Embarking on an EPQ? Here’s a step-by-step guide to producing something that will stand out from the crowd.
Choose a topic.
You can really let your imagination run wild here. Normally EPQs are 5000-word dissertations, but they can be pieces of music, works of art, or even play scripts (just make sure your topic is approved first).
It’s probably best to choose something that’s related to what you want to do later in life, whether that’s a job or university. After that, you have (practically) no limits.
Here are some EPQ ideas to get you started:
- Are Size 0 and Plus Size models both equally defensible/indefensible?
- Can terrorism ever be justified?
- What are the impacts of learning a foreign language on child development?
- How can we effectively reduce the development of asthma in modern society?
- What’s the significance of animals in Shakespeare’s plays?
- Is the free press a force for good?
- Did Anne Boleyn really commit adultery?
- Should prostitution be legalised?
- Should the NHS pay for IVF treatment?
Once you’ve chosen one of your EPQ ideas, decide what you’re going to concentrate on. Outstanding EPQs have a really tight topic which still allows scope for plenty of research.
The 2014 AQA Examiners’ Report stated:
As ever, the best titles were usually couched as questions, and those less satisfactory tended to be framed with the wording “An investigation into…”. “To what extent…” was a popular formula – this worked well in some cases where there was a clear opposition of argument or view; in many cases, however, these words could have been excised without changing the thrust of the title.
Of course, you don’t have to stick to the ‘To what extent’ question. You’ve probably written essays like that a thousand times before. But if you’re stuck for ideas, it’s a tried and tested model. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Probably the most boring bit. But however tempting it is to scrimp on this section, just do it. You could have the most perfect project in the world, but if the planning’s wrong, the examiners will mark it down.
Planning doesn’t have to be too arduous. Make a timetable of when you’re going to work on your EPQ and the deadlines you’ve set yourself (you can liven it up with pretty colours if that helps). If you need help structuring your EPQ, consider getting a couple of pointer sessions from someone who also did an EPQ at A level. Keep everything as you go through the project, from scribbled calculations to the scrap paper you drafted ideas on. You never know what will come in handy later down the line.
When you’re doing your research, it can really help if you go out there and interview people. It ticks all the ‘initiative’ boxes.
Contact anyone you feel is relevant to your EPQ, whether that’s your friend’s mum or Richard Dawkins.
Don’t be afraid to ask big names – the worst they can do is say no, and they may well say yes! Who knew an EPQ could get you Lord Alan Sugar’s autograph?
Everybody’s a sucker for a well-presented project. Make sure your footnotes and bibliography are all in check. Here’s a Harvard Referencing Guide to help.
Once that’s done, you can format it clearly, add pictures, and choose an attractive binder to put it in.
And lastly – the EPQ is very much your own, so enjoy it!
Written by Bryony Glover