The World Studies Extended Essay

The extended essay (EE) is a 4000-word essay written in one of the six academic areas of the Diploma Programme. Investigating a topic of special interest in this way promotes the development of higher-level research and writing skills expected at university.

An IB Chemistry teacher may be asked to be supervise a Chemistry extended essay. However, there is another extended essay topic called World Studies (WSEE) which has firmly become a favourite of mine due to the fact that it is an interdisciplinary study related to a global issue. In this interdisciplinary approach students are required to integrate the theories, findings and methods from two or more IB Diploma programme subjects.

The WSEE grew out of the Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Project at Project Zero

In recent years, we have focused on quality interdisciplinary education as a means to nurture global competence or global consciousness – i.e., an individuals’ capacity and disposition to understand and act on matters of global significance . . . For example, in collaboration with the International Baccalaureate, our recent study of student-led interdisciplinary research on matters of global and local significance enabled us to identify learning challenges unique to interdisciplinary work and track global consciousness among students in Kenya, India and the USA. The student-led interdisciplinary research process that we developed-the World Studies Extended Essay. (Project Zero)

In this video Veronica Boix-Mansilla the Principal Investigator of the Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Project speaks to students about the WSEE.


I have had the privilege of working with students integrating science with politics, economics, politics and human rights. The value of this type of research is not only in the interdisciplinary connections, but in the strong links made to international mindedness, theory of knowledge, and the nature of science, as evident in their abstracts.

Chemistry and Economics

This paper attempts to answer the question, “To what extent is there a correlation between high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in the diet and obesity, and how has this correlation contributed to market failure in the United States’ and Mexican economies?” Investigation of the HFCS-obesity link and its corresponding market failure sheds light on the role of scientific knowledge in developing the understanding of the economic costs of obesity to society.

An initial literature review of the obesity epidemic and the HFCS-obesity hypothesis in the United States and other developing countries was conducted in order to understand the gravity of the obesity issue and set a context for investigation. Economic research revealed the medical costs and productivity costs associated with obesity, demonstrating the existence of a negative-externalities market failure caused by obesity. Because this economic theory requires the negative externalities to arise from a specific commodity, the HFCS factor was introduced to the market failure model. To determine the validity of this model, scientific research based on the discrete metabolic pathways of glucose and fructose, the two main chemical constituents of HFCS and sucrose, was examined.

This investigation concluded that attributing obesity’s market failure to HFCS as the economic commodity that produced the externalities may not be valid. Scientific research did not fully support the notion that consumption of HFCS leads to excessive weight gain or obesity. Despite this, however, the costs associated with obesity, and consequently the national and global impact of these costs, cannot be neglected, as observed through their implications for the American and Mexican economies. Furthermore, the research revealed the multifaceted and complex nature of obesity as a growing international matter of society. (Heidi)

Biology and Human Rights

The purpose of this essay is to answer, “To What Extent do Biological Factors and Human Rights Affect Maternal Mortality in South Africa and Canada?” The investigation of this topic presents an understanding of the global issues regarding maternal mortality in the context of biological factors and human rights specifically in South Africa and Canada.  Under human rights, this paper specifically looks at universal rights versus cultural relativism and its effects on maternal mortality.  Under biology, the effects of HIV/AIDS and the age of mothers at time of birth on maternal mortality are explored.   Investigating these aspects of biology and human rights will reveal the underlying causes of maternal mortality and how it can be reduced.

Research was carried out in three methods: an examination of health policies, studies of literature involving the issue of maternal mortality in South Africa and Canada, as well as an analysis of the constitutions of both countries.  Through the process of writing this essay, I have learnt that maternal mortality is not simply based on a cause-and-effect relationship between the issue and biology or human rights.  The issue of maternal mortality around the world stems beyond these two factors, and is affected by systemic components such as culture, government policies with respect to health care, and approaches to human rights.

The research concludes that the human rights policies that affect the causes of maternal mortality in South Africa and Canada has affected these rates, causing it to be higher in South Africa than in Canada.  On a global scale, closing the gaps between government policies and constitutions in theory and practice can decrease maternal mortality rates. By doing so, women will have increased access to health care and education, both of which could strengthen maternal health. (Helena)

Biology and Politics

This essay investigates the question “To what extent did politics have an impact on stem cell research in South Korea and in United States of America between 2001 and 2009?” To effectively answer this question the paper identifies the difference in politics between the two countries and makes correlation between each country’s trend in stem cell research breakthroughs and each country’s politics surrounding stem cell research at the time.

Stem cell was a well-known biological discovery that aroused global attention, because of its potential to cure various illnesses. However because of moral issues pertaining it, different governments around the world have taken different stances on the stem cell research and proposed varying government regulations that either halted or furthered the research. This case with the stem cell research showed how science is getting increasingly dependent on the decision of the government and the politics of the time. So the two disciplines that previously seemed unassociated: politics and biology, were used to investigate how the politics surrounding stem cell research in South Korea and America differed and how this difference had impacted stem cell research progress differently in the two countries between 2001 and 2009.

Analysis of different party system, religious influence and conflicts involved in politics of two countries has shown that the main difference between the two countries’ politics was the level of stem cell research’s involvement in politics. Through the essay the correlation have been made that deep involvement of stem cell research in politics was associated with downward trend in progress stem cell research and shallow involvement with constant upward trend in progress. This correlation indicated that politics has had impact on stem cell research in America to great extent whereas only to small extent in South Korea. (Hae Min)

Biology and Literature

This paper aims to answer the question “How has the literature of the twentieth century reflected the impact of medical advancements on the social inclusion of people with Down Syndrome?” The investigation of the Down Syndrome case study provides insight into the effect that scientific advancement and information have on promoting the social inclusion of stigmatised people.

Research was carried out using the disciplines of Biology and Literature to analyse primary and secondary sources from three different time periods within the twentieth century. The biological advancements in the field of genetics were collated with medical and academic publications from their respective time periods. These were then compared with a literary analysis of works written or set in these same time periods. Literary elements such as implication and characterisation were used to determine a relative qualitative change in esteem for people with Down Syndrome.

Through this essay, I have determined a correlation between the advancement of genetics and social acceptance of Down’s patients. As major developments were made in scientists’ understanding of human genes, there was a subsequent decrease in the negative implications of the language of medical and academic publications. Similar patterns were revealed in the characterisation of Down’s patients in literature. Again, an understanding of the science behind the disease improved society’s view of people with Down Syndrome. Although limited, in that only one case study is examined, the correlation between information and social inclusion has implications on a global scale. The research conducted for this paper has shown that information is a viable method by which to improve the situations of stigmatised people around the world. (Tim)

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