IA Procedures – Are they necessary?
1 in favour, 4 opposed

Travis DixonInternal Assessment (IB)

Not for the first time I find myself going against the standard IB advice. Here's my rationale for you to make up your own mind.

In previous posts and videos I’ve advised to move your procedures to the appendices if word count is an issue in the IA. Is this really an acceptable approach? Here are 4 reasons why you don’t need a procedures section and one reason why you should have it.

Some examiners think you’re not allowed to put the procedures in the appendices. As an IA examiner myself, I think you can. Here’s the rationale behind my approach, including four reasons why I think the procedures aren’t needed. You may disagree, and that’s fine. I’ll keep giving my students this advice until the IB changes or clarifies the current assessment practices.

Important Note: I advise students to include a procedures in their report. The Exploration is tough to write without doing this. When all avenues to get under the word count have been explored, that’s when I advise moving procedures to the appendices.

Reason 1: It’s not in the rubric

As an IA examiner I know how closely we must adhere to the rubric. It’s gospel and there’s no wiggle room. Since there’s nothing in the rubric about procedures, this means it’s not assessed. This is just like word counts or references. There are no points deducted for being over the word limit or having improper referencing (if you are over the word limit we won’t read past 2200 words, though).

Reason 2: It’s not in the guide

If the rubric isn’t gospel, the IB Psychology guide surely is. If the IB were requiring students to have a procedures section in the body of the report they would have made this clear in the guide. There’s no mention of it anywhere.

Reason 3: It’s not needed

The examining advice stated that while the procedures are not directly assessed, students must have enough description of procedures so the evaluation makes sense. The subject report also said “it would be helpful” if students had a summary of procedures. Notice how it doesn’t say necessary! This seems reasonable since the evaluation must include strengths and limitations of procedures. 

Remember, however, that “procedures” includes your materials, your controlled variables and how you manipulated and measured your IV and DV (your operational definitions). If you’re evaluating your materials (which is an excellent aspect of procedures to evaluate) a summary of procedures is not needed. Similarly, if you’re evaluating your controlled variables including strengths or how they could be improved the procedures don’t add any context.

What if you identify a confounding variable you didn’t control for and explain that in the evaluation? That’s also a fantastic point to evaluate. But if you didn’t control for it, you wouldn’t have written about it in your procedures so the whole thing becomes a moot point.

Once you think through the practicalities of the assignment you realize that a summary of procedures adds very little to the report, provided the other required aspects are done properly. I don’t want to risk my student cutting out something essential and losing marks, in favour of the simple solution of moving procedures to the appendices. But hey, maybe that’s just me.

Reason 4: The IB exemplar

The IB has a sample 22/22 IA on their website. Now we can debate whether this is an actual 22/22 (I don’t think it’s a good exemplar at all), but that’s a different issue. Let’s look at the procedures section. Notice how the examiner hasn’t mentioned anything about procedures and nor do they in the rubric comments.

(From MyIB Programme Resource Centre).

Every one of these sentences is related to either controls, materials or operational definitions. The procedures adds no new context that would help the evaluation make sense.

  • Flipping coin – control
  • Standardized instructions – can be listed in materials
  • Answer sheet – materials
  • Slides – control
  • Questions – see operational definition
  • Distracting task – control
  • New paper – control

Arguably the only detail in that whole paragraph that’s necessary is how the students recalled the words with the paper in 2 mins. However, one could argue that this could (a) be included in materials or controls (blank paper) and (b) covered in the operational definitions.

The point here is while the procedures is definitely helpful, if you’ve done your job explaining the other aspects of the exploration then the procedures you summarize can safely be moved to the appendices.

Note that I definitely am not saying this paragraph should be put in the appendices, since then marks would be lost as this focuses mainly on explaining the controls. My point is, to hammer it home again, if you’ve explained your Exploration elements (design, sample, materials, controlled variables and participants) properly, the procedures adds nothing more to the report and can safely be moved out of the body.

Reason 5: Trust Examiners

If the procedures are the in the appendices, an examiner has them to refer to if something in the Evaluation of procedures doesn’t sound right. Even though the chances of this are very slim. As an examiner I’m not out to “get” students. I sometimes have to spend a long time going back and forth between parts of the IA to comprehend the procedures a student has followed. If a student is over 2200 words the chances are it’s because they’ve put a lot of effort into their work. Why, as a teacher or examiner, would I look to punish them by sticking to a rule that isn’t even stated in the first place?

Why you should write the procedures 

Firstly, the IB subject report does say “it would be helpful.” Why not oblige?

Secondly, in writing my own IA I did find it tricky to write my Exploration without first giving a basic summary of the procedures. It wasn’t about contextualizing the Evaluation, but actually more about contextualizing things like design, materials and controlled variables. A paragraph clearly summarizing the procedures can actually save words in other sections of the Exploration.

Lastly, it does follow the standard convention of report writing in IB Psychology. I trust in the next curriculum we’ll see a return of the procedures to the requirements, rubric and the guide. Along with many others, I do wish our IA format was more like the old format that followed the standard approach (Abstract-Introduction-Methods-Results-Discussion). Combining the specifics of the current rubric (which I think are an improvement) with the old format and we’d have a much improved IA.