IB – Completing the Personal Project


The student is expected to:

  • document his or her process
  • select a topic of personal interest
  • focus the personal project through an area of interaction/global context
  • structure the personal project report according to the information provided in this guide
  • respect word or time limits for the report
  • fulfill ethical and academic honesty requirements established by the school.

This section contains guidance for supervisors and students on defining the goal, developing the focus global context, and completing the project.

Using the process journal

All ATL skills, as defined in MYP: From principles into practice, will be required in completing the personal project and documenting process and in this way students show working behaviours and academic honesty.

The “process journal” is a generic term used to refer to the documentation that students develop. However, the media for documenting the process can vary depending on student preferences. It can be written, visual, audio or a combination of these and might include both paper and electronic formats.

Students will be familiar with the practice of documenting process in the arts and technology subject groups, for example, and can draw on techniques used in these and other subjects. Students may develop their own format and design, although schools can provide templates or examples in order to support students’ work.

Students must show evidence of regular use of the process journal, though not necessarily weekly. Though legibility is important, quality of thinking is more important than neatness and presentation.

The process journal is …  The process journal isn’t … 
  • begun at the very start of the process and used throughout the process
  • a place for planning
  • a place for recording interactions with sources, for example, teachers, supervisors, external contributors
  • a place for storing useful information— quotes, pictures, ideas
  • a means of exploring ideas
  • a place for reflection on stages of the project
  • a place for evaluating work completed a place for reflecting on learning
  • devised by the student in a format that suits his or her needs
  • useful for the student when receiving formative feedback
  • used by the student to produce the project report.
  • used on a daily basis (unless this is useful for the student)• written up after the process has been completed
  • additional work on top of the project; it is part of and supports the project
  • a diary with detailed writing about what was done
  • a static document with only one format.


Documenting the process might include:

  • Mind Maps®
  • bullet lists
  • charts
  • short paragraphs
  • notes
  • timelines
  • annotated illustrations
  • pictures.

Assessment of the process journal

This documentation of the process is assessed using criterion A.

In assessing the process journal, supervisors will need to consider how students have demonstrated the use of ATL skills, including responsibility for their own learning in achieving their personal project goal and completing their personal project.

When assessing the use of the process journal the following questions can be considered.

  • Has the student included evidence of personal goal setting and planning, such as a plan of action?
  • Does the student have the relevant materials during meetings with the supervisor and during work periods?
  • Does the student follow meeting arrangements with the supervisor? Does the student initiate meeting arrangements?
  • Does the student use the meeting time productively to ask questions and seek information?
  •  Is there dialogue between the student and supervisor?
  • Does the student record sources consulted?
  • Does the student include extracts of relevant information?
  • Does the student shows evidence of brainstorming ideas and use of organizational tools such as flow charts, diagrams or lists?
  • Does the student anticipate and identify problems as they emerge?
  • Does the student create solutions?
  • Does the student include reflections at various stages of the process?
  • Does the student include feedback from the meetings with the supervisor?

It is important to remember that the process journal is personal to the student, in the sense that he or she is also exploring ways of recording his or her process. There is no one single model that a student must use and there must be flexibility with the way students record their process. However, the student does have a responsibility to be able to produce evidence of use of the process journal in order for a level to be awarded for criterion A.

Defining the goal

Identifying the topic

Students begin by identifying areas or topics of interest to themselves. Having the opportunity to think and brainstorm ideas is useful for students, as well as discussing ideas with other people; for example, other students, friends outside the school, relatives and teachers. Students should begin to document their process at this stage, including ideas discussed and their thinking.

After this brainstorming, the process of refining and developing ideas begins. Through this process, students should develop an outline of the goal they wish to pursue, which will often form the basis of the first meeting between the student and the supervisor.

Students should develop a goal which they can accomplish but challenges their knowledge, skills or techniques in an appropriate way. Some projects may require overly complex procedures or a too lengthy process of learning. Other projects may be too simplistic and present no challenge to the student. Deciding whether a project is realistic or unrealistic for a student will be based on discussions between the student and the supervisor. Goals should be achievable based on the time and resources available.

Determining whether a project is appropriately challenging is a highly individual decision. What is labelled as too ambitious or limited for one student will be accessible or challenging for another. The student ’s individual strengths and limitations need to be considered alongside his or her specific interests and prior knowledge. While collaboration with others will form part of the project, the project must be the student’s own; he or she must have the capacity to complete the project without relying solely on the help of others. The student can involve teachers and other appropriate adults as resources but the project must be completed by the student.

Documentation of process continues here in the early stages when defining the goal and during the research phase.

Here are some examples of challenging and highly challenging projects.

