The Top Ten Theory of Knowledge Essay Tips
Here are my top tips for getting to top marks on your Theory of Knowledge essay.
1. All ToK essays are cross-disciplinary; they are never just about one way of knowing (perception, language, reason, etc) or one area of knowledge (mathematics, natural sciences, human sciences, history, etc). In general you’ll want to include at least
2. But be careful about which WoK's and AoK's you include. Review all of your notes to refresh your understanding and make sure you’re seeing the relevant connections and make sure (after you’ve done your research) that you have interesting points to make (claims and counter claims).
3. Make an outline first. The outline is your road map and it’s where you make a lot of your major decisions. It will also help you to develop an argument, with each paragraph building on the one before.
3. Research in a lot of different ways: websites, your class notes, talking with people (parents, classmates, your teachers). Find arguments which support both sides of (for and against) your thesis and examples that support your claims and counterclaims. As you develop insights you can use, make sure to record them. ]
4. Make sure you have clarified the scope of your essay (what you're aiming to do). Make it clear, in your introduction, which WOK's and AOK's ’s you’re using. And define your key terms carefully, in ways that are useful to your argument. Dictionary definitions rarely do this. At the minimum, be sure to not just use the first definition you find.
5. It’s easy to forget that ToK is about developing your ability to think for yourself. Give yourself some time away from your outline, to reflect before you begin your real essay. And then try to give yourself a few breaks from your essay as well, so you can come back to it with fresh eyes. It’s hard to see the weaknesses of your thinking while you’re busy trying to get it done (i.e. in a hurry). Come up with your own ideas.
6. Read at least 3 examples of excellent ToK Essays written by other people.
7. Keep editing. Each of your paragraphs should show opposing viewpoints concisely. Compare two opposing ideas about how natural science might relate to your knowledge question.
8. Use specific and qualified language. Rather than writing that “all science always provides useful insights,” instead say that, “chemistryoften provides useful insights.” Words like often or sometimes (instead of always), might or could (instead of should) help to keep from over-generalising or saying more than you can actually support in your essay.
9. To prove your essay's thesis you’ll need to rely on evidence. Various types of facts are fine (quotations, statistics, true stories from your reading or your own life). Avoid using clichés and common examples. If you can use examples that the marker hasn’t heard before this will show that you are thinking for yourself.
10. Read it out loud, after you have finished it. This will help you to find mistakes and areas that don’t flow as well as you thought.
Other Useful ToK Essay Resources
Six steps to writing a good TOK essay: A student guide by Colleen H. Parker at SPHS
Writing a TOK essay, by Richard van de Lagemaat
How to Write a Good TOK Essay, By Peg Robinson
This in link TheoryofKnowledgeStudent.com goes through a variety of examples of how to answer some of the questions from previous years.
Mr Hoyes’ Notes on The ToK Essay
How to Write a Good ToK Paper, from Collective Thinking
Writing a TOK Essay, from ‘Findings’ Part One, Two, Three, Four, and Five.
10 Tips on Writing a Good Theory of Knowledge Essay, from the American International School of Lusaka
Guide to writing the TOK Essay, from IBCram
Tips for writing a good ToK Essay by Ric Sims @ Nothing Nerdy
And consider some common problems, from ToK Talk
Formulating An IB TOK (Theory of Knowledge) Essay
Yup. You read that right. This article is going to give you some guidelines on how to structure your IB TOK essay. Remember though, they’re just suggestions and tips. Most of the dirty work will be done by you after all. I can only give tips.
“How do you know that you’re not a brain in a jar in a simulated world? How can you prove you’re not a brain in a jar?”
– my former TOK Teacher
IB TOK is a very watered down, sort of introductory philosophy class. Its main goal is to get your noggins churning. To think critically about a wide variety of issues. While that may sound fun, the essay writing and presenting isn’t.
This article will focus on filling the gaps. You can even apply the tips in this article to your presentation.
