Preliminary Pages

Generally, in a HL Biology IA, these pages refer to the Title Page and the Content Page. They come before the actual IA sections and write-up and usually do not require a page number.

Many IB students tend to place these pages on the last of their Biology IA to-do-list. However, we would advice that you do it first.

Title page

  • Title (e.g. “A study investigating…”)
  • Your Research Question

IA Contents Page

  1. Title and Research Question
  2. Introduction
  3. Background Information
  4. Hypothesis
  5. Variables (Independent, Dependent, Controlled and Uncontrolled)
  6. Apparatus
  7. Preliminary Experiment
  8. Procedure
  9. Risk Assessment
  10. Raw data

IA Layout

  • The IA Title and Research Question 

Identify a broad topic statement, ensuring that your research question is stated and includes both the dependent and independent variables. For example, What is the effect of X on Y as shown by… ? Your research question should include the following, where appropriate:

  • The organism (if appropriate) has a scientific name
  • Units
  • Time
  • Location

Including the following will allow you to effectively convey clarity in your research question, and thoroughly explain what you will be investigating.

  • Introduction and Background Information: 


Your introduction is rooted in background information about the organism and or the topic that you will be investigating in your IA. You should demonstrate strong personal engagement by a statement of purpose. For instance, you would avoid using cliche phrases such as “I have always loved..”, but rather opt for phrases that clearly illustrate your passion with the real, outside world, or your genuine reason for choosing the topic that you will be investigating.

Background info: 

Go on to enhance your understanding of your research question while ensuring that your background information is:

    • Relevant
    • Focused
    • Within context of the range of independent variables
    • Within context of the dependent variables being used
    • In-text cited, based on the referencing systems used in your school (e.g. Harvard/ MLA referencing) 
    • Supported by a preliminary experiment through the inclusion of a short paragraph about how it was carried out, to show your clarity on how you would conduct your main experiment.

While conducting a preliminary experiment shows great engagement, many students do not do it/are not able to carry one out for various different reasons. If you have not carried out a preliminary experiment, research and describe the following instead :

  • Range and intervals of your independent variables
  • How you will be measuring your dependent variable
  • Hypothesis : 

Null hypothesis : 

“The null hypothesis is a typical statistical theory which suggests that no statistical relationship and significance exists in a set of given single observed variables, between two sets of observed data and measured phenomena” (“Null Hypothesis – an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics”).

For example,

“There is no statistically significant association between X and Y .”

Alternative hypothesis : 

Your alternative hypothesis is an alternative theory that is suggested with direct polarity to the null hypothesis.

For example,

“There is a statistically significant association between X and Y.”

  • Variables :
  •  Independent, dependent and controlled variables are clearly stated
  • Ensure to have at least 5 intervals and at least 15 repeats for each interval
  • Explain how and why you are using those variables, how certain variables may not be controlled, and how you minimise the effects of these to suit it to your experiment effectively
  • Apparatus :

Ensure that all apparatus, chemicals and solutions are listed and / or shown in a diagram if relevant and all apparatus used are relevant. (Not an obligatory list, can be given in the method)

  • Method :

Your method section demonstrates that you have sufficient data that has been collected, and that you have thoroughly reflected on each method of control.

Ensure to :

  • Outline method in a step by step, list-like format
  • Reflect on every controlled variable in the method while explaining
  • State that you have : “Repeated method ____ for verification” at the end of every section.
  • Risk assessment to ensure safety: 

Include a risk assessment of apparatus and chemicals and show awareness of:

  • safety
  • ethical issues – eg handling of animals
  • environmental issues – eg  impact on field sites
  • Analysis and evaluation : 

Analysis : 

Ensure that your analysis section includes sufficient correlated qualitative and quantitative  observations, anomalies that have been clearly pointed out and explained, statistical tests and graphs that explain the data collected.

The figure below is an example graph taken from a model IA, where the student has clearly presented information in a graph.

Evaluation : 

  • Conclude by making explicit reference to the research question. In other words, your conclusion should directly answer the question : “Does the data answer the Research Question?”
  • State if your null hypothesis is accepted or rejected
  • Refer to the graph and data points to clearly demonstrate your understanding and strong conclusion
  • Compare the conclusion with published data and predictions 

(A good tip here is to put your graph in and next to it put a graph from a textbook or website. Can you either explain any differences or relate it to scientific theory?) 

  • Strengths and weaknesses of your investigation
  • Further extensions that could have been carried out. 

Figure 1 : Model student IA graph 

  • Bibliography 
  • Include all links and a bibliography page.

Sample IA marked and annotated :