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IB Environmental Systems and Societies ESS: Internal Assessment

Use this guide for your IB ESS Internal Assessment

Open Access Databases - Sciences

Recommended Databases for ESS

These are the AES subscription databases and journals that will be most helpful for your research.

Choosing a Topic for Your IA

The process of choosing a good research question usually starts broad and then gets more specific.

Browse first!

  • Consider your syllabus. Is there anything you’ve covered or you’re about to cover that you have questions about?
  • Skim through books and see if anything catches your eye.
  • Look at the topics available in the science databases listed and see if anything is interesting.

Write down a few broad topics that interest you.

From the broad topics, choose one or two. Quickly brainstorm as many questions as you can related to those topics here:


From your long list of questions, choose a few that are the most interesting. (Mark them with a highlighter or *, or cross off the questions that are out of the running.) 


Do some reading.

  • Read some general articles about the questions and topics you are considering. (Wikipedia and Britannica would be good sources for this.)
  • Use what you learn from the reading to add to, subtract from, or modify your list of questions.

Ask yourself:

  • Which of these questions seem manageable?
  • Which could you answer in the time allowed?
  • Which fit into the constraints of what can be done at AES in terms of equipment, ethics, etc.

Cross off any questions you are no longer considering.

Of the topics that are still in the running, brainstorm ways you might find the answer to your questions.

From the IB ESS Guide, some of the possible methodologies include: Values and attitude surveys or questionnaires • Interviews • Issues-based inquiries to inform decision-making • Observational fieldwork (natural experiments) • Field manipulation experiments • Ecosystem modelling (including mesocosms or bottle experiments) • Laboratory work • Models of sustainability • Use of systems diagrams or other valid holistic modelling approaches • Elements of environmental impact assessments • Secondary demographic, development and environmental data • Collection of both qualitative and quantitative data

Some of the possible analytical techniques include: Estimations of NPP/GPP or NSP/GSP • Application of descriptive statistics (measures of spread and average) • Application of inferential statistics (testing of null hypotheses) • Other complex calculations • Cartographic analysis • Use of spreadsheets or databases • Detailed calculations of footprints (including ecological, carbon, water footprints)

Get specific.

  • What information would you need to find to be able to answer the questions? Where might you get that information?
  • What specialized materials might you need to complete this investigation?

Choose your best question.

Word it carefully. Then write it again, changing just one thing. Then write it again, changing it a little more. Circle your best question.

Citations and Notetaking

Open Access Databases - General

These databases provide free full text access to many scholarly sources.



Notecard Template

IB ESS Information

Useful websites for IB ESS

Creative Commons License

This guide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.

Libguide Creator

Linda Hoiseth, MS/HS Librarian

+91 11 2688 8854 Ext: 3358

Twitter: @lhoiseth