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September 23, 2023, 01:54:00 pm

Author Topic: Extended Investigation - a promotion and guide (not sponsored, I promise)  (Read 10714 times)  Share 

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Hello beans,

I just finished Year 11 and have ample time to waste so why not be a little productive and write a little guide for EI! When I started this year, I had barely any resources or posts to look up to outside my teachers (who were awesome support anyway!) There's another guide but it's not been completed, so I thought maybe I could add my two cents. So here goes something:

author's note
ALSO WHAT this turned out to be almost 4000 words. I wanted to write a quick 10 minute read but it turned out to be three hours of writing so it's going to have a lot of typos which I might fix along the way.

What is Extended Investigation?

Hmm, I hear you say, Iíve never heard of EI beforeÖ

Of course you havenít lol thereís a cohort of 250 doing it in the whole state. Itís a small subject and most people I talk to are surprised when I tell them what it is and what it entails.

Basically, Extended Investigation is a ĺ VCE subject (doesnít have Unit 1 or 2) where you undertake any research project of your liking (well unless it gets rejected by VCAA, but that basically never happens unless youíre committing some serious ethical blunder) and write a 4000 word report about it. You also get to talk about it for a whole twenty minutes in front of two assessors to whom you introduce yourself as a number.

The whole idea of the course is to build on critical thinking skills and mould your academic language.

Is it even possible to do it?

Thereís two major reasons that hinder people from EI.
ďA 4000 word report?!Ē is the most common reaction to EI when I tell people Iím doing it.

But hey, itís a whole year of work. Most people I know have so many words we chuck them all into tables (tables are not included in the word count, lol). At the start of the year I was a bit anxious about writing a full 4000 words but before submitting in September, I was worrying about how to cut down my 8000ish words to the limit (which they modified to 3500 this year, thanks VCAA how helpful).

When you research something for so long you have a lot to say. For instance, a lot of people doing science topics had to write massive literature reviews explaining the context of their research, quote various scientists when justifying their method and adding context to other points they made in their discussion. My work was so long I chucked my entire method section into a table.

So yeah, 4000 word report is the least of your concerns.
The second one is: how do you motivate yourself?

This one can be really hard. I think a lot of people in my class were still writing their report two hours before it was due. Some people didnít even finish.

The most important aspect is to manage time and work on it consistently. Which is hard, I admit.

But people who didnít finish were also the ones with the most complicated topics. If youíre doing some rocket science (literally) but youíre actually an art person that only picked that topic to sound fancy, youíre going to struggle to care. If you pick something you really like (and Iím sure thereís plenty of things out there, someone at my school did one about how memes influence zoomer humour, surely you could do anything!)

Pick a topic you like, and youíll find yourself procrastinating by doing EI. Thatís how I managed my deadlines.

EI scales by about 2 points most years if youíre in the mid thirties to mid forties range. However, you must note that thereís like 300 kids on average doing EI every year and only 9% get over 40, so thereís only a handful of high scorers. If youíre wondering, no, as of November 2020 I donít know my score yet, but let me tell you itís a massive mystery number. If youíre reading this after December 30, 2020, you could explore my journal to see if I ever posted my score or not. Like I could get a 50 but I could also get a 30, I never know.

But isnít that a bad thing?

Kind of, yes. One of the downsides of EI is that itís not a ďsafeĒ high scoring subject. Thereís so many people doing so many things Ė itís so hard to grade a humanities report against a science one, so you canít know what your assessors are going to think.

The point of EI is to build that resume and some uni habits early on so you get a flex in uni.

Why should you do it anyway?

Okay so why would you spend so long meticulously researching a topic and writing so much about it you could talk about it to strangers for a whole twenty minutes? Especially when you think about the scoring, it seems a bit risky, right?

Thatís true, but I donít think this is a subject you do for the scores. I know thatís a tough thing to tell a VCE student but if itís in your bottom twos I donít think thirties or forties make that much of a difference. The amount of insight that comes from this subject is insane.

Like actually.

Have you ever been part of a huge waiting line outside a toilet cubicle? Imagine this: youíre standing, bored and restless, waiting for someone to succour you from the boredom and distract you from the gravity pulling at your intestine contents. A figure pops into view. They say, ďhave you ever wondered the maximal velocity a child could hit on a slide before getting hurt?Ē(citation: someone from my class)

And for the first time in your life, you ask yourself that question.

The ten minutes pass by smoothly and you have just made a charming friend.

Now imagine you could be that charming friend.

So thatís reason #1 Itís a massive flex.

Also, imagine scenario 1 again, this time youíre the person explaining the antibacterial properties of a specific flower you found in your backyard. And somehow, the person you just relieved from boredom works for Harvard.

