appendix. Not including Raw data will cost you 2 marks.

-Present it in good organised tables, using consistent number of decimals. Ex. 0.1, 0.6, 0.3…

-Always use correct units in tables (cm, dl…)

-Processing of raw data: you need to have mean values, standard deviation calculated etc., depending on your topic.

-Present clear graphs, charts or pie charts that have labelled x and y axis with the appropriate units. . This is very important, many students fail on this aspect.

-Notice the trends, anomalies and analyse the data.

– In conclusion always refer back to your Research question.

Discussion and evaluation (DEV), maximum 6 marks

-You need to evaluate conclusion with respect to Research question and Environmental issue.

– Write strengths, weaknesses and limitations of the method used. You can neatly organise this part as a table, but, you don’t have to.

-Always write about further areas of research. How your topic can be understood even better? What is the next logical step in a research?

Application (APP), maximum 3 marks

You need to give application/solution for the Environmental issue and justify it.

You have to evaluate your solution, thus, give advantages, disadvantages and limitations of a solution.

Communication (COM), maximum 3 marks

Here, the use of terminology is assessed, as well as the structure of your work (if it is logical). An investigation has to be clear and coherent. Bibliography (MLA style) and citations have to be present, too.

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