ITGS Extended Essays

What is an ITGS extended essay?

An ITGS extended essay needs to focus on the social impacts (positive or negative) information technology has on society. The EE also needs to clearly cover the information technology in enough detail to make it clear how it causes the problem. In short, the EE needs to cover all parts of the ITGS triangle. As the IB Extended Essay guide says:
ITGS extended essay should examine how an IT system or systems has affected people in positiveand/or negative ways, with particular reference to the underlying technology.
(Extended Essay Guide, First exams 2013, IB)

ITGS EEs should not be primarily focused on how technology works - topics like this might be better suited to Computer Science extended essays. For example, an EE about the best sorting algorithm or a comparison of compression technologies is not suitable as an ITGS EE because it does not focus on social impacts.

For first assessment in 2018 (first teaching in August 2016), the Extended Essay is changing. The new IB Extended Essay website includes information on the changes. It also has a table of poor questions which are too broad (a common mistake made by students), and a selection of better, more focused questions.

Examples of ITGS extended essay topics

Extended Essay research All ITGS extended essays needs a topic area and a Research Question (RQ). Teachers can help students select a topic area but students must formulate the Research Question themselves because there are awarded marks for this in criterion A. Often a student will need to perform some initial research to ensure that sufficient sources are available to successfully complete the EE.

Business and Employment topic ideas:

  • The effectiveness of solutions to prevent online fraud
  • The use of employee monitoring technology
  • Cost savings of FOSS compared to commercial software
  • The use of social networks by small businesses

Education topic ideas:

  • The use of computer models to replace science experiments in schools
  • The impacts of 1-1 computer programmes in schools
  • The use of student information systems to improve teaching and learning
  • The privacy impacts of student tracking systems
  • Effective solutions to ensure appropriate technology use in a school

Environment topic ideas:

  • The use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) when planning construction projects
  • The awareness and impact of electronic waste
  • The use of virtualisation as a method of reducing server power consumption

Health topic ideas:

  • The use of tele-medicine to treat patients in rural areas
  • The impacts of implementing electronic health records in a hospital
  • The effectiveness of mobile phone technology for distributing health advice and education
  • Software and hardware to help disabled users with poor eyesight

Home and Leisure topic ideas:

  • The impact of software / music / film piracy

Politics & Government topic ideas

  • The impacts of open government sites on service provision
  • The use of online technology for election campaigning

Examples of bad ITGS extended essay topics

I advise my students to avoid the following topics because they are either totally unsuitable to an ITGS extended essay, or because they typically lead to low quality essays being produced.
  • "Laptops in schools", "Facebook in schools", or similar. Often these topics are chosen by students looking for an "easy" option. However, in my experience the students will struggle to find reliable research relating to these topics - a lot of information out there is vague and anecdotal and students will struggle to come to any meaningful conclusion. In these cases students also frequently try to interview their friends as primary sources - a sure path to disaster.
  • Any topic where primary research cannot be performed.  While "Robotics in medicine" might interest a student, finding a doctor who uses robots and is willing to be interviewed is difficult. The same applies to "Computers in space", "smart homes", and many more ITGS topics. If you cannot find primary research sources, you can't do the topic - it's that simple.
  • Topics about IT products (e.g. "New iPad released", "Faster graphics card released"). The social impact of these is minimal.
  • Topics about things which haven't happened yet or have only just happened. How can you find examples if something hasn't happened yet? (E.g: new nano-computers to be released, Saudi Arabia will monitor Blackberry use, Google will release new Google Glasses)

Focusing the Extended Essay Research Question

Extended Essay research question The EE title needs to be accompanied by an Extended Essay Research Question (RQ). Students often think that 4000 words is a lot (it isn't!) and subsequently write a very broad research question that addresses a wide range of technologies, people, or areas. Instead students should narrow down their question and use their 4000 words to reach the appropriate level of depth and detail.

Examples which are too broad

  1. The effects of e-waste
  2. Social media and business

Better examples

  1. An evaluation of the e-waste policies of small businesses in El Salvador
  2. The effectiveness of social media for customer relations in the hotel industry in El Salvador
Notice how the better examples all refer to a specific stakeholder or small group of stakeholders rather than "people", "businesses", or other broad group. Equally the technology which is the focus of the EE is clearly stated, and the aspect which will be investigated ("evaluation of policies", "effectiveness of social media for customer relations").

ITGS Extended Essay Checklist

The following is an initial checklist to see if a topic qualifies for an ITGS extended essay:
  1. Are you able to reference social impacts and ethical issue(s)?
  2. Are these issues and impacts caused by information technology?
  3. Do you have sufficient, reliable sources to support these issues and impacts?
  4. Are you able to find expert stakeholders to perform quality primary research?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, you may need to think of a different topic.