Challenging project

Highly challenging project

A student wants to raise political awareness among his or her peers through an information- giving campaign.

A student wants to influence an external political system and get a bill passed through a national government.

A student wants to create a durable bag using second-hand materials.

A student wants to create a range of bags using second-hand materials to sell and raise money for charity.

A student decides to create a puppet-show to take to a primary school to contribute to their end of year celebrations.

A student decides to create a puppet-show to entertain children and to tour several schools and hospitals.

A student decides to write an article on a topic

of interest for a journal (school/academic/special interest) and submit to an audience.

A student decides to write and publish an original book-length feature on a topic of interest.

Identifying the Global Context

The global context chosen by the student should provide a context for inquiry and research for the project as well as informing the goal. It is strongly recommended that students choose one global context in order to define their goal, as this will give a much more specific focus to the project.

The global context helps the student engage in a cycle of inquiry (understanding/awareness, reflection and action) and a process that leads them from academic knowledge to thoughtful action.

Here are some questions students might consider as they choose an global context through which to focus their project.

  • What do I want to achieve through my personal project?
  • What do I want others to understand through my work?
  • What impact do I want my project to have?
  • How can a specific global context enrich my project?

Illustrations of the impact of the global context on student projects are included in the section“Addressing the Global Context”.

It must be noted that all students will use ATL skills in the completion of their projects.

Creating specifications to evaluate the outcome or product

As part of the goal students must determine a final outcome or product for their project.

The outcome or product might be an original work of art, a model, a business plan, a campaign, a blueprint or architectural drawing, an essay, a course of study, a debate, a film or some other work. Students must define realistic specifications to measure the quality for the project’s final outcome/product. Working with their supervisor, students must define what constitutes a high-quality outcome or product. Some appropriate tools for setting standards and assessing quality include checklists or rubrics. Students document the specifications in their process journal and use them to assess the final outcome/product.

For example, the goal may be to raise awareness of some issue through a poster campaign. The product is the exhibition of a series of posters created by the student that require a response from the audience. In this case the product has two parts: the posters themselves and the exhibition.

It is most likely that students will not be able to define the specifications until they have spent some time researching the goal and this aspect is determined once students have begun their investigations. Once students are clear on what they want to achieve and the outcome or product of their project, they will be in a position to determine the specifications. Students will use these specifications to evaluate the quality of the outcome or product as assessed in criterion E.

Note: Where the student decides to write an essay as their product, this is separate to the project report.

Following this initial research stage and deciding on the goal and global context focus, students will need to plan for the project. They will need to decide on the specific tasks or activities they will complete in order to reach certain milestones or interim stages.

Selecting sources

Students should select relevant and reliable information from a variety of sources to develop the personal project. The number and type of resources will vary depending upon the nature of the project; however, in order to reach the highest levels of achievement, students must select a range of sources and a variety of types. Evaluating the reliability of sources will be developed through ATL, particularly information literacy skills. Students will consider factors such as credibility of the author, currency, accuracy, relevance, intended audience and objectivity of the source.

Available sources may include students’ prior knowledge, and primary and secondary sources such as: subject area content, significant people, survey data, published media, internet resources (which may provide a variety of resources), video or audio recordings, images. Access to these may be virtual.

Although students may include their prior knowledge as a source, prior knowledge alone does not provide sufficient depth or breadth of inquiry for the personal project.

Students will have selected sources during the initial stage of their project but research will continue during the process of completing the project. They should record information collected from these sources in their process journal.

The focus area of interaction will influence the selection of sources.

Applying information

Application of information takes place throughout the project as students decide what actions to take and when, and as they keep records in their process journal. Students need to be aware of recording their decision-making which has been based on information from sources. They will make connections with prior knowledge and new knowledge in potentially unfamiliar situations and identify solutions.

When they come to report the project their records will be particularly important. As mentioned in “Using the process journal”, these records do not need to be lengthy but appropriate to the needs of the student and a reminder of what they have achieved along the way.

Achieving the goal

This is the stage when students complete their goal and produce the outcome or product. They will evaluate the outcome or product using the specifications created earlier during the process.

Reflecting on learning

Students will reach a stage of the project when they are able to begin preparing their project report. They will need to reflect on what they have learned through completing the project. This learning relates to the subject-specific learning of the topic itself and what they have discovered in relation to the project goal and the area of interaction. It also relates to themselves as learners and their awareness or development of approaches to learning skills.

Reporting the project

During the whole process, students will have kept a record of their decisions and should use this in order to help them produce the project report and reflect specifically on their learning and achievement. This is addressed in the “Reporting the personal project” section.