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History Ia Sample Essay Outline

Section 2: Investigation

This section of the internal assessment task consists of the actual investigation. The internal assessment task provides scope for a wide variety of different types of historical investigation, for example:
  • An historical topic or theme using a variety of written sources or a variety of written and non-written sources
  • An historical topic based on fieldwork, for example, a museum, archeological site, battlefields, places of worship such as mosques or churches, historic buildings
  • A local history study.
The investigation must be clearly and effectively organised. While there is no prescribed format for how this section must be structured, it must contain critical analysis that is focused clearly on the question being investigated, and must also include the conclusion that the student draws from their analysis. In this section, you must use a range of evidence to support your argument. Please note that you can use primary sources, secondary sources, or a mixture of the two.

Assessment Criteria for Section 2

Section 2, the ‘Investigation’, consists of the actual historical inquiry. This section closely resembles a traditional research essay. Your task is to construct a clear, well-structured, logical and analytical response to your research question.
  • Recommended word allocation: 1300 words.
  • Maximum amount of marks that can be awarded: 15 out of 25 total marks, so this section counts for the bulk of your mark.

Carefully read the assessment criteria below:
 0    The work does not reach a standard described by the descriptors below.

  • The investigation lacks clarity and coherence, and is poorly organized.  Where there is a recognizable structure there is minimal focus on the task.
  • The response contains little or no critical analysis.
  • It may consist mostly of generalizations and poorly substantiated assertions.
  • Reference is made to evidence from sources, but there is no analysis of that evidence.

  •  There is an attempt to organize the investigation but this is only partially successful, and the investigation lacks clarity and coherence.
  • The investigation contains some limited critical analysis but the response is primarily narrative/descriptive in nature, rather than analytical.
  • Evidence from sources is included, but is not integrated into the analysis/argument.

  • The investigation is generally clear and well organized, but there is some repetition or lack of clarity in places.
  • The response moves beyond description to include some analysis or critical commentary, but this is not sustained.
  • There is an attempt to integrate evidence from sources with the analysis/argument.
  • There may be awareness of different perspectives, but these perspectives are not evaluated.

  • The investigation is generally clear and well organized, although there may be some repetition or lack of clarity in places.
  • The investigation contains critical analysis, although this analysis may lack development or clarity.
  • Evidence from a range of sources is used to support the argument.
  • There is awareness and some evaluation of different perspectives. The investigation argues to a reasoned conclusion.

  • The investigation is clear, coherent and effectively organized.
  • The investigation contains well-developed critical analysis that is focused clearly on the stated question.
  • Evidence from a range of sources is used effectively to support the argument.
  • There is evaluation of different perspectives.
  • The investigation argues to a reasoned conclusion that is consistent with the evidence and arguments provided.

  • Writing is CLEAR (language must be tight)and COHERENT (well-reasoned)
  • You have used LOGICAL, TIGHT structure that advances the investigation toward your conclusion
  • You have conducted ON-GOING CRITICAL ANALYSIS of the topic (investigation) and your sources
  • The investigation (essay) is FOCUSED on the RESEARCH QUESTION (not a wandering undisciplined discussion)
  • Evidence from a RANGE of sources has been USED [this requires more than name dropping, or the insertion of convenient quotes, you need to CRITICALLY ANALYSE all sources, demonstrating HOW they support the argument you are making.]
  • You have included varying PERSPECTIVES - ie. different schools of historical thought, different time periods/contexts.
  • Your essay has built toward a reasoned and well-argued, well-evidenced CONCLUSION.

Steps in writing the Investigation

Structuring the Essay 
Critically analyse the research question using evidence and perspectives.
  • Provide a couple of sentences of context that introduce the reader to the content of the investigation. 
  • Itemise the main issues that will be addressed in each of the main body paragraphs to follow. Introduce areas of contestation that the essay will address. 
  •  Give a sense of the main argument or the thesis that you will develop throughout the essay.
Main body paragraphs:
  • Each aspect of the response should be developed in a paragraph. Conventionally there will be three or four aspects/main body paragraphs
  • Each aspect should be introduced through a topic sentence. 
  • It should be explained using historical evidence. The more specific the detail the better. 
  • Sophisticated responses will refer to perspectives and show developed understandings of schools of thought that are relevant to the research question. 
Conclusion: (see step 4)

