It’s a great problem to have, but it’s still a problem. Hard-working students lament over having to cut out aspects of their IA to get under the 2200 words. But there’s always the fear that you’ll lose something important and that will cost you marks. Here’s 5 ways you can reduce your word count without losing marks.
Firstly, remember that the following are not included in the word count:
- Title page
- Section headings
- Parenthetical citations
- Footnotes (Note: footnotes are not recommended for the IA)
If you’re written an abstract, remove it. It’s not needed for the new IA.
Here are some other easy ways to reduce your word count.
1. Shorten the original study summary (Introduction)
A common error students make is writing way too much about the original study they are replicating. It’s important to remember that writing about the original study isn’t mentioned anywhere in the rubric. Therefore, keep it brief. Focus more time, effort and words on the description of the original theory or model and how this links to your investigation.
As a guideline, aim to write about 100-150 words on the original study. If you’re over this, cut it down. Shorten your summary of the methodology. You definitely don’t need to include things like descriptions of the participants, how they got their samples, ethics, etc. Focus on the results. A simple statement of the aim of the original study, a 2-3 sentence of their methods (just enough so the results make sense) and then a brief summary of the results is fine. Ideally, you will then finish with by using your background theory or model to explain the results.
Here’s an example from the exemplar included in the IA teacher support pack.
2. Shorten the original study summary (Evaluation)
Again, remember that references to the original study are not required in your introduction or your evaluation. It’s still recommended that you probably do this, but it’s an easy way to reduce your word count.
The rubric states that you can get top marks for the evaluation if “…the findings of the student’s investigation are discussed with reference to the background theory or model.” Notice how the study isn’t even mentioned. This is another common error students make (see more common errors in this video) – they spend way too long on the original study and pay little or no attention to linking their results to the theory. You can see this in the exemplar as well.
3. Put procedures in appendices.
This might be the easiest fix. If you have a summary of your procedures in the body of your report (most likely in the Exploration), simply cut these out and paste them in an appendix. This will remove them from the word count.
But don’t you need the procedures in the IA? The wisdom out there is that of course you need it, because how else can an examiner assess your evaluation of procedures? According to the rubric, students need to make sure that “Strengths and limitations of the design, sample and procedure are stated, relevant and explained.” It seems like a procedure should be included.
But remember that “procedure” includes materials and controls. The exploration requires an explanation of the design, sample, materials and controls (as well as participants). Therefore, if these explanations in the exploration are detailed enough, the evaluation can still be assessed. For instance, I’d expect a brief description of materials used (especially those related to manipulating the IV and measuring the DV) as well as controls. The evaluation of the procedure can include how suitable the materials were and/or how well the extraneous variables were controlled.
This means the list of detailed procedures are not needed in the Exploration for an examiner to assess a student’s evaluation of design, sample and procedures (controls/materials) since they should be explained enough in the exploration to give context for an evaluation.
So while the procedures aren’t assessed or gain marks directly, your Exploration just needs to give enough detail of the procedures (e.g. materials, controls, etc.) to allow the examiner to understand your evaluations later on.
That being said, it’s still good practice to include a summary of the procedures somewhere in the report. This is why I recommend putting them in the appendices if word count is an issue. When I wrote my own IA (for the exemplar), I found it difficult to write the exploration without first writing out the procedures.
Ethics Tip: If you do move your procedures to the appendices, leave in the Exploration a brief summary of how you followed ethical requirements (e.g. a mention of informed consent, debriefing, etc., and references to these in the appendices).
4. Get to the point (Introduction)
Many IAs begin with a general introduction to the field of psychology relevant to the IA. For example, an IA on memory might summarize the cognitive approach and define memory. Or a study on anchoring effect might talk about social influence and persuasion in marketing. I even recommend this as a good way to break writer’s block and to get started writing. However, if you need to cut words, remove this opening paragraph and begin simply with the detailed description of your background theory/model.
Similarly, some students finish out their introduction by going into some detail about the procedures they’ve used and the methods for their replicated study. This is not needed and just adds words. Keep this for your exploration.
5. Don’t justify stats
You do not need to explain why you chose your descriptive statistics. For example, you don’t need to say something like, “we chose to use mean and standard deviation because our data was interval and we didn’t have any outliers.”
This was a requirement in the old syllabus, which is why it’s still being done now. But the new rubric does not require you to justify your use of a descriptive statistic. Therefore, if you’re really tight on words, you can remove this sentence or two.
Similarly, you can also remove justifications of the inferential statistics (unless you have used a t-test). But, I don’t recommend this. It might be my personal bias, but I think the one sentence it takes to say your choice of inferential stats and why you chose it (e.g. based on design type and level of data) is well worth it.
Hope that helps.
Travis Dixon is an IB Psychology teacher, author, workshop leader, examiner and IA moderator.