They ask you how you know all that, and you say youíve written a 4000 word report about it.

20 minutes later, you get a text, ďHarvard wants to know your locationĒ.

So thereís point #2: itís a massive resume builder. It shows how meticulous, hardworking and organised you are. It shows youíre passionate, curious and smart. It speaks nerd.

If youíve done 3 3/4s in Year 11 you probably have to take up a seventh subject for VCE in year 12. Or maybe you havenít done any Ĺ subjects in Year 10 and are looking to do a ĺ in Year 11. I think EI is the ideal boi in this situation. This is because not only is it flexible (like you work at your own pace and work on it in the holis), youíre also finished with your report early September. The Oral Presentation Examinations are held in the first two weeks of October, but hey, after a whole year of constantly working on things, you wonít need too much time to write a script. In fact I didnít even memorise my Ďspeechí (which was honestly half improvised). I just organised myself with dot points about each slide and went with my thoughts.

My point #3 is that you can find a lot of time to focus on other things while still producing compelling outcomes for EI.


U3: School SACs
Mine were:
1. Submit question along with 800 word justification of why your topic is goooood.
2. Submit a literature review and a proposed method.
3. Do an oral presentation of everything youíve prepped so far and proposed method.

I worked on my method from April to June, but most people finished later in July (or even August). I did a survey and the whole process of designing it, publishing it and sharing it, then analysing the results (most time consuming part) was still less time consuming than some classmates who did experiments and had to order in equipment/ bacteria/ etc to establish their setup.

In a normal year youíd have a Critical Thinking Exam during Term 2 but this year we did it in October due to coronavirus. See U4 for more details on this.

U 4: All external assessments
-   Submission of report (during September-ish): this is the baby youíve been labouring for nine months. Your brain child. Itís got everything about your report, from start to finish,
-   Oral Presentation (usually second week of October): 10 minute presentation of your work and 10 minutes of QnA from the assessors. Externally assessed at this dodgy hotel in Nunawading.
-   CTT: The Critical Thinking Test is a one hour exam. Itís the only VCAA computer based exam. You sit it on your own laptop, lol. Itís basically ten questions that ask you to analyse a few arguments and write your own strong ones about them or against them. Itís just constructing arguments so if youíve done debating itís like being third speaker and either summarising a case or rebutting.
-   GAT: The GAT happened during U4 this year so Iím putting it in this section. This may have a strong influence on EI scores since theyíre so diversely graded. So maybe keep an eye on the writing tasks and your overall performance anyway (you should be doing that anyway).

Okay so you bought my pitch and are wanted to do EI. What next?

Does your school offer it? Great! Talk to your careers counsellor and the logistics of doing it.

Does your school not offer it? You could do VSV. Since most of the subject is self paced anyway I donít think doing it online makes a difference, as long as you have access to a lab/ library, subject to your topicís needs.

Choosing a topic

Congrats! Youíre doing EI. Now what?

Itís December holidays.

Read some stuff youíre interested about. This could be a science magazine, a political newspaper, anything. Ask questions. Some things that I shortlisted as my questions were:

How would the government of Victoria respond to a local epidemic (interview Ė HAHAHAHAHAHAH this wouldíve been hilarious because I picked this before the pandemic happened lol)

How does handwriting affect credibility of text?

How do different pen holding positions affect handwriting? (for some reason I was really interested in pens)

How will social media affect isolation levels in future senior citizens (I actually did this topic for my first SAC and would have pursued it had I not found my own topic).

My topic was about this condition called aphantasia, characterised by the absence of visual imagery in people. Like these people see no images in their brain when they think, can you imagine (haha, I totally donít overuse that joke). I looked at whether this condition impacted studentsí learning preferences.

It started with a meme. This thing on Instagram during mid April, when I was worried I would fail my literature review SAC because the senior citizen topic wasnít unravelling properly enough. It was this flood of posts asking you to imagine an apple (maybe you guys saw it too?) and how not everyone imagined things the same.

Instantly I thought about: does this condition affect people in the classroom? Is that why we have visual learners and auditory learners? Is that why my friend can draw literally anything from her ďmindís eyeĒ, yet I cant?

And that became my topic.

My point is: explore everything youíre interested in and actually ask questions. Write down your shower thoughts. Iíve gotten into this habit and the amount of questions I have now is so weird.
Like are people with low visual imagery at less risk of schizophrenia? (you can try researching that if you want but I doubt thereís enough literature for it).

