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
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