The Project Brief / Proposal

The first document that each student needs to submit to his school teacher for approval is the project brief or proposal. In the project brief, the following items are usually required

  • The research Question
  • Background information
  • Methodology (including experimental procedure)
  • List of chemicals
  • List of apparatus

Depending on when the IA commences in the school, some students might have studied the topics on which the IA can be based on, such as Kinetics, Energetics, Acids and Bases etc. Others might be left clueless as how to formulate the research question, and frequently end up copying IA topics from websites.

What Makes a Good Research Question:

A research question should be phrased as a question and include the following

  • The Independent variable
  • The Dependent variable
  • Other Details such as
  • The analysis method
  • The name of the reaction (if applicable)
Independent and Dependent Variables

One of the most important factor to consider when deciding the independent and dependent variables is that they must be measurable by techniques found in your local chemistry laboratory.

Do not choose variables which are not possible to be measured, for example, measuring the concentration of propanone.  Propanone measurement is difficult using titrations or UV-VIS spectroscopy (which is the apparatus many schools have). The most accurate method is using a liquid chromatography, which most school do not have.

Some examples of independent and dependent variables to consider


Topic of research


Independent variable


Dependent variable


Concentration Molecular structure

Strength of acids/bases

Temperature change Enthalpy change of reaction


Concentration Presence/absence of catalysts Types of catalysts


Time taken for reaction to complete

Rate of reaction

Acids and Bases

Type of acid/base

Basicity of acid/base

Buffering capacity


Surface area, porosity of electrodes

Current Temperature

Potential Difference

Electrolytic rate and yield

Organic Chemistry

Strength of nucleophile/electrophile Polarity of solvents

Rate of reaction Yield of products

Selectivity of major and minor


Transition Metals

Ligand strength

Ligand denticity

Ligand exchange equilibrium




Polarity of solvent

Yield of aspirin in synthesis

This list is not exhaustive,but can serve as a starting point to think about the research question and penning down the project brief or proposal.

In addition to topics within the syllabus, a student can also consider embarking on areas outside the syllabus. There is no right and wrong in an IA research topic, because what matters more is the support for the school supervisor and additional help from tutors like us. Besides facilitating the thinking process, we also guide students in developing workable experimental procedures, as well as data analyses and interpretation, and vetting of report before final submission. Our aim is to make IA a smooth and enjoyable learning for our students, so that the struggles in the laboratory and report writing is kept to a minimal.

Feel free to contact us via email or phone (65) 9616 1651 for a more detailed discussion of how we can support you in your IA or EE project.