Examples of Critical Analysis in Essays
The following are samples of student work that show how to critically analyse source material and evidence to show you are “evaluating”, “analysing” and “contesting” in History.
Question: How accurate is Orwell in portraying Stalin’s First Five Year Plan in Animal Farm?
Within Animal Farm Napoleon and Squealer[1] often utilise rhetoric and the creation of state enemies to explain the shortfalls of the construction of the windmill, similar to the reality in the USSR. They forced a number of animals to confess ‘crimes’ they committed, and “[the dogs] promptly tore their throats out”[2] in punishment.  This closely resembles the techniques of Stalin to rationalise the failures of the First Five Year Plan, with the most common justification being the emergence of “wreckers and opportunists trying to sabotage the Soviet economy”.[3] In this instance, Orwell is able to accurately show the “darker face”[4] of the USSR and reveal the brutal methods used to achieve their economic targets. In some instances, Soviet propaganda was simply directed to state the opposite to reality, and proclaim that targets had been met and living standards had increased – Extract B demonstrates this to great effect. The First Five year Plan is depicted as crushing capitalism and highlights the greatness of communism – yet the economic plan required “substantial involuntary sacrifices of living standards”[5] for very little actual gain, which Soviet propaganda tried to ignore (as in Extract B). This is similar to the pig Squealer and his continual efforts to persuade the other animals of their high living standards. Orwell himself admitted that he was not able to obtain primary sources of information from the USSR, which impedes his ability to accurately discern between myth and reality in terms of Soviet industrial output and the true conditions of the workers. It leaves him open to criticism that he has “stereotyped ideas about [the USSR]”[6]. However this statement may be too harsh, as Orwell does make generally correct assumptions about the effects of the First Five Year Plan.

  1. Representations of Stalin and the Soviet propaganda machine respectively
  2. Orwell 56.
  3. Schwartz 120.
  4. Bradbury.
  5. Fitzpatrick 4.
  6. Soules, George. "In 1946, The New Republic Panned George Orwell's 'Animal Farm'" New Republic, 26 Sept. 2013. Web. 02 Jan. 2014

Question: To what extent was the religious zeal of witch hunters the principle reason why women were targeted as ‘witches’ in Germany from the 1580’s to the 1630’s?
Anti-social women were seen as suspicious characters when targeting witches, as well. This was because of the idea that, because witchcraft was seen as an ultimate act of un-Christian or non-religious behaviour, Satan had bestowed upon them the Devil’s Mark “in contrast to the holy baptism”[1] which would lead to their loss of faith. Wulpurga Hausmännin, a German ‘witch’ in the 1580’s, was said to have surrendered herself to the Devil and in return received a Devil’s Mark just below her left shoulder in order to serve as a reminder of the contract she had created with Satan[2]. Hausmännin claimed that this mark is what “prevented her from thinking of God or attending church, actions that might have freed her from his grasp”[3]. Being a witch and displaying this kind of behaviour became automatically suspicious to villagers and witch hunters because of how strongly they were affiliated with their religion and witchcraft was seen as a demonised and un-Christian action.

  1. Ben-Yehuda 6
  2. Barstow 17
  3. Barstow 17
Tips on writing a good conclusion
  • Approximate word count for a conclusion: There is no clear rule about this, but try to get between 50-150 words, to ensure a few things:
    • That your conclusion is not a huge paragraph of new material that should have been in your body paragraphs.
    • That you allow yourself enough scope to weigh the arguments you posed and evaluated in your investigation and reach a reasoned conclusion.
  • Here you draw the ideas and information together. Many essay topics offer a quote to ask you to make a judgement, so this is where you do that (as long as it flows from the body of your essay.
    • The question often uses phrases like: “How far do you agree that...”, “To what extent is it  true/accurate….”, “evaluate the accuracy of…”
  • This means that you are deliberately re-stating the contention of your investigation (your ‘answer’ to the research question you made), and re-summarising the arguments you made in each body paragraph to discuss the question. You must do this in your conclusion just like you did in your introduction.
  • A good way to ensure that you remain relevant to the ends is to make your final statement a further reworking of the question:
    • e.g. “While economic factors definitely influenced the crisis, it was clearly the political considerations which were at the base of the events which unfolded in.”
  • You need to ensure that you are using a ‘concluding tone’, which means that you are using words and phrases like:
    • E.g: “Therefore there were many factors that contributed to the making of a revolutionary situation in Russia by February 1917…”
  • The writing will be in past tense, and talk about the rest of the essay’s content as though it has already been discussed (which it should be :) )

The following information applies to the new Internal Assessment which will be submitted for the first time by students taking examinations in May 2017.

