How to Structure an SL Business Management Internal Assessment
The SL Business IA is worth 25% of your final mark in SL Business Management class. Conveniently, it’s also out of 25 marks, so every point you score on your IA gives you an extra 1% in the course. Here is how to get all of those points.
Your job is to choose an interesting business question and then use 3 to 5 documents (for data) and 3 or 4 course tools (for analysis) to answer it. Your IA can have a maximum of 1500 words.
You’ll focus on a single business and then also a certain aspect of that business. You wouldn’t, for example, write an IA about the shipping industry (too broad and not a specific business). But you could write about about how Amazon has begun to compete within this market and how this has affected the company.
How the SL IA is different than the HL IA
Let’s first make sure you’re clear on the differences between the SL and HL Business Management IAs. This will help to keep you from accidentally doing things you don’t need to do.
- The SL word count is less and you don’t need a Research Proposal section
- All (or almost all) of your data for the SL IA should come from just a few supporting documents that you choose.
- In the HL IA most information comes from primary sources. SL IA information comes entirely (or almost entirely) from secondary sources.
- SL students are limited to using just 3, 4 or 5 main sources. Whereas HL students can use as many as they want. Note that you (SL students) are allowed to use additional sources to fill in small details (to get an additional few facts, or to define a word), but mostly you’ll be using your 3-5 main documents (so choose them carefully).
Choosing your documents
Here’s what matters when you’re choosing your 3 to 5 sources:
- Variety of views. It’s important when choosing your documents to represent a variety of different documents that are relevant to the issue you’ve chosen.
- Variety of types. In addition to different views, also gather information from different types of sources. This will help you look at the topic in different ways and draw on different types of insights. You might use 2 (very different) business articles, an Annual Report (which contains financial data) and an academic paper. Students (especially weaker students) will sometimes rely solely on business articles (i.e. BBC and CNN news stories). However, it's more useful to also look at academic papers, annual reports, company website, available market research or similar documents.
- Something impressive. Try to include at least one source which shows your willingness to work hard and go beyond the minimum requirements. Trade journals and advanced academic papers are good for this.
- Sources which fit your tools. Of course, you’ll want to be thinking about the types of analysis you’re wanting to do (to answer your question), so keep that in mind as well. In particular try to find at least one source which contains numbers, so you can do some financial analysis.
- All sources are recent. The supporting documents MUST be written within a maximum of three years prior to when you’re doing your final exams. So, if you are taking your final IB exams in May 2021, all of your sources should be written later than June 2018.
Videos and audio clips
Many students don’t realize you’re allowed to use a video or an audio clip, as long as your sources for these are “reputable.” Avoid the random youtuber who happens to love Supreme clothes. (Actually, avoid everyone who likes Supreme. That’s a good rule.) But a Bloomberg news clip of the same company (also on Youtube) could be just fine. A video produced by the company themselves is also a good source.
If you do use a video or audio file, you’ll need to include a document in the appendix that is either a full transcript of the video or at least a clear summary of the main points you used in your IA. This way it’s clear to the marker what information was actually in the file, without them needing to access the file (which might not work out for some reason). Also, please make sure to provide very clear referencing of the file (again using MLA) so we can trace the source)
How to Structure Your SL Business Management IA
- Your Research Question
- Intended Audience (i.e. To Company X)
- The IB Number (Something in the format "abc123" (i.e. fjk932)
- Session (i.e. May 2021)
- IA word count. (Note that if you include an Acknowledgments section, that part isn’t included in your word count. More word count tips to come).
- (Also, notice that the student’s name, school, candidate number and student number should not be on the cover sheet anymore).
Include (with corresponding page numbers):
- Analysis and Discussion
- Works Cited
Acknowledgments (Not included in the word count)
You’re allowed to have an Acknowledgments section, where you thank people like your teacher and anyone else (i.e. a Librarian) who helped you with your IA. It’s customary in Business IAs. It’s not mandatory though.
Introduction (approx. 150 words)
The IB says they want the introduction to “set the scene”.
- State the company name and clearly explain what the company does.
- State and briefly explain your research question.
- Explain why this topic (your research question) is important for the company to understand.
Methodology (approx. 200 words)
Overall this is where you can begin to convince us that you chose your sources thoughtfully and that they give a range of viewpoints/perspectives, which aided your analysis.
