Friday, March 23, 2018

Notes to help IB Economics students with their Internal Assessment

The Internal Assessment in Economics is a most interesting exercise.  It is also very useful.  It is useful, first of all, because you have to search (quite a lot) to find a 'convenient' article (see below for what I mean by 'convenient').  You will thus be forced to read quite a few articles to arrive at the one that you feel will permit you to best fulfill the requirements (make sure you save all articles you read as long as they are interesting and related to what you cover in class.  This will help you write better essays in Paper 1 where real world examples are a must to achieve high marks)

The Economics IA  exercise is also useful as it permits you to apply the knowledge you gain.  You will be reading articles under a total different light than if you had read them before starting this course.  You will have a framework of analysis which will help you make more sense of what you are reading.  You will have the opportunity to write your own 2 cents on the issue when discussing the issue at hand.  This way, whatever theoretical knowledge you gained in class will become embedded in the real world.  You will see the power of theory as well as its shortcomings.

Below is what I gave this year my Year 1 (Candidates 2019) students on how to go about writing their first commentary.  Hopefully, these notes could be useful for students all over the world who are taking IB Economics (Higher and Standard level). 

Some notes on the IB Economics Internal Assessment

Search for a ‘convenient’ article:

è Preferably, not more than 3 months old (max 6 months)
è Preferably, between ¾ of a page and 3 pages long

è Definitely, on a topic that you can employ at least one (perhaps, two) diagram(s)
è Convenient topics include

Pollution of any type
Deforestation, overfishing (CARs)
Taxation of liquor / tobacco
Subsidies on farm products
On health care / education
Rent control; gentrification
Minimum wage
Price wars

è Article should be of a ‘reporting’ nature, not an opinion, as you will have less to write / explain
è Avoid the Economist (usually analysis is already there – not much for you to explain / analyze / discuss)
è Avoid blogs
è Article MUST be in English

Once article is found

è Make an outline
o   Jot down the terms you may use
o   Determine the diagram(s) that you may employ
o   Think of the points to explain / evaluate / discuss; make notes on each of these
o   Find the 4-5 quotes that you will use

On the actual writing

è Do not use bullet points
è 1st paragraph may present what the article is about
è In the next few paragraphs explain the points using a diagram and quotes
è Your explanation / analysis must be ‘applied, applied, applied’: never lose sight of the article; make constant references; use 4-5 quotes as they show that your analysis is APPLIED to the specifics of the article chosen; title of diagram(s) must be focused on the specifics of the article title of diagram(s) must be focused on the specifics of the article: if there are figures (values; numbers) in the article, then use these on the diagram!
è Must be less than 750 words
o   Note that words in the title of diagrams (up to 10 words) do NOT count
o   Words on labels of the diagrams up to (5 words) each do NOT count
è Avoid footnotes: if a footnote is included then it must be a reference
è Terms have to be used, NOT defined; define only one or two wicked crucial terms – no more


On the diagram(s)

è Use whichever software you want but make sure diagram is ‘anchored’ i.e. it does not move around when re-editing (‘grouped’)
è ‘Paint’ (also available for Mac) is recommended (but many others prefer Word or Drawing in Google docs – your choice)
è Use on the labels the same fonts that you are using in the commentary
è Labels should be article related (e.g. price of gasoline

Where to search

è Any news source you fancy; reporting articles are preferable so that you have more to explain and discuss
è I like the New York Times and the Washington Post (school subscription exists)
è Easy solution: use Google
o   Type search terms e.g. alcohol tax or tobacco tax or gentrification or collusion or price war etc.
o   Click on News
o   Click on Tools
o   Click on Recent
o   Click on Custom and insert date range

Read the handouts on the rubrics

è Each of the 3 commentaries must be from a different news source (i.e. you can only use the New York Times once)
è The 3 commentaries must be from 3 different areas of the syllabus (i.e. one from micro, one from macro (next year), one from trade (next year))

Key to success:


  • If you do not have a Mac then it may be a good idea to download an extension for Chrome called “Mercury Reader”.  This ‘cleans-up’ (most, not all) articles from ads and ‘noise’ and produces a clean file that is easily read which can be saved as a pdf and printed out (right click: print, as pdf file (not at connected your printer))
  • In PAINT (for PCs or for Macs), by pressing CTRL+SHIFT a line you draw is a perfectly straight (vertical, horizontal or 45-degree only)
  • Make sure when you ‘select’ an image (or a label) you choose from the drop-down menu ‘transparent selection’ so you don’t mess-up the diagram