The Internal Assessment is an individual project of 2,200 words maximum.

It is a chance to study a topic that interests you which is not covered by the syllabus.
It can cover any historical topic of your choice.
The mark awarded for the study accounts for 20% of the final grade for Higher Level students, and 25% for Standard Level students.
It is marked by the history teacher within the school but is subject to moderation by the IB board.

Click on the following headings to get guidance in choosing a question and writing your study.
There are also exemplar studies for download from students at the International School of Toulouse and elsewhere which were graded in the top level.

I have also produced useful video: "Google Books for Student Research: 3 minute guide"

The first draft of the study is submitted in the first week of September and is used (along with Summer Examination results and prior classwork and homework) to help the teacher to decide upon a predicted grade for students' university applications. In the case of "borderline" students only, the teacher may agree to increase the predicted grade by one point if the candidate's final draft, submitted at the end of September, reaches a sufficiently high mark.
You should download and read this Timetable and Procedures for the History Internal Assessment.

You will have to complete this Initial Proposal Sheet and hand it to your teacher.

Start by considering if there is a period / place / person / issue in history that would like to investigate further. Maybe this is something you have read a little about, watched a film about or are interested in from your other studies / hobbies. The only strict rule is that anything that happened in the past 20 years is not allowed.

The three main focuses of study tend to be focused on

  • EITHER Causes of an event / situation;
  • OR Consequences of an event / situation
  • OR Relevance of particular evidence about an event / situation (e.g. a painting, novel, film, biography).

The following resources may help you in your quest for a topic:

Online archives:

Other resources:

  • History Department Magazine collection
  • History Department DVD collection

Once you have settled upon a topic, you have to then turn this into a question - a problem that your study will solve, in other words.

The following table could help you get started

To what extent was...[Event]

responsible for...

the most important result of...
How useful is...the Novel...
the Album...
oral testimony...
the painting...
the film...
for a historical investigation of...
How successful / significant was...[Individual] (e.g. politician / sportsperson / entertainer / film director / etc)in the context of...

The following list of past Internal Assessment questions from IST will also be helpful:

  • "Evidence based"
    • What are the values and limitations of the PC game 'Company of Heroes' to the Historian studying D-Day?
    • What are the values and limitations of the film "Amistad" to the historian studying the transatlantic slave trade?
    • How accurate is the depiction of the 'White Rose' in the film 'Sophie Scholl - The Final Days'?
    • How useful is "The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole" for an investigation of Thatcher's first administration?
    • How useful are declassified documents t for an investigation of the treatment of the Jewish Population of Vichy France?
    • To what extent are photographic sources of the Vietnam War more useful to the historian than written accounts?
    • How useful are visual sources in knowing what really happened during the 1984-5 miners' strike?
  • "Event based"
    • How representative is the My Lai massacre as evidence of American Experience in Vietnam?
    • To what extent was the Jewish State of Israel established through means of terrorism?
    • To what extent was the bombing of Dresden a necessary act of war?
    • How was the visual image manipulated in Stalin's USSR?
    • What was the Significance of the Gulf of Tonkin Incident in terms of American Involvement in the Vietnam War?
    • Why was the transatlantic slave trade abolished?
    • Did Hitler really snub Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics?
    • To what extent were the student riots of the 1980s in Korea the result of the policies of President Park?
    • Is the Italian liberation still celebrated today as it was in 1945?
  • "People based"
    • What is the Historical Significance of the Roman Emperor Nero?
    • Why was Fidel Castro able to take power in Cuba?
    • Assess the accuracy with which the life and career of Rosa Parks has been depicted by commentators and historians.
    • How typical were the motives of Count Raymond IV of Toulouse for going on The Crusade?
    • What was the historical significance of the sporting career of Muhammad Ali?

You will be required to identify THREE articles/books and TWO websites that will form the basis of your study. To help you find the books/articles, use these

You are now ready to complete the Initial Proposal Sheet and hand it to your teacher.

Make sure that this is a detailed, considered proposal. A superficial proposal could lead to the proposal being declined and the teacher imposing a title of their choice upon you instead.

You are now ready to start work on the study itself.

Start by downloading this Markscheme and Guidance for Students document. It makes a lot of sense to tackle each section separately.
Stick carefully to the word count!

Here are a selection of studies from the International School of Toulouse that were graded highly in May 2017 (marks shown are those awarded after moderation by the IBO).


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