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Research Process

Background Research

Background Research is the KEY to giving you a better understanding of your topic. 


This is the initial stage of research and is VITAL to gain fuller understanding of the different directions your initial idea could take you in. 


It will help you discover what is generally known about your topic and help you refine the ideas you have to help make your perspective more unique. 

Why is this Important?   

The key words will help find relevant information faster. Key words can be searched using indexes in books or online search engines and databases. 


Once you have your general topic: 

  • Write a sentence or two about your topic 

  • Underline the key words in your sentence(s)  

  • Create a list for these key words  

  • Add more by writing down synonyms 


Example: Video Games 

Sentence: I want to investigate the idea that video games makes children and young people more violent 

Keywords, Synonyms & Related Terms: 



Further Example: 

Research Question: What impact does public healthcare have on low income households in the United States compared to those in Canada? 




popular, general, common, communal, collective, shared, joint, universal, widespread 


Health management, wellness program, health maintenance, health protection, preventive medicine, primary care 

Low income 

Underprivileged, poor, needy, impoverished, indigent 


Domestic establishment, home, family home 

United States 

US, USA, America, The States 



Encyclopedia - Skim encyclopedia articles on the key words.  


Google Use key words to search online for general information. 


Books Skim over the introduction and table of contents of a book pertaining to the topic. 


As you get an overview of the general topic, start to ask questions that you want to get answers for. This will help to further narrow your topic and help with the research process. 


Screenshot of Search Results: 




A literature review is a summative evaluation of what has already been written (or said) about a given topic 



To better understand the topic, make links between your ideas/methods and those of others, consider whether your ideas challenge or support existing consensus, situate your views within context of existing viewpoints, track any major trends/patterns in terms of interpretation, allow you to identify value & limitations of source material 



To successfully tackle your EE your need a link to pre-existing literature, so a literature review forms a foundation & supports the development of your own voice 



You are trying to find out the following 


  • Identify what interpretations exist and if there are any patterns emerging among them 

  • Identify alternatives justifications or judgements 


  • Identify what approaches are best suited or recommended for your chosen topic/area of study 

  • Identify alternative methodological approaches to your topic/area of study 


  • Determine which approach or sources are more reliable 

  • Identify any biases that may have affected the end results 


Use the following questions to help conduct your literature review: 

Arguments What are the main arguments or interpretations to emerge from the literature? 

Themes What are the main themes or areas covered by the literature reviewed? 

Sections What sections (or headings) can I sub-divide my topic into? 

Problems What are the key problems relating to my topic that emerge out of the review that I need to address? 

Consensus What consensus of opinion or comparisons between sources exists? 

Contrast What contrasting opinions exist within the literature reviewed? 

Method How can the chosen theory or model be applied to your investigation? 

Limitations What limitations can be identified in the method chosen or sources selected? 

Adapted from: Lekanides, Kosta. Oxford IB Diploma Programme: Extended Essay Course Companion. Oxford University Press, 2016, pp. 58-60.