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Extended Essay: Making meaningful connections

A guide to the research process involved in your EE.

Making meaningful connections

In interdisciplinary research, it is important to integrate ideas, findings, methods or tools from two subjects. Successful interdisciplinary learning experiences yield productive, integrative understandings.

  • Students combine concepts and approaches typically studied in different disciplines.
  • They explain a phenomenon or ask questions that would have been impossible from the perspective of one discipline alone.

Why integration matters

Interdisciplinary research requires students to develop the capacity to make deep and productive connections across subjects. Building interdisciplinary understandings requires more than merely “making connections”. Rather, it demands that students recognize:

  • what kinds of connections they need to pursue
  • why such connections matter for the topic under study.

For students to make careful analyses and meaningful connections, they need to know:

  • how exactly disciplines come together in this research question topic
  • in what ways integrating disciplines contribute to a deeper, more nuanced and complex understanding of the research question/topic.

Successful integration of two or more subjects enables students to reach an understanding that they would not have achieved through single disciplinary means.

(For this 4,000-word essay, it is recommended that no more than two subjects are utilized.)

Focusing on integration involves being able to identify how, exactly, the concepts, methods, tools and genres of the disciplines combine productively. It invites students to ask important questions about what they learn and the subjects they engage with.

  • How are different disciplines related to one another in a study of the selected research area or specific research question?
  • What insights are gained through the combination of perspectives that could not be achieved by considering each discipline in isolation?
  • Why does bringing these particular disciplines together in a study of the topic make sense?

How disciplines combine to produce a deeper understanding

Building integrative understandings invites students to make a variety of cross-disciplinary connections. One consideration is key:

  • Integration must advance understanding of the selected topic in desirable ways.

Integrative understanding is most powerful when it clearly addresses the question posed by the interdisciplinary inquiry. In particular, integration of disciplines should enable the students to achieve the understanding framed within the chosen research topic.

Multiple forms of integration

There are a huge variety of ways in which the disciplines can be brought together meaningfully to address a given question. These fall into four distinct categories:

  • complex integration
  • contextualization
  • transdisciplinary exploration
  • artistic synthesis.

As you read each description and associated example, consider the ways in which each particular form of integration may or may not apply to your students’ EEs.