Refining your question

Make sure your question is specific and feasible for someone with your resources and expertise. Avoid assumptions. Generally they'll send your questions for VCAA to approve and it's unlikely they'll reject your question unless it's seriously ethically messed up (eg you cant work with vertebrates or have a question discussing intellect linking to race or something idk)

Maintaining the research journal

So for EI youíll be asked to maintain a research journal to authenticate your work. Make sure  you use this wisely and donít make a fake one the night before itís due.

I literally had the same journal the whole year (with various copies, of course). The end product was 150 pages of flex worthy material, containing various quotes, slides, diagrams, some draft sections of my final report.

Having it all in one organised place is a very effective way to navigate through your process and itís also a big motivation boost to see the burgeoning (yes I wanted to use this word) word count because it shows you your hard work is coming together. In saying that, be careful not to dump everything without context. I used headings in google docs and had a table of contents page for everything. I broke entries down by area of study, then date and a 3 or four word title for context. This helped me find stuff down the track when I wanted to quote someone or something for my final report.

How I laid out my research was

(citation, usually from Google Scholar)
(a few words for context)
(big chunks of quotes with highlighted parts)
(some notes)

I also commented on places to add to the notes.

Where to find literature

I was lucky enough to have my school provide access to JSTOR and many other academic resources, but if you canít manage to get hold of those you can always go to trusty Google Scholar. Usually you can directly access the pdf of things from the search engine.

Another trusty friend was State Library Victoria. If you havenít already got an account, excuse me, please do! Itís the most useful hub of resources Iíve found and itís free! Iíve been using it since Year 9. When I was in Year 9 I had a research task on WW1 soldiers that lived in my area and I found my allocated soldierís personal letters to his sister (later published by her) in the state libraryís archives. Saved me grace and butt.

The research process

It might seem daunting to learn truckloads about something that youíve just been introduced to, but once you read that first article, youíll have your ball rolling.

Usually once you start reading one paper, thereís many others cited in there that you can go through for further reference. Good papers often cite rebutting arguments for their case too, so you should be able to find a range of literature on starting your very first paper.

As soon as you feel like you have enough knowledge to build some writing, get started. Scribe your claims, make sure you have at least two articles backing up any statement you make. VCAA is quite explicit about students saying thereís absolutely no research about something. The internet is a dumpsite. Surely in a small niche, thereís something! Use Boolean operators, ďandĒ, ďnotĒ, ďorĒ etc. These are handy. Use recent articles. You can do this through Google Scholar on the side of the page and filter any articles older than 10 years. You want to look organised.

Know that your first draft will look nothing like your final report, so donít worry if itís too clunky at this stage. Just keep writing until you think youíve covered enough for the SAC. Make sure you stick to the rubric, word for word. You can refine it in the later stages.

Also, itís normal to be over the wordcount by a lot. Usually you can condense the information by looking at the rubric and asking yourself: is this important? If not, chuck it into your research journal.

DO NOT DELETE ANY WORK. READ THAT AGAIN. Keep everything until you finish your oral presentation. Put every extra bit of info onto the journal. Learn to hoard, but be an organised hoarder.


Given the versatility of this subject, itís hard for me to suggest a specific method but hereís some general advice:

Anything you do should be justified using expert opinion. The point of the subject is critical thinking, and you can demonstrate that by showing how your research would fit into the bigger picture of things. Make sure you cite why youíre using 7mLs of HCl and why your survey is 10 questions long. Make sure you mention the importance of your inclusion and exclusion criteria in your literature review.

Also, donít be a me and plan ahead. How are you going to analyse your results? How are you going to present them? This will help you determine how to categorise your data when collecting it. If Iíd thought about my analysis during method prep, I wouldíve struggled less with the statistical analyses in my work. I didnít set the right framework for my discussion and had to do a lot of work post-results to format the data.

Results and Discussion

Results in?

Assumptions out.

Break down your data into themes/ categories and be organised with how you present the data. Take inspiration from authors in your field and from teachers. Your results will be a base for your discussion and the better you set your shafts, the stronger your building will stand.

For your discussion, a key word is SYNTHESISE. Make sure you draw on information from your literature review and compare your results to your hypothesis and to other researcherís predictions.

Make sure you include a section about mistakes, but donít call it that. Call it ďfuture research implicationsĒ and discuss how your data could be improved or other variables that may controlled to allow for more accurate data.

NEVER use the word ďmistakeĒ itself. Make sure you mention things in a positive light only. But make sure you do discuss all the extraneous variables that affected the validity of your work. Make sure you refer to bias or other relevant terms researchers use to critique their work. Take inspiration from authors in your field.

Just briefly refer to your hypothesis and answer your question with blanket ideas.

