World Studies & Other Interdisciplinary Studies

What is a World Studies or Other Interdisciplinary Studies Extended Essay?

Interdisciplinary approach

An interdisciplinary extended essay (EE) gives students an opportunity to undertake an in-depth and independent investigation into a topic of their choice that considers the relationship between subjects and allows for meaningful connections to be made in relation to their chosen area of research.

For example, in literature and performance, students focus on the nature of the relationships that occur between a chosen text and its adaptation for performance; in world studies an issue of contemporary global significance is explored through the lenses of two subjects; and in environmental systems and societies the interaction and integration of natural environmental systems and human societies are explored.

Students undertaking one of these options must demonstrate a solid understanding of their area of research, taking a fully integrated approach. This examination must be shown in the form of:

  • a coherently written and structured essay that effectively addresses an area of research, taking an interdisciplinary approach

  • bringing together concepts, methods and approaches from across different subjects

  • the development and exploration of an area of study specifically appropriate to the interdisciplinary choice.The most critical stage in preparing for the EE is the formulation of a logical and coherent rationale for selecting a particular topic for the extended essay, a topic that offers enough scope to provide material for a substantial essay, and the development of ideas around the topic and research question that examine existing views and argue against them.


The aims of the WSEE are to enable students to:

  • frame and understand complex contemporary world problems for in-depth study

  • gather and synthesize insights from two different disciplines to better understand the issue

  • develop global consciousness—a disposition to recognize and understand local and global relationships in dynamic interaction

  • view themselves as interpreters of and actors in an increasingly interconnected world.


Students are encouraged to focus on just one or two contexts in some depth, for example:

  • The student examines two geographical case studies to explore whether religious beliefs affect attitudes towards HIV/AIDS in Oslo and Mombasa.

  • The student examines one or two events to evaluate relief efforts after natural disasters, and suggests ways to make these more responsive.

  • The student examines one or two interventions to investigate what determines the success or failure of sanctions imposed by the United Nations.

Students can refer to other places and events beyond the primary context(s) when relevant to the argument. In fact, the IB encourages this as it displays global consciousness. However, a detailed contextualized study of these additional cases is impossible within the 4,000-word limit.


Primary methods involve analysis of texts, visual sources, paintings, play texts, live performances and personal contacts. In the case of environmental systems and societies essays, students can take a quantitative data analysis approach through collection of data from fieldwork, laboratory experimentations, surveys or interviews.

Secondary methods include the collection of books, newspaper and magazine articles, interviews and websites on the focus of the student’s research. The use of other materials, such as pictures, plans and reviews, is encouraged but should not overwhelm the EE to the detriment of the research discourse.

The method is specifically important to the manner in which the student will analyze their sources against existing knowledge or more specifically knowledge gleaned from IB Coursework.


*courtesy of Nicholas Wellington (THANKS!)

Potential Topics

World Studies EE Supervisors Introduction

Visual ways to look at Interdisciplinary Extended Essays

*Courtesy of Liz Keating (American School of Madrid)

Key Documents

A step by step WSEE Interdisciplinary guide

World Studies EE Guide

World Studies.pdf

World Studies EE Report

World Studies, Subject Report, May 2018.pdf

Useful Documents

Formulating a WS RQ
An introduction in World Studies EEs
How to approach writing a case study research paper


  • Language, culture and identity

  • Science, Technology and society

  • Equality and inequality

  • Conflict, Peace and Security

  • Economic and / or environmental sustainability

  • Health and Development


  • Help “categorise” the essay, but do not necessarily drive its development

  • Help to understand alignment of the topic as an issue of global significance

  • WSEE Themes can be determined at a later stage (after the development of the topic, RQ and interdisciplinary development)

  • WSEE can also be decided before the development of the topic to help generate the issue of global significance and RQ

Best Approach: Global significance - local manifestation

  • Students research an issue of Global Significance, usually at a local or micro level (Case Study approach)

  • In choosing an WSEE, ideally students should start with the “ISSUE” they are interested in.

  • Choose a topic that must invite an interdisciplinary approach

  • For students that can’t identify a clear issue of global significance or concern, you may need to help guide them. SDGs for example are a good way “in”, as are the Global Themes.

  • Students should try to understand the global issue through the local manifestation and in doing so, contribute a little bit of knowledge to a wider ongoing discussion.

  • If using a Case Study approach, ensure the issue is focused on a manageable case study with precise and careful parameters, rather than wider generalisations

  • The topic needs to apply two subjects equally and effectively to ensure an interdisciplinary approach.

*Courtesy of Justyna McMillan, International School Bangkok, IB Coordinator and Dean of Academics, (THANKS)

World Studies and Interdisciplinary Studies Assessment Criteria Explained

World Studies Assessment Criteria Explained
Notes from the WSEE Subject Report May 2018

Potential Questions


*Courtesy of Justyna McMillan (THANKS)


WSEE Stuff you ought to know