The General IB TOK Essay Outline
An outline is what we’ll be describing here. After all, you don’t see construction companies building skyscrapers without a blueprint. This is basically what I’m about to highlight.
So in your IB TOK essay you’ll have to choose one main knowledge question out of a set of 8 if my memory serves me correctly. After you’ve selected a knowledge question, you’ll move on to the planning stage
Before I go on, this is only ONE way you can go about doing your TOK essay. I am not guaranteeing that this is the only way to do it but it IS one way to do it.
You’ve got a knowledge question (KQ). Now what? Well there are a few things you need to remember before we get to the next part. I’ll list them for you here:
- You need to remember to define all relevant terminology in your essay (ways or knowing, areas of knowledge etc.)
- Provide arguments and counter arguments
- Use relevant sources or at least be able to relate them to your argument
So. That’s a small laundry list to remember. Remember that you need to remember. What do I mean by this?
I mean you should remember that list above that I described.
Trust me. When you’re writing an essay like the TOK essay, it’s easy to get lost in your own passionate, arguments.
Using Areas of Knowledge and Ways of Knowing As A Basis For Your Argument(?!)
Areas of Knowledge and Ways of Knowing are what bricks are to a construction company; they help you construct your ‘building’ (which in this case is your argument).
Let’s have a quick refresher on what the AOK’s and WOK’s are shall we?
Areas of Knowledge
- The Arts
- The Natural Sciences
- Indigenous Knowledge Systems
- Religious Knowledge Systems
- The Human Sciences
Ways of Knowing
- Sense Perception
How many of these should you use? Good question. The maximum word count for a TOK essay is 1600 words (at least it was when I did IB. I’m basically an old man now so it might have changed).
It’s up to you how many you think are relevant to the development of your essay. What I personally did in my TOK essay was that I included two WOK’s for every one AOK I included.
I’ll explain why in the next point but I ended up with an A in TOK so it worked for me. I’m not saying you’ll get an A by following this format though!
All I’m implying is that this format is perfectly alright. In this next point, I’ll talk about the number of arguments you can use and how to add AOK’s and WOK’s to them.
Arguments/Counter-Arguments and Knowledge Issues
This point should quaintly sum up what I’ve discussed so far.
We know we need AOK’s and WOK’s in our argument and we know we need to define as well as cite relevant sources (at least you should know this if you’ve been following so far).
The arguments/counter-arguments are what separate a ‘meh’ TOK essay from a fantastic one. This is where you let your brain power shine.
For every argument, you need a counter argument. For the format I’m talking about, an basic TOK argument might contain the following:
- An AOK and two WOK’s
- A Knowledge Issue (KI)
- An argument for your KI (using one WOK)
- A counter argument for your KI (using the other WOK)
What’s a KI? I’ll demonstrate by example. Let’s imagine your main, overall KQ is the following:
“Without application in the world, the value of knowledge is greatly diminished.” Consider this claim with respect to two areas of knowledge.”
That was actually the KQ I responded to in my TOK essay. Let’s say you decide to choose ‘The Arts’ as your AOK (which is what I did and will cite from). You might choose a KI like so:
“To what extent can we know whether reason or emotion is more suitable in justifying knowledge in the Arts?”
That’s a KI I came up with. In this case, I’ve made it clear what my AOK and WOK’s are. Now I can make an argument with either ‘reason’ or ’emotion’ and then counter argue with the other WOK.
For example, if you chose to argue with ‘reason’ then you would counter argue with ’emotion’.
Bam. You’ve just written two chunky paragraphs.
Now in my essay, I chose two AOK’s to compare. I chose a classic “The Arts” vs “The Natural Sciences” comparison. I first developed a argument/counter-argument with ‘The Arts’ and then moved on to ‘The Natural Sciences’.
This is a basic format you can follow for TOK.
If you’ve got an idea for a format yourself, then that’s fine. This outline is to help those that need some inspiration.
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Posted by Rhys McKenna in General tips