ITíS OKAY NOT TO HAVE A DEFINITE OR POSITIVE CLAIM ABOUT YOUR HYPOTHESIS. Lack of data is still data. Donít be ashamed to add ďbut further evidence can be used to confirm thisĒ. Almost everyoneís answer was ďdefinitely maybeĒ.

Be proud of your overall work.

First draft of final Report

Okay so now you know where youíre heading. Put on your helmet.

For the final report, make sure youíve got a template handy. An example is:

Literature review
Method and Justification

Of course itís very flexible Ė some people had none of that, say, if youíre doing a case study thereís going to be a completely different structure. The point is to create a template before you start writing your report.

Once you get into the actual report, youíll notice youíve got bits and pieces of everything, but not completed. Having a template breaks your work into sections. This can be useful when looking at the smaller picture before you review your first draft and allow you to evaluate how well the report flows.

For now, donít worry about word count, but add that to your bucket list of things to stress about.

Finished with the first draft? You sure about that?

Congrats! Youíve done so much! Nominate yourself for a nobel prize. Sleep in a few days.

And stay away from your report.

Once you finish your first draft, itís going to look too perfect to you. Like a parent who loves their child regardless of their flaws, your instinct is going to want you to protect that brain baby and youíre probably exhausted of the writing process, because it took me two eight hour sittings to finish that (some people worked an hour everyday, I just had two massive productive spikes).

Instead of writing, take a break. Read more in your field and build on your knowledge, but donít add anything. Watch Youtube videos about your work. Watch talks. Youíre a micro expert, own it.

Come back to it after a week, but make sure youíve been productive that week by updating your knowledge reservoirs.

Now, reread it in sections. Youíll realise how naÔve you were to think it was the final product.

Fix it.

Second draft time

Okay so now your report looks even more shiny and glamorous than before. What to do now?

Youíre going to get a lot of people telling you to send your report to every sentient being youíve interacted with.

DO NOT DO THAT. EVER. Save your friends the struggle.

Send it to ONE person. Get feedback, and improve by your discretion.


Because if you get too much feedback at once youíll be too overwhelmed and end up deleting all the comments one by one. Get feedback, fix. Email to another person, but keep your EI teacher in loop. If you send everyone your second draft theyíre all gonna get bored if you send it to them again.

Word Count.

Okay so now you can worry about the beautiful word count. Hereís some ways to reduce it, but DO NOT DELETE ANYTHING just add it to your journal in case you want it back.

The word count does not include the whole report; things like citations, tables, figure labels donít count, so make sure you familiarise yourself with that stuff on the VCAA Extended Investigation page.

 Read the research question you came up with and see which parts of your research donít directly answer your question or fit with the rubric.

Check for redundant phrases ďit is crucial to sayĒ can be replaced by ďimportantlyĒ, ďvery big impactĒ can be ďstrong impactĒ. Fix your adjectives and youíll be surprised to see how much your word count disappears.

Ensure that you break down your work by theme rather than by author. A lot of authors echo the same ideas so itís better to synthesise citations rather than quote everyone separately. Donít repeat things, itís just annoying to read the same thing over and over in different words.

And soon, youíll notice that youíve hit that submit button and youíve crossed the major obstacle in your course.

Critical Thinking Test

VCAAís website and handbook has a lot of information about this. Do the practice exams and youíll be fine.

Here's my other post about CTT.

Oral Presentation

Iím not going to go too much into depth for the first ten minutes because a) this turned out longer than expected and Iíve been writing for over three hours, b) the word count is more than that of my ďofficialĒ EI report itself and c) you will be a  better judge of how to present your research. Just avoid rambling about things the rubric doesnít mention and donít have too much text on your slides, if you use them.

For the questions section, make sure youíve got a good hold of all the contemporary research in your field. Talk to everyone about your work. Make sure your dog can spell the major researchersí names. Make sure your parrot sings about cat liver disease. Make sure you dream about it. Immerse yourself in potential questions about your work.

The assessors are nice. They ask questions to increase your grade and address areas you havenít explored enough, not to intimidate you. Theyíre usually friendly and try to make you comfortable.

And before you know it, youíll be smiling at the massive accomplishments youíve made by completing EI.

Some other tips

« Last Edit: November 25, 2020, 07:37:46 pm by dedformed »
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Re: Extended Investigation - a promotion and guide (not sponsored, I promise)
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2020, 07:31:09 pm »

Wow this is huge :D

Also I don't see any images in my mind & it is something I bring up occasionally when talking about study strategy (there are some people who can memorise a mindmap and see it in their mind on exam day. Wild)

This guide/promo seems incredibly useful so I've stickied it

Thank you for writing this!