The Ultimate Guide to Finalizing IAS

Written By: Ranjika B.

If you’re reading this blog post, you probably have your IAs due very soon. If you’ve made it so far and have a complete draft, CONGRATULATIONS! The hard part is behind you. With just a few flourishes and edits, you can finalize your IA for submission. In this blog post, I will guide you through proofreading, editing and structuring your IAs. I will provide you with an editing and proofreading checklist, so that you can rest assured that your IA is completely error free and can score a 7. 

As Stephen King once said, “To write is human, to edit is divine.” The goal when you are writing your IA first drafts is to put down as many words as possible. Give yourself a pat on the back, because you have come so far in the process! With one complete draft in your hands, you can now move on to proofreading, editing and structuring your IAs. The exercise of simply polishing your IAs can take it from a low score to a 7. 


Proofreading refers to critically reading your paper and identifying all sorts of errors and rectifying them. Do not try to proofread immediately after finishing your paper because your eyes will gloss over the mistakes and not be able to recognize them. Come back to your essay after a good night’s sleep, a cup of tea or coffee and a fresh pair of eyes. Read your paper, out loud or to another person if possible. The act of presenting your work to someone else will make you more critical of your writing. Try to view your work from multiple perspectives, and at every point and transition in your writing ask yourself “Does this argument provide a satisfactory answer to my research question?” 

Proofreading checklist: 

  1. Is the relevance and personal engagement with the RQ clear?

    • Relevance: Have you clearly established why your RQ is important to research in the subject? 
    • Personal Engagement: Have you provided evidence of strong personal interest in the subject matter? 
  2. Is the focus narrow and specific to the scope of the assignment?
  3. Does the research and arguments stay specific to the scope of the assignment?
  4. Is the writing focused and particular to the research question?
  5. Have alternate perspectives, theories and counterarguments been presented
  6. Are all the concepts, theories, terms and ideas clear and simple to understand?
  7. Is the voice, tense and style appropriate and consistent?
  8. Have you used credible sources, and included a citation whenever required
  9. Does the writing fulfill the marking criteria for the assessment?
  10. Have you stuck to the word limit, font, page number and spacing requirements
  11. Have you numbered, labelled and organized any tables, charts, images, graphs and appendices?
  12. Do the different sections of your paper flow in a natural and appropriate manner?

Asking yourself these questions are imperative to the proofreading process. Strive to answer a “yes” to all these questions. If by any chance you answered “no” to one of these questions, edit your paper until you have a yes. 

Editing your IA 

The proofreading steps should have allowed you to identify all errors and correct them accordingly. If you were missing the relevance or personal engagement, add sentences to cover those bases. If you identified any major content related errors, these are some examples of what you could do to fix them. 

  • Find real life implications of the concepts you cover to add relevance to your writing. 
  • For personal engagement, you may share any personal experiences that explain why you would be interested in the subject, or show how you have gone above and beyond in your research to answer the research question. 
  • If the focus has become to broad, omit any information that is irrelevant to your RQ. For instance, if you are writing a Psychology IA replicating a study about short-term memory, and go in-depth into explaining theories of memory, narrow down your focus to theories of short-term memory as opposed to going in depth about other types of memory that go beyond the scope of your research. 
  • If you identify a biased perspective in your writing, include an alternative explanation or a counterargument. 

Structuring and Formatting Checklist 

Once the major errors in argumentation are rectified, you can move on to make structural and formatting changes. Take the following steps to help you format and structure your IAs. 

  • Use a spelling and grammar check 
  • Complete your sentences and add any missing punctuation marks. 
  • Change the voice, tense and style to make it consistent. For example, if you are talking in the past tense, make sure all the sentences are in past tense 
  • Any tables, graphs, charts, photographs, equations, calculations, etc. should be labelled, numbered and placed in the correct section of the paper. 
  • Follow the structure set down in the marking criteria in the IBDP subject guide. For example: the section titles should be Introduction, Aim and Hypothesis, Exploration, Discussion and Analysis for a Group 4 IA 
  • Make sure that you have a complete table of contents, with the correct page numbers for each section. 
  • Make sure that the cover page has the title, word/page count and subject 
  • The citations should be complete and follow the same style throughout. For example, if you started your citations in the APA format, make sure that all your citations are also in APA. 
  • The bibliography should have an organized list of references, in an alphabetical order. 

With these tips and checklists, you should be able to take a rough first draft and turn into a final submission IA! I wish you all the very best with finalizing your IAs. 

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