12 characteristics of a good article for your IA commentary!

The Economics Internal Assessment (IA) portfolio is an opportunity for students to connect what they’re learning in class with what’s happening in the ‘real world’. For the purposes of the IA portfolio in IB Economics, students have to find three articles related to three different sections of the syllabus and then write an 800-word commentary about each article showing their abilities to apply relevant theories/concepts, use relevant economic terminology, analyze using relevant diagrams and economic models, and evaluate, all in the context of the article they chose.

So, the journey to writing an Economics IA Commentary starts with finding an appropriate article. So, what makes a good article for an IB Economics IA?

Criteria for finding a ‘good’ article:

  1. Short and sweet: one page or less is ideal. Long articles can be chosen but student needs to highlight relevant parts. However, long articles often provide a lot more analysis rather than just reporting news, so I always say: ‘pick an article that’s short and sweet!’
  2. Not published more than a year from the date of writing the commentary: the closer to today’s date, the better.
  3. Very little or no technical language: articles should just report NEWS, with minimum or no economic analysis or interpretation (because it’s the student’s job to provide the interpretation, analysis and evaluation!). Articles from the The Economist magazine for example, would not be ‘appropriate’ for writing an Economics IA Commentary (though would definitely be great for reading while studying the course material!)
  4. Article allows for linking to ONE of the nine key concepts: each commentary in the portfolio needs to be clearly linked to one of the nine key concepts: scarcity, choice, change, intervention, equity, efficiency, economic well-being, sustainability, interdependence. You should choose a different key concept for every commentary!
  5. Article allows for linking two or more topics in the chosen section of syllabus: the more connections you show between the article and different topics in the syllabus, the better your application and analysis will be! For example, an article about taxes on cigarettes can be linked to the following topics: indirect taxes, demerit goods, negative externalities of consumption, and market failure!
  6. Article lends itself automatically to drawing one or two diagrams: the IA commentary must contain at least one diagram (as Criterion A is ‘Diagrams’). Most IAs I have seen contain at least two diagrams (one for explaining/applying/analysing and one for evaluating or offering a solution).
  7. Each article is from a different and reputable news source: if all your articles are from BBC, then we have a problem! The portfolio should contain a diversity of news sources from different parts of the world.
  8. Each article used in portfolio covers a different section of the syllabus: I have my students do one microeconomics IA commentary once we finish microeconomics unit, then one macroeconomics IA commentary once we finish macroeconomics unit, then one global economy IA commentary once we finish global economy unit! So by the end, there will be an microeconomics-related article, macroeconomics-related article, and either international- or development economics-related article!
  9. Each article relates to a different part of the world: IB learners should be globally-minded world citizens. I expect my students to write each commentary on an article from a different country in a completely different world region. Once again, the portfolio should contain a diversity of news sources from different parts of the world!
  10. Each article is a primary source: articles found in Economic textbooks, for example, cannot be used!
  11. Article can be written in any language: but a translation must be provided if not written in English!
  12. Article should deal with contentious issues that are of interest to YOU: if issues in article are not contentious/controversial or you’re not necessarily interested in them, it’ll be more difficult to write the commentary.

So, now you know how to find a good article for your internal assessment (IA) commentary. Also, I have a TikTok for this because, of course, nowadays if it’s not on TikTok then it didn’t happen!

If you’d like to learn how to structure an IB Economics IA commentary, I have a selection of student exemplars available in the members-only section of my YouTube channel! To become a member and get access to many exclusive perks and exclusive content, you can click this link and join for only $4.99 per month (trust me, it’s worth it 😉)

Have a great rest of your week!

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