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I.B. History Internal Assessment

The Historical Investigation

Welcome to the internally assessed component of the I.B. History program. This assignment will be a summative assessment in our class and will also make up 20 % of your overall I.B. History score.  Over the next few weeks you will each explore and develop a specific research question that you will investigate, evaluate and reflect upon.  Depending on whether you are sitting the I.B. exam in May will impact when you complete this assessment but the process will be same.

Here are some details from the I.B. about the Historical Investigation

Students at both SL and HL are required to complete a historical investigation into a topic of their choice. The historical investigation is made of up three sections.

Students have a free choice of topic for their historical investigation—the topic need not be related to the syllabus, and students should be encouraged to use their own initiative when deciding on a topic. However, the topic must be historical, and therefore cannot be on an event that has happened in the last 10 years.

Students should choose their own topic, with their teacher’s guidance and approval. Teachers must approve the topic and question for investigation before work is started. It is crucial that there are sufficient sources to support the investigation, and that the investigation can be assessed by the criteria for internal assessment. Teachers must also make students aware of any relevant ethical considerations when undertaking their investigation, for example, the need to show sensitivity or to respect confidentiality.

The investigation is an opportunity for students to demonstrate the application of their skills and knowledge to a historical topic of their choice. The emphasis must be on a specific historical inquiry that enables the student to develop and apply the skills of a historian by selecting and analyzing a range of source material and considering diverse perspectives. The activity demands that students search for, select, evaluate and use evidence to reach a relevant conclusion consistent with the evidence and arguments that have been put forward.

Section 1: Identification and evaluation of sources

This section requires students to analyze in detail two of the sources that they will use in their investigation. The sources can be either primary or secondary sources. In this section students must:

  • clearly state the question they have chosen to investigate (this must be stated as a question)

  • include a brief explanation of the nature of the two sources they have selected for detailed analysis, including an explanation of their relevance to the investigation

  • analyze two sources in detail. With reference to the origins, purpose and content, the student should analyze the value and limitations of the two sources in relation to the investigation.


A crucial element of this section of the internal assessment task is formulating an appropriate question to investigate. The six key concepts for the history course (causation, consequence, continuity, change, significance and perspectives) can be a very useful starting point in helping students to formulate a question.

The following are examples of historical investigations recently submitted by students.

  • How systematic were the deportations of the Jewish population of Dusseldorf to Minsk between 1941 and 1942?

  • How significant were economic problems as a cause of the Bamberg Witch Trials (1623–1633)?

  • What were the most important reasons for the failure of Operation Market Garden?

  • To what extent was weak leadership responsible for the collapse of the Egyptian Old Kingdom in 2125 BC?

Section 2: Investigation

This section of the internal assessment task consists of the actual investigation. The internal assessment task provides scope for a wide variety of different types of historical investigation, for example:

  • a historical topic or theme using a variety of written sources or a variety of written and non-written sources

  • a historical topic based on fieldwork, for example, a museum, archeological site, battlefields, places of worship such as mosques or churches, historic buildings

  • a local history study.

The investigation must be clearly and effectively organized. While there is no prescribed format for how this section must be structured, it must contain critical analysis that is focused clearly on the question being investigated, and must also include the conclusion that the student draws from their analysis.

In this section, students must use a range of evidence to support their argument. Please note that students can use primary sources, secondary sources, or a mixture of the two.


Section 3: Reflection

This section of the internal assessment task requires students to reflect on what undertaking their investigation highlighted to them about the methods used by, and the challenges facing, the historian.

Examples of discussion questions that may help to encourage reflection include the following.

  • What methods used by historians did you use in your investigation?

  • What did your investigation highlight to you about the limitations of those methods?

  • What are the challenges facing the historian? How do they differ from the challenges facing a scientist or a mathematician?

  • What challenges in particular does archive-based history present?

  • How can the reliability of sources be evaluated?

  • What is the difference between bias and selection?

  • What constitutes a historical event?

  • Who decides which events are historically significant?

  • Is it possible to describe historical events in an unbiased way?

  • What is the role of the historian?

  • Should terms such as “atrocity” be used when writing about history, or should value judgments be avoided?

  • If it is difficult to establish proof in history, does that mean that all versions are equally acceptable?



A bibliography and clear referencing of all sources must be included with every investigation, but these are not included in the overall word count.

Word limit

The word limit for the historical investigation is 2,200 words. A bibliography and clear referencing of all sources must be included in the investigation, but are not included in the overall word count.

For more information about the historical investigation and the process of how it will be completed in our class, see Mr. Johnson's Historical Investigation Student Guide.





Additional Resource for Historical Investigation Support


See the below unit calendar for how we are going to spend our time 

Research Historical Investigation Topic and Work on Research Intent Form
Research Intent Form Due
Continue Researching and Planning your Historical Investigation
Introduction to the Internal Assessment
121 Library
User Name: tualhigh
Password: gowolves
Washington County Cooperative Library Services
Research Historical Investigation Topic and Work on Research Intent Form
Research Intent Form Due
Continue Researching and Planning your Historical Investigation
Research Day for Historical Investigation
Complete Cited Notes
Research Check
Select Sources for
Identification and Evaluation
Begin Drafting Historical Investigation
Sample Historical Investigations
Work on Historical Investigation First Draft
Submit First Draft of Historical Investigation
Conference with Mr. Johnson about your drafts and make revisions
Conference with Mr. Johnson about your drafts and make revisions
Conference with Mr. Johnson about your drafts and make revisions
Submit Historical Investigations to Google Classroom and Hard Copy to Mr. Johnson
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