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
What is a Tok Essay
TOK stands for Theory of Knowledge. The TOK essay was conceptualized by the International Baccalaureate. The essay is to be between 1200 and 1600 total words, and is written on one of the topics that the IB has established. These are also known as titles. If you are in an International Baccalaureate program at your school, achieving a good grade on the TOK essay is imperative if you wish to graduate with this endorsement on your diploma.
The paragraphs that follow will help you to select the best title, master the TOK essay format, do your research, take notes and create an working outline, and even guide you to some useful writing samples. We hope these guidelines will help to answer any questions you have, and that you will be able to formulate a plan for success.
You know that IB students have advantages that include being highly sought after by colleges and universities and having a greater chance at becoming successful during and after the college years. By mastering the TOK essay format, you will truly be helping yourself.
TOK Essay Title Selection
Unlike other essays, you cannot simply choose from an unlimited number of topics. Your essay must be selected from one of the prescribed titles created by the International Baccalaureate Organization for 2017. Then, your essay must meet additional criteria. Specifically, it must be related to one of the eight areas of knowledge that have been defined by the IB.
Selecting TOK Essay Titles: Areas of Knowledge
Here are the eight areas of knowledge that a student in an IB program must master:
- The Arts
- Religious Knowledge Systems
- Human Science
- Indigenous Knowledge Systems
- Natural Science
Choosing TOK Essay Titles 2017: Understanding The Questions
Each year, a new set of questions are created for students to cover in their essays. These can be easily found online as the IB makes these public. What’s more important is to understand exactly what you need to do when writing about these topics. These aren’t the same as your standard custom writings.
Understanding The Purpose of TOK Essay Topics
Let’s Take a Look at Some TOK Essay Topics From Previous Years
Here are some sample essay topics that are loosely based on some of the titles established for 2017. We’ll discuss exactly what information is being sought in each of these examples. Remember that each essay should in some way establish your understanding of knowledge and the learning process itself. This gives your instructor the opportunity to conduct a thorough assessment of your critical thinking skills.
1.Explore The Human Nature of Pattern Seeking
a.Suggested Areas of Knowledge: There’s a lot that could be explored here with regard to perception and expectations. Science and religious knowledge systems could be two potentially interesting areas to dig into further.
b.What to Cover: The dangers of relying on perception instead of examination. The ways in which pattern seeking impacts our ability to obtain new knowledge and to vet information we receive.
2.Explore Knowledge Traditions And Various Methods of Correcting Knowledge
a.Suggested Areas of Knowledge: Ethics and natural science are definitely two areas where tradition and developing means of correcting the knowledge that informs or is informed by traditions.
b.What to Cover: Traditions are difficult for people to let go of, especially when they are associated with religion or culture. How do you encourage corrective action without insulting traditions.
3.Write About Facts And Theories And How They Relate
a.Suggested Areas of Knowledge: Human or natural science combined with indigenous or religious knowledge systems really seem to fit here. However, History would be an excellent addition to this.
b.What to Cover: Theories are ideally based in fact, however many people using correlation rather than causation to draw conclusions. The result is faulty theories. Then there is the problem with poorly vetted facts. Explain how outdated or incorrect information impacts the development of theories.
4.What Happens When Subject Matter Experts Don’t Agree With Each Other?
a.Suggested Areas of Knowledge: With this topic, any of the areas of knowledge could be excellent for potential exploration.
b.What to Cover: When building their own knowledge, people turn to experts. How do they discern what to believe when the experts themselves disagree on important matters? Can external influences change the way that experts view or spin the truth? Climate change would be a great topic to use as an example for this question.
5.Looking at Historic Events With The Benefit of Hindsight
a.Suggested Areas of Knowledge: History, Indigenous Knowledge Systems, Religious Knowledge Systems, and Ethics are all very good topics for an essay on this subject.
b.What to Cover: It’s easy to judge the actions and behaviors of citizens, religious leaders, and political leaders when we have the benefit of historical perspective. However, by doing so we can prevent ourselves from gaining full insight into the way that situations impact human behavior. Maybe explore how to write historical text in a more sympathetic way.
6.Write About The Knowledge And The Difficulty of Producing Knowledge
a.Suggested Areas of Knowledge: Because this is such a broad question, once again all areas of knowledge could be subject to exploration here.
b.What to Cover: The idea here is that the harder you have to work to obtain knowledge the more you will value it. Do you agree or disagree? You might address the topic of privilege here.
How to Know Which TOK Essay Topics Are Best For You
So, how do you pick the right topic? Look at each extended example above. As an IB student, you are familiar with all of the areas of knowledge. You might also consider looking at an exemplar online for each question that you are considering. Just google tipstok essay example, and you will likely find something.
Mostly, you should pick a question that speaks to you, and apply the areas of knowledge that you can best show your academic and personal development.
Planning Your Essay
First and foremost, study the rubric that your teacher provides for you. This will be an amazing guide. Unfortunately, it is not complete. You may have to follow up and get more information on the standards for marking your essay. Here are the criteria by which your essay will be assessed.
- You must show that you have developed the ability to think critically. Focus on demonstrating self-awareness, and consider multiple perspectives on the issues you are addressing. Use concrete examples.
- The structure that you use is very important. It must have a logical flow. References must be cited. Factual accuracy is of utmost importance. Don’t make a declaration on any page without backing it up.
- Show the mastery that you have developed with regard to the knowledge issues.
- Your format is important. However, it is even more important that you demonstrate an adequate depth of knowledge and insight.
Starting Your Essay
As you begin writing your introduction, keep in mind that you have a limit of 1200 to 1600 words. Your thesis and introductory paragraph will really drive the length of your essay. If your focus is too narrow, you will struggle to meet the word count that you need. If your focus is too broad, you will go over the limit.
You should probably spend at least 50 percent of your essay writing on creating your thesis statement. It is truly the foundation of what you are going to present to your instructor. Be sure that it is very well thought out, and that you can back up your thesis with plenty of evidence as well.
Tips For Success
Here are some tips that can help you to succeed:
- While you need to backup your statements of fact with sources, remember that this is a reflective essay. Here, you can share your thoughts and opinions.
- Don’t be afraid to use examples that are meaningful to you.
- Remember that MLA is the preferred citation format.
- Remember that The Phrase ‘How do You Know’ Should be Your Guide
- Run your essay through a text to speech translator. That will show you how it reads.
- Essay and punctuation are still important.
Self Care During The Essay Writing Process
You have worked very hard, and accomplished a lot to get to this point. The theory of knowledge essay is very important. You will need to put in many hours of hard work. This will be intense, so remember to take good care of yourself.
- Don’t make the essay the center of your life. Enjoy your friends and keep other academic priorities in mind.
- Find a physical activity. Walking is amazing.
- Eat healthy foods and get enough rest.
- Ask for TOK Essay help when you need it.
- Connect with students who have already written their TOK essay.
You can do this! All you have to do is consider which question is best for you, follow the instructions, and know the standards that will be used to evaluate your writing. Take good care of yourself, and you are certain to do well.
Author: Amanda Sparks