Business Internal Assessment (SL) – It’s All In the Secondary Data, Stupid!


Unlike the HL internal assessment in IB business, which emphasises collecting primary data,  the emphasis in the SL internal assessment is on collecting secondary data. Primary data is data that you collect yourself, using interviews, surveys, questionnaires etc.  Secondary data is data that someone else has already collected or assembled for you. Examples are business reports, articles in the news media, information on company websites and Annual Reports. For this reason, the SL internal assessment is quicker and easier to do, because you have the data all there at your fingers tips, as it were.

Here is the assessment criteria for the supporting documents:-

Criteria A: Supporting Documents

A number of things need to be noted here.

  • Don’t select documents that are more than 3 years old
  • Ensure documents are translated into the language of submission, if they are written in a different language.
  • Include a minimum of 3, and a maximum of 5 documents. And don’t exceed the maximum!
  • They must be relevant, in-depth and must ‘provide a range of different views’.

By ‘range of different views’ it means that the documents must illustrate  different view points and opinions about the company or issue / problem that you are studying. So, for example, if all your data sources come from the company itself i.e. are all internal to the company, such as Annual Reports, marketing documents, the company website etc. then it is likely that you are going to be reading data that is biased in favour of the company and it’s activities. This may hinder your ability to really objectively analyse and evaluate the company, its strategies and the issue that you are studying. 

So it’s important to get documents that are not just internal to the company, but also ones that are external as well.  These should be more balanced and critical of the company. 

Prior to my students starting their research, I give them this document to help them collect a wide range of data sources (see below). I ask them to collect as many different internal and external sources of data as they can on the company or problem / issue they are studying prior to them writing their internal assessment.

Checklist for Supporting Documents

Business Internal Assessment (HL) – The Main Body

Students often don’t know how to begin writing the main body of their business I.A. In order to help them, I give them questions whose objectives are to guide them in the right direction, and to help them to create a ‘scaffold’ around which they can base their research.

Only after the students have followed these 5 stages, have collected their data and have written up their findings, do I ask them to format their IA according to the recommended format i.e. Introduction, Methodology, Main Results & Findings, Analysis & Discussion, Conclusion & Recommendations.

Stage 1.

Graphical portrayal of the problem / issue / decision being investigated and its effects (bar charts / line graphs / ratio analysis / break even etc.)


Stage 2.

What does the IB BUSINESS & MANAGEMENT THEORY / THE TEXTBOOK tell us how the problem / issue should be solved?

In your opinion, what strategies should be used?

Stage 3.

Is the company using these strategies? Yes or no?

If no, could it pursue your strategies?

Stage 4.

Evaluation of the above strategies, using BUSINESS ANALYTICAL TOOLS.

Which strategy / strategies would be the most successful and why?

Stage 5.

Conclusion and Recommendations for the company on how to improve their current strategies / implement new ones.

Weaknesses of study.

If you were to do the study again, how would you improve it?

With regard to Stage 5, the conclusions and recommendations section,  it is important that students don’t write any new or previously unmentioned content here. Any recommendations that the student makes should have already been discussed extensively in the main body.


Business Internal Assessment – The Introduction

Business & Management.

The introduction of your business internal assessment (IA) is very important because it is the first thing that your teacher, and any coursework moderators, will read. Is important, therefore, to make a good impression from the beginning.

Here is a template that I use to help students write their introduction. The advice that I give is start straight away with the business issue, problem or decision that you are investigating. A common mistake is to start your introduction giving a brief description of the company, it´s history etc. Avoid doing this. Only describe or explain your chosen company towards the end of the introduction if you have to. Remember, to keep your introduction brief – about 300 words for a Standard Level IA, and 400 for a Higher Level IA.

Description of problem / issue or decision the business has to make.

What effects are there on the company because of the problem?

Context (background situation).

Why is the problem / issue / decision important for the company?

What may happen to the company if they cannot resolve the problem / cannot make the decision?

Brief description / history of the company.

Carnival Float, Sao Paulo, 2015.
Carnival Float, Sao Paulo, 2015.

IB Business Coursework – The Research Question

IB Business & Management.

The Coursework Research Question – The Importance of ‘Focus’.

One of the first things that you will have to do when starting your business coursework is to choose a good, well focused research question (r.q.) . If you choose an inappropriate or unfocused r.q., you will be handicapped from the beginning. The word count for the HL coursework is only 2000 words (excluding the Research Question and Research Proposal) and for SL it is only 1500 ( for more general  information on the business coursework see this page of my blog). These word counts are short, and for this reason your r.q. must not be too broad. You need to focus on one specific business (or industry) in one country, and analyse one (or possibly two) of it’s problems,  strategies or decisions. See the diagram below:-

Increasingly Focused Research Question.
Increasingly Focused Research Question.

The above diagram illustrates some possible research questions, and their levels of focus, from unfocused at the top to much more focused on the bottom.

As you can see from the r.q. at the bottom, it looks at just one company, in one country, focusing on just one strategy. Indeed, rather than looking at just the ‘marketing strategy ( which potentially is a very broad strategy that includes a number of things such as ‘pricing’, ‘promotion’, ‘product’ and ‘place’, see the r.q. second from bottom ) it just focuses on just one of these – promotion.

Keep following this blog for more posts  on the IB Business coursework.