Visual arts

Visual Arts class

Extended essay


Absolute reliance on textbooks and the Internet is discouraged and no extended essay in visual arts should be based exclusively on such sources. Textbooks should be consulted only insofar as they may stimulate original ideas, provide models of disciplined, structured and informed approaches, and encourage direct and personal involvement with the essay topic.

Choice of topic

“How did Wassily Kandinsky use colour?” is better than “The Bauhaus”.

  • “What is the artistic significance of recent poles raised by the First Nations of Haida-Gwai?” is better than “The art of Native North American people”.
  • “Robert Ntila’s etching techniques: a critical investigation” is better than “Contemporary East Africanart”.

Topic – Research question – Approach

It is essential that the topic chosen is clearly and directly related to visual arts. If the connection is only incidental, students risk introducing material that is of only marginal relevance, and will confuse the inquiry and weaken the argument. Students should be encouraged to formulate a research question of personal interest and to draw on a variety of sources to support their arguments, such as textual analysis, study of original artworks or designed artifacts, and interviews with practitioners or authorities on the subject. Students should be helped to identify and choose appropriate sources, both primary and secondary, and appropriate methods of research. Research questions that do not allow a systematic investigation that demonstrates critical artistic analysis and detailed understanding are unlikely to be suitable. In some instances, it may become clear at an early stage in the research that too few sources are available to permit such an investigation. In such cases, a change of focus should be made.

The inclusion and discussion of appropriate visual reference material is of particular importance in visual arts extended essays. Such material must, however, be directly supportive of, and relevant to, the analysis/argument. It should be neatly presented, properly acknowledged, and should appear in the body of the essay, as close as possible to the first reference.

In order to promote personal involvement in the extended essay, the use of local and/or primary sources should be encouraged wherever possible. However, it is appreciated that, in certain situations, students may not necessarily have access to primary sources. In such situations, reproductions, videos, films or photographs/Internet images of a high quality are considered acceptable sources. An argument should be well substantiated, with comments and conclusions supported by evidence that is relevant and well founded, not based simply on the student’s preconceptions.

Students are expected to evaluate critically the resources consulted during the process of writing the essay by asking themselves the following questions.

  • Which sources do not contribute to the analysis?
  • use of primary sources (artwork and artists) and secondary sources (material about the visual arts)in order to establish and appraise varying interpretations
  • using primary source material for an analysis, with emphasis on a particular aspect of visual arts
  • Students should also demonstrate awareness of other issues surrounding the art studied.
  • Do I show a consistently good artistic understanding in setting the research question into context and addressing it fully and effectively?
  • With what evidence do I support my comments and conclusions?
  • Finally, an extended essay in visual arts is a formal essay, so students must pay very careful attention to the requirements of the assessment criteria.
Extended essay guide; 2007

3 thoughts on “Extended essay

  1. prateen doshi on said:

    i am doing myy extended essay in visual arts on M F HUSSAIN. please can someone guide me with the research question…. its very urgent please.

    • The research question should give you a chance to demonstrate critical analysis – as it is written in the EE guide. In Criterion A it is written that RQ should be “specific and sharply focused; appropriate to the visual arts and not of a trivial nature; centred on the visual arts and not on peripheral issues such as biography.” According to your theme M.F.Hussain be careful with biographical facts. I did not know much about M.F.Hussain, therefore I had googled his name and found out that he was known as “Picasso of India”. I wondered why – was that because of his style, themes or fame? That can be an approach to your research. Is it possible to write about M.F. Hussain through comparison with P. Picasso? I hope that I helped a bit.

  2. prateen doshi on said:

    m extremely grateful to you, thank you for your help and not a bit but u helped more than enough by giving me this idea:)

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