How to write an outstanding Psychology IA as part of your IB


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March 27th, 2020

Last updated: July 26th, 2021

How to write an outstanding Psychology IA as part of your IB

In this blog Sobia gives a run down of they key essentials in planning and beginning to write your Psychology IA, a crucial part of your overall Psychology IB grade.

The IA is an important part of your overall Psychology IB grade. It is 25% at SL and 20% at HL. The IA is something that it is good to get to work on as early as possible, otherwise it can end up hanging over you while your exam dates loom ever closer. With some good preparation you can begin laying the groundwork for a fantastic IA early on. Remember, the sooner you start, the sooner you can get useful feedback on it. The key is: a section at a time!

Picking a topic of interest

Firstly, you will need to find a topic that interests you and then look at related research. You can get a few ideas from your course, or by a quick google of popular IB Psychology experiments. You will be more or less replicating a study, but with your own variation on it. This does not mean you need to come up with something hugely original. It is more important that you conduct it in a scientific way. It should have a solid design and demonstrate your understanding of the topic and research question.

Define your aim

Define very early on, what the aim of your study is; in deciding your aim and then developing your study you will be drawing on this previous research. For example, if the study you are replicating is Loftus and Palmer’s 1974 study on eyewitness testimony (a popular one), your aim could be to look at the effect of changing a particular word, on memory of an event.

Identify your research area

You should be clear on the psychological area in which your study is located. For example, is it memory, learning, social identity theory etc. Memory and learning often provide good material that is free of ethical issues. And again, remember, that although you may come up with some fascinating and bizarre ideas for an IA, now is perhaps not the time to, for example, do an experiment on pain thresholds in your fellow students, or to test how easily they are scared by a staged robbery…We are after clarity and a robust design!

Narrow down the topic

What is the topic of the study? E.g. within memory it could be schema’s, or eyewitness testimony. You will be including a brief discussion of the topic in your introduction. The introduction is crucial as it sets the tone of your study, and it is also something you can begin on early.

Study the background material

You will need to consider background material. What are two or three relevant studies in this area, which are directly relevant to your own research question? E.g. for eyewitness testimony it might be Loftus and Palmer (1979), Loftus and Zanni (1975) or even Bartlett’s 1932 War of the Ghosts study on reconstructive memory!

Develop your research question

Now you are ready to more clearly formulate your own research question. What is the question that you want to investigate and why? (Your justification for choosing this question in particular is important, so start thinking about this early on).

Choose your methodology

How will you go about investigating this research question? In other words, what will be your methodology?

Define your hypotheses

What is your research hypothesis and your null hypothesis? (By definition you should at this stage, know your independent variable and dependent variable - that is, the thing you are changing and the thing you are measuring!)

Operationalise your variables

How will you operationalise your variables? This means putting them in a form that can be measured and quantified. e.g. if your variable is memory, your operationalisation of it might be score in a memory test.

Consider your research design

Some anticipation of your design should take place when you have thought about your research question. Do you know roughly which design will be best for your research question (independent measures, matched pairs etc.)? If the above is all clear, you are now ready to move onto further planning. The next article will look at research design.          

More about Sobia

Sobia qualified as a teacher in Science in 2002, and now works as a tutor with Owl Tutors.

Sobia has done a lot! She initially trained to be a doctor, before switching to working as a Science teacher. She has since taught for over ten years, and found time to complete a PhD in English along the way. She currently teaches and tutors in between her own writing.

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