World History


Then Again




The Extended Essay



I. The 5-Paragraph Essay

One way of presenting an historical argument you should be familiar with is the basic 5 paragraph argumentative essay. In that form of expository writing the object is to prove a statement, called the thesis, is true. This is done by arranging evidence in a persuasive manner, usually in the form of 3 paragraphs each of which take up a different aspect of the topic. Each of the topic sentences gives a reason for believing the thesis is true. The essay ends with a concluding paragraph in which the thesis is re-stated and the argument is summarized.

This is a very simple form. It can be outlined as follows:

  • I. Introduction and thesis statement
  • II. Body
    • A. First Point and evidence
    • B. Second point and evidence
    • C. Third Point and evidence
  • III. Conclusion

The extended essay follows this basic form, but because of its length the structure is more complex and the organizational problems are more demanding.

II. The Extended Essay

When writing an extended essay, one of more than 2,000 words, the problems of communicating your ideas to the reader become more difficult to solve. Some of the most common problems are:

    A. The amount of material

Because of the length of the essay and because of the length of time you have been researching this paper, you have accumulated at lot of material on which to base your essay. There is a very strong temptation to include material which is not relevant to your thesis. It is therefore imperative that you have a well-stated thesis and that you arrange everything in your essay to support that thesis. Eliminate everything irrelevant no matter how interesting or how hard you had to work to find it.

    B. Background material

Because these essays tend to more specialized than the 5-paragraph argumentative essays you are used to writing, your reader is going to know less about the topic. Therefore, you need to supply the reader with more background information. Since you can only assume your reader has a general knowledge of the subject, you have to provide the reader in a timely fashion all of the information needed to understand your argument. This problem has two aspects.

First, what background material should you supply? This is a matter of judgment and depends on who your audience is. In this context, you should assume that your audience is the rest of the class. When you write the essay be sure you supply all of the information needed to make the argument understandable to your classmates. One way of approaching this is to assume they knew as much about the topic as you did before you began your research.

Second, when should you supply this material? There are two basic strategies. One is to provide the information early in the essay, usually just after the introduction all in one lump. You might do this with a biographical sketch, for example. This has the advantage of getting the problem out of the way, but has the disadvantage of obscuring the structure of your argument. The other method is to provide the background information in the body of the essay as it is needed. You might, for example, mention various facts about the subject's life at various points throughout the essay. This has the advantage of not obscuring your argument, but it is often difficult to do smoothly and efficiently. It is often the case that one point depends on information supplied elsewhere in the essay. You have to make sure that your points are made in the right order.

    C. Complexity of the argument

Because you have a longer format in which to work, it is possible to make a much more sophisticated and more nuanced argument than you would in the 5-paragraph format. This also raises a number of problems.

First, because the argument is so long, it is often difficult to be consistent. If, for example, your thesis is that Germany was responsible for beginning W.W.I, you can’t in the middle of the essay talk about Russian war guilt. If you want to argue that Russia was also responsible, you have to change your thesis.

Second, it is important to present your argument in the right order. If you are developing a narrative, make sure that you present your material in chronological order. If your are developing an argument, make sure the steps to that argument are presented in a logical order.

III. Structuring the Extended Essay

There are many ways of organizing an extended essay. One of these is to think of the extended essay as being made up of a number of shorter essays. This would give your paper a structure something like this:

    I. Introduction and Thesis Statement.

    II. Background Information.

    III. Sub-Essay One.

      A. Sub-Introduction and Sub-Thesis Statement One
      B. Point One
      C. Point Two
      D. Point Three
      E. Sub-Conclusion One

    IV. Sub-Essay Two.

      A. Sub-Introduction and Sub-Thesis Statement Two
      B. Point Four
      C. Point Five
      D. Point Six
      E. Sub-Conclusion Two

    V. Sub-Essay Three

      A. Sub-Introduction and Sub-Thesis Statement Three
      B. Point Seven
      C. Point Eight
      D. Point Nine
      E. Sub-Conclusion Three

    VI. Conclusion

      A. Re-statement of Thesis
      B. Summary of Argument
      C. Final Thoughts

Another way is to organize the extended essay around a narrative. This is especially useful for biographies or political developments or other cases where the emphasis is change over time. When using a narrative format it is often easy to lose the focus on the thesis. Be sure that the reader understands just what you think is the agent of change.

Of course, it is also possible to combine these formats.

Whatever format you choose: Keep everything focused on the thesis.

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