Open Source as an IB Extended Essay topic

I just came back home from the IB Extended Essay presentation, and the one thing that struck me was how many people presented on the history of their country of origin. I'd estimate that three-fourths of the candidates wrote their EE on history and one-fourth on a literary topic. Probably several discussed an art-related topic, only one person (as far as I know) wrote the EE on technology (ITGS), and nobody did anything on physics or math.

Do English and history really interest so many people, or did they choose it mainly for safety in numbers? (Or because O'Byrne discouraged people from doing anything but those subjects?) I searched online for people who had chosen the sciences: math, physics or ITGS (which, since the course focuses on society so much, doesn't seem like a science at first, but at least it's grounded in computer science).

Searching with Google for "ib extended essay math" returns two promising results. The first is an IB EE topic discussion thread. Posts 43 and 44 (search the page for "#43") discuss math as an EE topic. One of the students was going to use game theory as a topic but "my supervisor told me that i couldnt expect the examiner to know anything at all about game theory." So clearly we're very limited by the readers' knowledge—game theory is not an obscure branch of mathematics by any means, so if we do math we'll probably have to either stick to the basics or explain all the more advanced concepts in painstaking detail.

The second good result was someone who had published their math/physics paper on juggling online. The paper seems pretty interesting (I only skimmed it) and the author makes moderate use of equations around the end of the paper, contrary to my expectation that the paper would be almost completely prose. Of course, the paper didn't necessarily get a good score, but at least something like this has been done and the evidence is there for us to see.

Finally, I searched around for a topic more in my area of computer science. During the presentations, I was thinking about some topics I could use in the technology area. For example, I liked the idea of doing something about how the open-source development model has influenced corporate software development, or the growing role of open-source software in society (yes, that's vague, but these are only ideas from off the top of my head). So I searched for "ib extended essay itgs open source" and I got only one relevant result: a (seemingly) official IB ITGS document that, on page 113, gave a sample prompt ("intended for guidance only"): "How Open Source software has led to improved corporate networking." To clarify, corporate networking is intended in the sense of "LinkedIn," and not in the sense of "enterprise networking with Cisco."

So I rephrased the query to "ib extended essay itgs +linux," for which I got a great result: a paper about Free-Libre Open Source Software and its future in K-12 education. This paper is really in-depth and well-researched; it even includes surveys of school sysadmins from around the world.

Anyway, I wanted to be sure that not doing an English or history paper for the IB Extended Essay was viable and proven, and it seems like it's does have some precedent. Although even if there was no precedent, I would probably still do something on ITGS, since I just can't bring myself to be passionate about history, and at best I can only be somewhat enthusiastic about English.


Mildawg said...

I think Aleksey was considering such a topic on his blog, but then decided to focus more on a historial context. ecided to focus more on a historial context.
Thanks for doing the research in the subjects I'm interested in! [;
Otherwise, I suggest going for it. I'm sure you're articulate enough to pull it off, and as they said, doing something that you're passionate about will help motivate you and thus bring about a better paper/

Aleksey said...

I was indeed. I actually wanted to do a piece on history and I guess I still have to write my EE... oops?

IB considers ITGS a social science (put "ITGS" in a wiki search and see where it forwards). Group 4 topics are experimental sciences, and you're going to be doing a project later this year which will supposedly mesh chem/bio/physics students in one group. Group 5 topics are Computer Science and Math, but there are little to no computer science options for IB.

Your EE has to be about specific criteria. I think they are in OB's pickup folder at school. There's a PDF that lists all the grading scales for each of the EE topics that you can write about.

Don't assume your grader's first language will be English, much less assume they know about game theory or whatever. They will have enough background and training that they will be able to grade your EE on what you write about, if you do it properly. If you're going to pick a topic, I would suggest ITGS, because it's a social science (i.e. history) topic grounded in IT, and there are teachers who can help.

However, we're all highly capable students, so if you can get a student to read your paper you will get the same results as with a teacher (teachers mostly look for staying within the criteria).

Before you choose your topic ask OB for that criteria list (or ask him where it is in his pickup folders) and then read it over and see what would you be able to comply to best.

Mary said...

True, there were a lot of History/English ones
It seems easier to write a "Paper" on...I can't really imagine something on math, science....

I'm also considering doing ITGS, but that would mean taking the class next year xD

Otherwise, I'll stick to something safe (probably english...)

Dee said...

Thanks for this blog. I wouldn't have found the link to that paper on open source in schools if you hadn't written this.

I'm currently doing my paper on open source vs closed source in businesses and that paper gave me a general grasp of what they were looking for since my ITGS teacher hasn't been able to be much help due to his lack of knowledge in the subject (he's a nice guy though and he really tries to work with you).

Phil the essay topic guy said...

I guess this goes to show how many people actually come from different countries. This is awesome.

It also probably shows a degree of nostalgia :)