Tok Essay Guide 2015

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 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






So how do we know? TOK website for IB students.

The TOK essay

What is the essay all about?

The theory of knowledge course is assessed through a presentation and a 1600 word essay on your choice of one of 6 set title questions. The majority of your TOK marks come from the essay. The total TOK marks will be combined with your EE mark to give you a maximum of 3 points.  
Your essay is marked externally. It is important that you upload the official PPF form, (TOK essay planning and progress form) together with your essay, otherwise you won't be able to submit the essay. On this form, you must write down 3 interactions you have had with your teachers in preparation for the essay. To ensure you achieve a good score for your essay, you should understand what the examiners are looking for. First and foremost, you should check through the TOK guide on how the essay question could fit within the TOK course. This is particularly useful as an initial exploration of the terminology used within the essay questions. The knowledge frameworks also come in very handy here (see home page). Secondly, you should plan your essay with the planning grid I embedded below. Make sure that you cover all aspects of the mark scheme and remember that a TOK essay is quite different in style and purpose from essays you write for other subjects. To avoid the common mistakes students (continue to!) make around the world, please check the document called "TOK essay writing advice" (see below). This document offers top tips from experienced examiners.

Official form to complete and submit with your essay:

You should complete an essay planning form, on which you document three interactions you have had with your TOK teacher. You need to upload this form with your essay. 
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Essay planning tools and top tips from examiners:

Use the following planning tools  to prepare you for the essay. These tools are not compulsory, but could help you. 
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Knowledge Questions

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​Possible knowledge questions per area of knowledge (AOK)
as suggested by the TOK guide (2015)

Essay titles

Current essay titles

Past essay titles  current specification 2015

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TOK guide: always a good idea to check before writing the essay.

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Examples: using real life situations to illustrate your essays.

You should illustrate your essay with concrete examples, coming from the real world. These examples can, amongst others, come from your IB DP subject lessons, research you have done or articles you have read. Do not look for real life examples as such on this website or on other TOK websites. This website aims to help you understand what TOK is all about. By copying the real-life examples from this website, you will reduce the originality of your essay. You may not be the only student who had this idea... Just open your eyes, read the news and pay attention to what is happening around you. You'll be surprised how much original TOK material you can find. Of course, it's OK to mention some of the ideas you have seen in your TOK lessons. But show to your teachers that you are able to think for yourself and come up with some original insights. Examiners complain year after year that students are using the same examples across the world. Some of these examples are becoming a little "cliché". remember to include a range of perspectives within your essays. If you are looking for inspiration of different perspectives and ideas, you can look at the following BBC Radio 4 website (A History of ideas). You can, of course, also talk to your subject teachers to find out different perspectives. They may also be able to help you find some good examples. TOK is a subject that is placed at the heart of the IB DP. By comparing methodologies used in your subject lessons, and by offering examples from your lessons, you can reach some very interesting conclusions in TOK terms.

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