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Historical Investigation Details

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IB History


Historical Investigation


Historical Investigation Details

HL 20% SL 25%

The historical investigation is a problem-solving activity that enables students to demonstrate the application of their skills and knowledge to a historical topic that interests them and that need not be related to the syllabus. The internal assessment allows for flexibility and should encourage students to use their own initiative. The emphasis must be on a specific historical inquiry that enables the student to develop and apply the skills of a historian by selecting and analysing a good range of source material and managing diverse interpretations. The activity demands that students search for, select, evaluate and use evidence to reach a relevant conclusion.

^ Examples of the types of investigations are:

• a historical topic or theme using written sources or a variety of sources

• a historical topic based on fieldwork, for example, a museum, archeological site, battlefields, places of worship such as mosques or churches, historic buildings

• a historical problem using documents (this could include newspapers)

• a local history study

• a historical study based on oral interviews

• a historical investigation based on interpreting a novel, film or work of art

• a historical investigation of cultural issues.

Examples of research questions:

  • How accurately can the battle of Teutoburg Forest be reconstructed through archeological fieldwork?

  • In what ways did the guild system affect the development of Norwich?

  • Why was Charlemagne crowned Emperor by the Pope in 800?

  • What were the contributions of Genghis Khan to the rise of Mongol power?

  • Why was the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas important in the medieval Church?

  • In what ways did the New Deal’s Farm Security Administration use photography as propaganda to support its programmes?

  • Why, and with what consequences for its citizens, was Dresden (any affected town could be substituted) bombed in 1945?

  • In what ways did the Chinese communists use the traditional art form of opera to promote their ideology during the Cultural Revolution?

  • To what extent did the experiences of Vietnam veterans in Tulsa, Oklahoma mirror the US public’s overall perception of the war?

  • How did the coverage of the Falklands/Malvinas War differ in the British and Argentine press?

Scope of the historical investigation

Students will be required to:

  • Undertake a historical investigation using a good range of historical sources

  • focus on a topic or event with a cut-off date that is at least 10 years before the submission date for the investigation (therefore, an investigation submitted in 2010 would have a cut-off date of 2000; an investigation submitted in 2016 would have a cut-off date of 2006)

  • provide a title for the historical investigation that should be framed as a question

  • produce a written account of between 1,500 2,000 words for SL and HL, which must consist of:

    • a cover page with student name, number, research question and accurate word count

    • a plan of the historical investigation

    • a summary of evidence

    • an evaluation of sources

    • an analysis

    • a conclusion

    • a list of sources.

The historical investigation will be internally assessed by the teacher and externally moderated by the IB.

Choice of topic

Students should choose their own topic, with the teacher’s guidance and approval. The topic should be

worthwhile and of interest to the student. Teachers must approve the topic for investigation and the research question before work is started. They must ensure that there are sufficient sources to support the investigation, and that it can be assessed by the criteria for internal assessment.

Students must be aware of ethical considerations when undertaking any investigation. They must show sensitivity and respect confidentiality.

Students are required to provide references or acknowledgments for all sources used.

^ The written account

A: Plan of the investigation

Students should:

• state the topic of the investigation, which should be formulated as a question

• define the scope of the investigation

• explain the method of the investigation.

^ B: Summary of evidence

This section should consist of factual material that is:

• drawn from sources that are appropriate for the investigation

• correctly and consistently referenced

• organized thematically or chronologically.

C: Evaluation of sources

  • a critical evaluation of two important sources appropriate to the investigation

  • explicit reference to the origin, purpose, value and limitation of the selected sources.

D: Analysis

  • an analysis that breaks down complex issues in order to bring out the essential elements, any underlying assumptions and any interrelationships involved

  • an understanding of the issue in its historical context

  • a critical examination of the factual material presented in section B

  • an awareness of the significance of the sources used, especially those evaluated in section C

  • a consideration of different interpretations of evidence, where appropriate.

E: Conclusion

The conclusion must be clearly stated, consistent with the evidence presented and relevant to the research question.

^ F: Sources and word limit

A bibliography or list of sources and all citations, using one standard method, must be included; any illustrations, documents, or other supporting evidence should be included in an appendix. None of these will form part of the word count. The word count for the investigation must be clearly and accurately stated on the title page.

Regardless of the type of historical investigation chosen, the following word count guidelines should be followed:


Plan of the investigation - 100–150 words


Summary of evidence - 500–600 words


Evaluation of sources - 250–400 words


Analysis - 500–650 words


Conclusion – 150-200 words


List of sources

Tentative Schedule for I.A. 2009-2011


Task completion

Jan - 2nd week

Statement of general topic area due

January –

2nd week

Selection of two comprehensive reading sources (books)

January –

4th week

Summary writing outlining the content of the comprehensive text

February –

1st week

Statement of first historical question


3rd week

^ Gathering of sources, ordering of books or searching for internet sites

February –

3rd week

Instruction on research techniques (advanced searching, database searching, research note taking)

March -

2nd week

Rough draft of Section A: Plan of investigation

March –

4th week

Revised Plan of investigation


-1st week

Selection of sources for Section C: Evaluation of sources

April -

3rd week

^ How to cite work and footnoting

April -

3rd week

Rough draft of Sections A- C, E

April –

4th week

Revised Evaluation of Sources (optional)

Summer 2004

Gathering of additional sources and reading

Sept –

1st week

Rough draft (all sections)

Sept –2nd- 3rd week

Historical investigation teacher student meetings

Oct – 2nd week

2nd Rough draft of Historical investigation

Jan – 1st week

Oral defense of Historical investigation

Jan – 2nd week

Final revision checklist due with 3 copies of bound Historical investigation submitted

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