Interpreting the assessment criteria

Criterion A: research question
Although the aim of the essay can best be defined in the form of a question, it may also be presented as a statement or proposition for discussion. It must be:
- specific and sharply focused
- appropriate to the particular area of computer science being explored
- centered on computer science and not on peripheral issues such as the history of computing or the social implications of technology
- stated clearly early on in the essay.

Criterion B: introduction
The introduction should relate the research question to existing subject knowledge, putting it into context. Basic computing knowledge can be assumed and it is not expected that students write lengthy sections explaining theory that is common knowledge or part of the syllabus of the computer science course.

Criterion C: investigation
The range and type of sources available will be influenced by various factors, but above all by the topic chosen. For example, if runs of a program are carried out to test an algorithm for efficiency against an alternative one then the data must be adequate.
Any statistics collected should be reliable and relevant to the research question. It is also important to consult a large number of sources. Particular care should be taken in such a rapidly changing area to ensure that all sources (books, magazines and internet sites) used are up to date.

Criterion D: knowledge and understanding of the topic studied
The student is expected to be capable of coherently discussing the topic, hence demonstrating a sound knowledge of computing within the chosen area and an ability to explain academic concepts to a degree that shows a full understanding. The knowledge and concepts should go beyond those called for in the current Computer science guide.

Criterion E: reasoned argument
Students should be aware of the need to give their essays the backbone of a developing argument. Personal views should not simply be stated but need to be supported by reasoned argument or experimentation to persuade the reader of their validity. Straightforward descriptive or narrative accounts that lack analysis do not usually advance an argument and should be avoided.

Criterion F: application of analytic and evaluative skills appropriate to the subject
A computer science extended essay demands that the student applies logical, critical and creative thinking to a specific topic, as well as showing an appreciation of the consequences arising from technological development.

Criterion G: use of language appropriate to the subject
The effective use of computer science terminology includes the appropriate use of technical vocabulary. Layman terms for computer parts and systems should not be used.

Criterion H: conclusion
“Consistent” is the key word here: the conclusion should develop out of the argument and not introduce new or extraneous matter. It should not repeat the material of the introduction; rather, it should present a new synthesis in light of the discussion. It should be evident from the conclusion that the student has fully understood the implications of the topic and is able to make a clear, independent evaluation.

Criterion I: formal presentation
This criterion relates to the extent to which the essay conforms to academic standards about the way in which research papers should be presented. The presentation of essays that omit a bibliography or that do not give references for quotations is deemed unacceptable (level 0). Essays that omit one of the required elements—title page, table of contents, page numbers—are deemed no better than satisfactory (maximum level 2), while essays that omit two of them are deemed poor at best (maximum level 1).
Program code should generally be placed in an appendix. Where it needs to be included within the body of the essay, each line of code should count as two words when calculating the length of the essay, while any internal documentation of a program fragment should be ignored.

Criterion J: abstract
The abstract is judged on the clarity with which it presents an overview of the research and the essay, not on the quality of the research question itself, nor on the quality of the argument or the conclusions.

Criterion K: holistic judgment
Qualities that are rewarded under this criterion include the following.
- Intellectual initiative: Ways of demonstrating this in computer science essays include using sources other than the internet and printed resources to gain information that could not have been found otherwise.
- Insight and depth of understanding: These are most likely to be demonstrated as a consequence of detailed research, reflection that is thorough and well-informed, and reasoned argument that consistently and effectively addresses the research question.
- Creativity: This can be shown in many ways, for example, by using an unusual but effective approach, by taking a controversial, but credible, stance or by extrapolating an extra logical step when forming a conclusion.