Tips for success: How to research your IB History IA


History & Theory of Knowledge

June 9th, 2017

Last updated: June 24th, 2021

Tips for success: How to research your IB History IA

Once you have chosen the topic and question of your History IA, it's time to get researching! In this blog, Anna sets out some top tips on how best to research and record notes. Research in itself is a vitally important skill assessed throughout the IB Diploma - getting this right can mean the difference between a History IA's success and failure.

Choose both primary and secondary sources where and when possible

Try to have at least ten or more different sources. Wikipedia and encyclopedias alone are NEVER appropriate. Choose a range of sources  – these could include some of the following:
  • diaries
  • memoirs
  • academic literature
  • newspaper reports
  • documentaries
  • podcasts
  • E-books
  • E-journals
  • museums
  • interviews
  • websites
and more…  

What about Wikipedia?

Many say don’t, I say use with caution! When you find something from Wikipedia that is useful for your question, instead of taking it directly from the Wikipedia article, scroll down to the footnotes and access the information yourself. Find the link or book and then research it yourself.  

What is citing?

Citing is stating where you got your information from.
  • Without proper citation you will NEVER get full marks for you IA.
  • You will need this information for your footnotes and bibliography later.
It is simply a matter of recording in detail where you got your information from. Many students struggle with this, but it is required for IAs in ALL subjects across the IB DP. It is VERY important to ensure you make notes clearly, and write down where the information is from and sometimes when, if from the internet or an interview.
  • If you are using books or journals you must record the page numbers.
  • If you are using something from the internet you must write the full website address page and the date you accessed it.
  • Bullet point your research as direct quotes or paraphrase.  Be selective - don't copy EVERYTHING!
Examples are below on how to record your notes as you research: Print Book Mansfield, Peter. A History of the Middle East. Revised and updated by Nicholas Pelham. Penguin Group 1992. Page 310
  • As a result of fierce fighting in the years between 1970 and 1973, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was slowly driven out of Jordan and into southern Lebanon
Page 317
  • The third Plan embodied ambitious objectives. It included the complete expulsion of the PLO, the withdrawal of Syrian forces
Website Furuya, Daisuke. "A Historiography in Modern Japan: The Laborious Quest for Identity." Scandia, 2008. Web. 24 Nov. 2015.
  • The Meiji restoration  “served not only to ‘modernize’ Japanese society by appropriating western ways, but at the same [acted] to ‘westernize’ Japanese values”
Newspaper Article „Retter in Seenot” Die Zeit. Inc. 06. Nov. 1987 Web. 26 Oct. 2013
  • Hennemann was known as an eccentric; who thought in extremes. He was able to increase the number of employees from 8000 to 23000 and increase the turnover from 1.5 to 6 billion DM within the first two years.


  • A lot of your research will be carried out online or electronically, so ensure you know how to reference these properly.
  • You must carefully record your findings and back them up.
  • It is very difficult to go back later to find where you gathered the information from.
For further help on how to cite please click here.

More about Anna

Anna qualified as a teacher in History in 2002, and now works as a tutor with Owl Tutors.

Anna is a History teacher living in Germany

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