- Mention the parts of the course (chapters and tools) that you're going to use to explore the issue and why you chose these. (Watch this YouTube clip if you aren't sure about how to choose your tools, because using the right tools is essential to scoring well in your IA.) Here is detailed advice for members for what to watch out for with each of the most popular course tools. (You can join here).
- Explain some of the sources of information you used and why you chose them (i.e. what data they provided).
- Explain how valid and reliable your data collection was. We actually want to see you noting some potential weaknesses here. For example, how there may have been room for bias or a limited scope to your research.
- Mention at least one change made to your IA approach (i.e. a change of tool, source, or question) as the work progressed. Ideally there would be several.
Analysis and discussion (approx. 900 words)
This is the section where you’ll do your analysis. Use the JAM structure, using one of the analytical techniques of the course. Use 3 or 4 techniques for analyzing. Give yourself around 300 words per tool, if you’re using 3 tools.
If you haven’t watched this yet, here is my YouTube video on choosing your tools.
In your mini-conclusions, make sure to explore what insights and themes emerge from your analysis of that tool. And try to do some synthesis as you go --linking the insights of this tool with the insights of the tools that have preceded it. Make it really clear how the insights of your tool have been helpful (or not) in answering your research question.
As you write, comment on the reliability of your sources. You will get points (in Criterion E) for these insights. If you happen to also take History, this is similar to OPVL
A few more tips that will make your Analysis work better:
- Don’t rely too much on just one or two documents.
- Of course make sure you’ve cited all of the facts. The majority of these will come from your 3 to 5 documents, but you should cite all of your sources using standard MLA formatting, even though you’ve put a copies of all of your documents the Appendix.
- Include a clear justification of the use of the theory (how it will help answer the RQ),
- Include as much of your information as possible within the tools (rather than in paragraph form).
- Make sure your mini-conclusions are linked to the research question.
- Try to include at least one financial tool. If you do, it should go after your qualitative tools. In general we like to see qualitative tools (such as SWOT and PEST) come before the quantitative ones (like ratio analysis and decision trees). Partly this is because the qualitative tools set the scene and provide context for the financials. Also it’s just conventional in this course.
- As much as possible, try to use key words from the course in the main body. (Here are some words you can use). This will help you with Criterion F.
- Make sure that you’ve used data from all of your sources in your tools.
Conclusion (Approx. 250 words)
- The conclusion should not introduce facts or arguments that have not been discussed previously, in the JAM sections of your analysis.
- Make sure the conclusions are well supported by your analysis.
- Don’t hold your best insights for the conclusion. Instead try to include them in an earlier analysis part (and mini-conclusions) and then (in your big conclusion) synthesize them with other parts of your analysis to make more nuanced/interesting points.
- Make sure you’ve included a clear answer to your question.
- Try to include some “evaluative insights”. For example, consider the pros and cons, short-term vs long-term effects, or possible stakeholder conflicts of the insights you’ve come up with.
- Mention some limitations to your research. There needs to be at least one, probably two. Show you have really reflected on your work. You could discuss other information would it be very valuable to have, but which you couldn't access. You could discuss possible inaccuracies in your work and the reasons for those. This is similar to how you write your EE reflections. (Here are some tips for that).
Works Cited (No word limit)
- All of the 3-5 sources, using MLA. (Do this, even though you’ve attached the sources in your appendix).
- Any additional sources you used for minor additional information (i.e. definitions or additional facts).
Appendices (No word limit)
- Include copies of all of your 3-5 supporting documents. Label them clearly, with labels like “Supporting document 1”, “Supporting document 2” and so on. This will help with referring to them in the commentary (even though you will use proper MLA referencing throughout the commentary).
- Highlight the parts of your supporting documents that you used in your analysis.
- If you go over word count the teacher is only allowed to mark the first 1500 words, so do be careful. The following are not counted in the word count: Your Acknowledgments section, the contents page, any tables of statistical data, your diagrams or figures, equations, formulae and calculations, citations and references, bibliography.
- Make sure your document has page numbers on it.
- Before you hand in your work, check several times to make sure every single fact is properly referenced.
Written by Tim Woods
Tim’s work to support students led to IBMastery--the best resources and support for IB students. After 17 years teaching and training around the world, Tim is now available to help you with private tutoring every day. Click here to work with him (i.e. for your TOK Exhibition, your TOK Essay, your EE or help with the Common App essay).