An Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) can be undertaken by students in England and Wales and is equivalent to half an A-level.
It’s an intensive process, demanding roughly 120 hours of work in total. It most commonly results in the creation of a 5000-word essay/dissertation. However, in some cases, students may choose to create an ‘artefact’ instead alongside a (shorter) 1000-word report. ‘Artefacts’ can include a book, video, app, creative writing, or an event like a fashion show. ‘Artefacts’, however, are less commonly pursued with the majority of students opting for a 5000-word essay. However, it’s not as simple as it looks.
There are many aspects to the EPQ but it can be split into three main components: the essay, the logbook, and the presentation.
It is definitely worth spending some time thinking about the topic of your essay, you will, after all, be writing 5000 words about it. You should choose a topic based on the following factors:
- How will this benefit you academically and what will you get out of it? Think about what you want to study at university and try to link your topic to this. Not only will it help you get a better feel for what you want to study in the future but it can also help you to stand out as a candidate when applying to university.
- What do you enjoy? Choosing a topic that you find boring and have little interest in will make it all the more difficult to continue with the EPQ. You will have to spend hours finding, reading, and selecting research to include in your essay, so pick something that engages you.
- Is there actually something to explore? If your title already leads to a clear-cut answer or is too vague then it’s probably not a good idea. For example, it wouldn’t be suitable to explore whether climate change is real or not as the overwhelming majority of scientists provide data, research, and studies to show that it is. It’s better to pick something that has unknowns and lots of robust, academic content written about it because it allows you to present a new perspective.
In terms of the title of the essay itself, you should refrain from titles that begin with ‘To what extent…’ as this doesn’t allow a secure conclusion to be reached. Titles that lead to a definite yes or no are better. An example of this could be ‘Should active, voluntary euthanasia be legalized in the UK for patients suffering from chronic illnesses?’ Another thing to note is how specific the title is — this is another really important requirement. Having a broad or ambiguous title means you will struggle to focus your research.
The logbook or production log is a 15-page document, although will grow as you add to it. Every page has varying sections, some will be filled out by you and others by your center coordinator and supervisor. The center coordinator organizes the EPQ and moderates the process, whilst the supervisor marks your work and meets with you at certain intervals to discuss the progress of the project. The supervisor, however, is heavily restricted in any advice they may give you. They’re only permitted to give very general advice and are only allowed to see your essay once before the final submission.
Unlike the essay, there is no word count limit on the logbook and you are encouraged to be very thorough in it as it maximizes your chance of marks. You are expected to show various skills like weighing up the evidence, looking at the validity and accuracy of sources, and explaining why you may have changed things like your title or the sources you initially chose.
One of the things you’re assessed on is your organizational skills and a way of showing that is through a Gantt chart. However, it doesn’t strictly have to be a Gantt chart, it can be a table or a more detailed to-do list that has deadlines and tasks. It is vital to keep up to date with this, otherwise, it’s very easy to lose track. If you do miss a deadline you set yourself (like a date to finish the research by) then it’s not necessarily an issue. In fact, it can work in your favor if you provide reasoning for it and explain how you overcame the setback.
The research log is a table that lists all the resources that you have used in your essay. It should also include further details like date of publication, author, relevance to my essay, reliability, and date of access. It’s important that you use a wide variety of research, don’t just restrict yourself to books. Use documentaries, academic journals, articles, interviews, websites, and reports.
Near the deadline, you are expected to present your findings to an audience. This involves the creation of a PowerPoint as well as a script or flashcards, although these should only be prompts to you. It’s important you know the content of your presentation well so that you’re able to maintain eye contact and body language with your audience. Whilst the PowerPoint will include details about your essay, you should equally spend time discussing and evaluating what you learned, what could have gone better, how you solved problems and what you will take away from the EPQ. At the end of the presentation, be prepared for questions and answer them with confidence as it all goes towards your grade.
It’s evidently a tough undertaking, but if you choose the right topic, it’s not only fun but also very enriching.
Photo: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock
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